Origin: Toronto, Ontario
"The most creative, the most original, the most daring, and the most misunderstood band in that original Toronto scene" Colin Brunton, film-maker. (The Last Pogo, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.)
In the summer of 1976 Andy Meyers, fresh out of high school, met Ken Badger, repairing amps at a Toronto music shop. Launching in 1976, they caught the inspiration of first records by acts like Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, and Pere Ubu, as well as earlier sounds-- The Velvet Underground’s trance groove, Roxy Music’s unexpected swoons and shifts, and classic RnR songwriting from the Left Banke to Fairport Convention to garage rock. Launching in '76, they also managed to avoid the limitations that the idea of 'punk rock' imposed a year or so later.
Ken and Andy began writing songs that defined THEIR sound — chancy, risky, noisy, with big pop choruses, gear-stripping guitar, and rhythmic bomp. Alien-eyed lyrics that took in the world from the other side of "normal.” The Scenics were born.
"it's not so much that the Scenics were ahead of their time in 1977, it's more that almost no-one knew what time it was. New York had Talking Heads, and London XTC, but here was their equal in Toronto." Bob Mersereau, author "The 100 greatest Canadian albums”.
For six years, The Scenics engaged and enraged local audiences by not playing by the punk rules of the day. The band’s wild creativity made any Scenics performance an adventure.
Their 1977 studio recordings (with Paul French, later of Blue Rodeo, on drums) inspired ace promoters The Garys (Toronto Arts Award, 1995) to manage them and introduce them to the Toronto scene opening for Talking Heads in concert. In the summer of ’77 Brad Cooper joined on as full time drummer.
The September 1978 shows with Simply Saucer were another highlight-- two bands that lived outside the punk scene of the day, but would cast long shadows. More Scenics recording sessions happened that October.
The Scenics performed at the Horseshoe Tavern’s epic “Last Pogo” show on December 1978, and were featured on the The Last Pogo live LP and concert film. (They play “I Wanna Touch” in the film, and have two tracks on the LP.)
In 1979 The Scenics signed to Bomb Records where they recorded and released their album, “Underneath the Door”. In early 1980 Mark Perkell came onboard as drummer, and has been The Scenics’ stickman ever since.
“Bomb Tour 80” saw The Scenics join other Bomb artists travelling to eight Ontario universities. These were the first punk shows for many of these venues. In 1981, the last lineup of the original band released a 45 “Karen/See Me Smile”. (This line up included Ken Fox on bass, who has played in the Fleshtones since 1989)
“The Scenics’ capacity for experimentation would see them craft some of the most unique recordings by a North American band during the punk/post-punk era. Enlisting a revolving roster of interesting and always capable players to fill out the rhythm section, Meyers and Badger carved their peculiar furrow for six years, continually redefining a rich and diversely textured sound that encompassed art punk, garage rock, psychedelia, and pop, all marked by a distinctly John Cale-esque appreciation of sound and jazz-influenced avant-garde flourishes. Confidently straddling both the abrasiveness of hard punk and the accessibility of new wave, often within a single song, The Scenics were largely defined by their creative refusal to be defined." Paraphilia Magazine (UK)
The Scenics broke up, slightly disgruntled, in late 1981. They got over it to play one last gig in the spring of 1982.
Lives were led, full of young families and movement (Ken Badger to a spot a couple hours north of Toronto, Andy Meyers to Canada’s west coast). The Scenic sound was quiet until 2005 when...
Ken sent Andy a dozen Scenics cassettes, recorded in various Toronto punk dives during their 70s heyday. Andy ignored them for two years, but one weekend they got the better of him and he listened non-stop. The Scenics had a pulse again. One thing led to another until...
In early 2008 The Scenics released the CD "How Does it Feel to be Loved: The Scenics play the Velvet Underground." This live CD, recorded 1977-81, went top 30 on Canadian national campus radio, and made “Top 10 CDs of 2008” on critics lists in the Village Voice and Detroit Metro Times.
it's the first album of Velvet Underground covers I've ever heard that actually manages to evoke the VU's classic cacophony of studio sound .... the best VU tribute album ever... the Scenics don't ape the Velvets, they enhance them...” Jeffrey Morgan’s sizzling platter of the week, Detroit Metro Times January 2/2008
"Hard to believe that this is actually an essential record, but it is... hearing these high intensity, innovative, sincere, lofi recordings is magnificient. Roctober issue #45
In October The Last Pogo film was released on DVD, with, as special feature, “New Part In Town”, a 25 minute Scenics set recorded at a cable TV studio in 1978.
That November The Scenics played the Last Pogo’s 30th anniversary show in Toronto and ducked into Toronto’s #9 Studio to begin work on a new LP’s worth of tunes.
“The beauty of The Last Pogo is that it is Everypunk’s story. Skinny ties, nerdy lead singers, angry young men, short songs with sharp chords.” Austin Chronicle
“A killer set of tunes in a TV studio by The Scenics... spewing out a Beefheart/Voidoid/Velvets- like barrage of trebly guitar and enigmatic lyrical angst” Rick Trembles, Montreal Mirror.
Late 2009 saw “Sunshine World”, the first release (on CD), of the band’s 1977/78 studio recordings. The album included “Do The Wait” which was featured on the May 2010 UNCUT magazine “Protopunk” cover CD. The boys played another tour through Southern Ontario and into Montreal.
“These underground icons merged Television’s guitar work, Big Star’s pop prowess, Pere Ubu’s dementia, & the Ramones’ urgency.” Montreal Mirror
“Brainy crackpot art-pop with an ear for off-kilter melody, a headful of magic and twitchy grooves to burn.” Ben Rayner, Toronto Star
Ken and Andy were interviewed for the full length doc “The Last Pogo Jumps Again”. Live video of Ken’s song “O Boy”, filmed 1978, is included in the doc, which came out in 2013.
The first new Scenics album in 32 years, “Dead Man Walks Down Bayview”, was released on LP/CD/Digital through their own Dream Tower Records.It was mixed by crack producer Joby Baker, whose Cowboy Junkies and Alex Cuba recordings have won Junos and Latin Grammys.
“This is some of their strongest material...This is a band that deserves to be heard.” Popmatters
“The Scenic's "Dead Man Walks Down Bayview" is a great album. It should almost be a crime for an album to be this good. It's a gorgeous, passionate, slightly off tune collection of pure genius.” rustzine.com
The Canada Council for the Arts funded an experimental album, “Talking Songs”, where Scenic Andy Meyers arranged samples from the Scenics massive 1970s tape archive to back spoken word pieces by celebrated Canadian author Brian Brett. Susheela Dawne completed the trio by applying her songwriting and vocals to Brett’s work.
"An album that's as fearlessly outre as it is vibrantly soulful, and you can't get much more post-punk than that. SEM score 91%" Dave Cantrell, Stereo Embers
Make no mistake, Talking Songs is... an often unsettling meld of orphan sounds and menacing undercurrents, and an offbeat celebration of those old staples: love, experience, sex and death." Paul Tucker, The Quietus
Saw the first LP release of the original 1977/78 recordings Titled “In The Summer”. The LP was released in Europe by Rave Up Records, in Canada by Dream Tower Records, and was distibuted in the USA by the savvy label Light in the Attic.
The Scenics then stripped down to their original trio sound and were mighty pleased with what they heard. Ken Badger, Andy Meyers, and Mark Perkell embarked on a September 2016 tour, from Toronto and Hamilton thru NYC, Boston, Montreal, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, ending up with 4 solo Andy Meyers dates on the west coast-- 15 dates in all. Most of the dates were recorded and “One Chord Live”, an official bootleg tour best of, was released as a free digital download in early 2017.