Grapes of Wrath
Any fan of Canadian music from the later 80s/early 90s is likely familiar with the Juno-nominated and multi-platinum-selling band The Grapes of Wrath. Their 60s-inspired pop-rock was a constant on radio and MuchMusic, with hit singles such as “All The Things I Wasn’t”, “I Am Here”, “Peace Of Mind”, “You May Be Right”, “What Was Going Through My Head”, “Backward Town”, and more.
Brothers Tom and Chris Hooper met Kevin Kane in 1977 during their teens in Kelowna, British Columbia. Their first band was a punk combo called Kill Pigs which played faster than the singer could sing. From there, Kane and the Hoopers went on separate musical paths; Kane to art-rock group Empty Set and the Hoopers forming the hardcore punk band Gentlemen Of Horror. The Gentlemen were popular playing in and around Vancouver and released a now highly sought after 7″ single in 1980. During this time, Tom Hooper edited a local punk ‘zine called ‘Indecent Exposure’, to which Kane and Chris Hooper contributed.
In April of 1983, after putting together a one-off show as cover band Honda Civic, the trio decided to work together musically again. From the Hooper family garage they began rehearsals and gained enough confidence to open for acts in Seattle and Vancouver as the newly christened Grapes Of Wrath (from the classic movie of the same name).
By raising money at flea markets and garage sales the act was able to record 4 songs with up-and-coming producer/engineer Greg Reely in July and August 1984. Unbeknownst to the band, a cassette recording of the material was passed along to Terry McBride of the newly formed Nettwerk Records in Vancouver, which led to the band being signed and releasing the tracks as a self-titled EP in December 1984. The band played a farewell gig in hometown Kelowna, packed up Tom’s station wagon and the Grapes Of Wrath moved to Vancouver.
In late summer of 1985, Nettwerk released the first album ‘September Bowl Of Green’, which dented college and alternative radio. Their first two videos “Misunderstanding” and “A Dream (About You)” were heavily rotated by MUCHMusic. This attention led to several record contract offers, with the band ultimately signing a world-wide deal with Capitol-EMI Records. They returned to the studio in May 1986 to remix “Misunderstanding” and “Love Comes Around” with Tom Cochrane, now a fellow label-mate and continued playing live, including a high profile show at the 2nd Annual Independent Music Festival and Expo ’86 in Vancouver.
Cochrane was sufficiently impressed enough to produce the band’s sophomore effort ‘Treehouse’ which was released in October 1987, resulting in their first gold album for sales in Canada and yielding a minor hit with the single “Peace of Mind” (#50) and fan favourite, “Backward Town”. The band embarked on an extensive 3 month, 69 date tour of the U.S.
Ex-Pere Ubu and Lounge Lizard/Golden Palomino drummer Anton Fier produced ‘Now And Again’ in Woodstock, New York, where the band lived in isolation for the first half of 1989. They recorded in an old haunted Catholic church called Dreamland Studios.
Now And Again featured newly added keyboardist Vincent Jones. Jones had toured with the band during ‘Treehouse’ and worked so well personally and musically that the band decided to add him permanently. Jones’ contribution to the new album was augmented by legendary pedal steel player Sneeky Pete Kleinow (Flying Burrito Brothers) and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (Allman Brothers/Rolling Stones).
Now and Again, was the band’s big breakthrough. The top 40 singles “All The Things I Wasn’t” and “What Was Going Through My Head” received extensive video play and along with Juno Award nominations, propelled the album to platinum status and soon the band went from playing bars to theatres and touring Europe, opening for Lloyd Cole.
Englishman John Leckie (XTC/Stone Roses/Posies) helmed ‘These Days’ which was recorded from December 1990 to January 1991 at Vancouver’s Mushroom Studios. In February 1991, the band travelled to London and spent 3 weeks mixing at Abbey Road studios. The Album spawned the hit singles “I Am Here” (#8, #27 on Billboard Modern Rock Tracks in the U.S.) and “You May Be Right” (#7), again selling platinum and allowing the band to again tour Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Musical and personal differences brought about the band’s demise in 1992 with the departure of Kevin Kane. The Grapes Of Wrath’s final show was Halloween 1992 in Vancouver.
In the summer of 2010, after 18 years, the original founding members (Chris and Tom Hooper and Kevin Kane) joined together to play the Surrey B.C. Fusion Festival. Due to the show’s success, the band once again began touring Canada and subsequently signed with Aporia Records to put together a new album. ‘High Road’, recorded in the spring of 2012 with co-producer Darryl Neudorf (Neko Case, Blue Rodeo), was released on March 19th, 2013. The first new single, “Good to See You,” reached the Top 40 on Canada’s Active Rock and Alternative Rock charts. In the meantime, EMI-Canada released the album ‘Singles’ in October 2012, featuring each of the 15 radio singles from GOW’s catalog, as well as two new songs.
2018 – Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction
“We are especially excited to be receiving this honour in Kelowna, the town where we got our start,” said founding Grapes of Wrath member Kevin Kane in a statement. “Incredible to think that it’s been 40 years since we were two teens and a tween, gathering every Friday night in a basement in Glenmore to bash out British Invasion and punk rock songs.”
Executive director of the Western Canadian Music Alliance Robyn Stewart added, “The Grapes of Wrath will join a great group of past inductees who have built the Canadian music scene and have been recognized worldwide as a key element in the soundtrack of the past few decades. We are incredibly excited to honour them with this induction in Kelowna.”