KITCHENER — On a drizzly evening in early May, Micheala Clair hurries across the parking lot and slips through the nondescript entrance of a red brick building in the Kitchener downtown core.
Tall and thin, dressed in black sandals, dark blue skinny jeans and a hot pink Blink 182 T-shirt, she ascends a creaky staircase to a dimly lit recording studio filled with vinyl records and the aromatic traces of the vegan café below.
Clair is a member of the pop- rock trio Every Other Day, and for the past five months this studio, The Sound Distillery, has been her home away from home.
At 19, the Kitchener native is by age the senior member of the band — and the only member old enough to have a drink at the venues where it performs. She is also the band’s newest member, having joined in January.
Unlike many teenage garage bands, which begin when friends decide to make music together, Every Other Day evolved from individual musicians who went looking for others to join them.
It started in the spring of 2011 when percussionist Shawn Moore posted an online ad — “Drummer looking for band,” it read — which got the attention of Ryan Chambers and Tim McKee, a pair of Cameron Heights Collegiate students looking to expand their duo. They swapped YouTube links with Moore and soon after, despite a glaring gap in their musical influences, the group was born.
“The internet is a wonderful thing,” laughs Chambers, the band’s charismatic frontman.
A cross between jock and rock star, the 18-year-old crooner/rugby player is dressed this day in bright red sneakers, dark blue designer jeans and a collared T-shirt a shade or two lighter.
Leaning forward on a chair in the centre of the room, his hand frequently passing through his short blond hair — polished with product and parted to the side — Chambers is in many ways the Mick Jagger to Moore’s more reticent Keith Richards.
“We’re pretty different, but we make it work,” says Moore, also 18. A Bluevale Collegiate student, he seems as comfortable in his jet black jeans and worn leather jacket as he does with his affinity for female pop star Taylor Swift.
“We’re committed to making music and that’s the most important thing,” he says.
Chambers, McKee and Moore gelled quickly and began posting YouTube videos and securing dates for their band at local clubs. But before long, they experienced firsthand the limited potential for a band with no connections,
“You build yourself up, you write your songs, you start to make music,” says Moore, who has been swinging the drumsticks since he was five. “But you can only play so many gigs before hitting that ceiling. We weren’t really going anywhere.”
That all changed when the trio entered — and won — the inaugural Kiwanis Music Festival Rock Band Competition in April 2012. The grand prize was an opportunity to produce a single with Dave Houde and Will Muir, co-owners of The Sound Distillery.
The band decided to record Bad Weather, an edgy, vacillating love ballad written by Chambers. And the finished product blew them away.
“When we heard our first single, it was pure gold,” Chambers recalls. “We knew we wanted these guys to record the rest of our music.”
Muir, who engineered the track, says the feeling was mutual for The Sound Distillery.
“Their personalities mesh so well, so it’s really fun to record these guys. They’re open to so many different types of music, so we can take elements from each and do so much more than we can with other bands.”
The thing that caused producer Houde to take notice was Chambers’ vocals.
“That voice, man. That voice,” he says. “Not to take anything away from any of the musicianship,” he adds, “but voice is the hardest thing to find. As a band, they frame it perfectly and it just goes really well together.”
According to Chambers, who grew up around music and followed in the blue suede shoes of his father — an Elvis Presley impersonator — his vocal prowess is a product of practice and persistence.
“I kept singing and kept singing and I finally found the voice I wanted to work with,” says Chambers, whose idols include Steven Tyler and Tom Petty. “I’m not where I want to be yet, but I know what I want to sound like and I keep modifying and tweaking it.”
Armed with the confidence from their recording experience and the praise of their producers, Every Other Day decided to shoot for a professional five-song demo. But in doing so, they agreed they needed to fill out their sound by means of another band member.
And that’s where Clair came into the picture at the beginning of 2013.
“Micheala was our New Year’s resolution,” Chambers says, smiling. “We needed a bassist, and what’s better than a girl bassist in a band, right?”
While Clair’s presence tempered the locker-room atmosphere Moore says their music sounded better than ever.
“The conversations started changing a bit when Micheala got here,” Moore laughs. “But it was the tightest we’ve ever been.”
“I was pretty comfortable right away,” says Clair, who was writing bass parts for the band’s originals within a week of joining. “We were in the studio recording a lot, so we got used to each other really quick. We just kind of clicked.”
After countless rehearsals in Moore’s basement and three months of studio sessions, the band completed The Dalliance, a fully produced pop-rock EP laced with hints of Hedley and Matchbox 20 and lyrics that Moore says tell, “very relatable love stories.”
Amped on adrenalin, the group celebrated its accomplishment with an April 25 release party at a downtown Kitchener pub, complete with a live performance they all agree has been their best to date.
“There were people in the crowd that, on the day after our release, already knew the words to all our singles,” Moore says. “It was unreal.”
“It was such a thrill,” Clair adds. “We had people coming up to us after the show, getting us to sign things. It was a pretty crazy experience.”
But for every sharp there’s a flat and just as the group began to gain momentum it received the inevitable news that McKee, who will be attending McGill University in Montreal in the fall, was quitting.
“It’s a bit of a step back,” Chambers says. “We knew it was going to happen. We just didn’t know it was going to happen so soon.”
“It sucks,” says Clair, who will be studying at the University of Guelph come September. “It’s a challenge outside of the music, too. We’re losing a friend.”
Moving forward, the remaining members of Every Other Day are fully aware that McKee’s departure will likely be the first of many stumbling blocks on a career path paved with question marks.
But studio operators Houde and Muir, who have worked both individually and as a team with hundreds of artists, are confident the young band will find its way.
“We get a lot of bands in here and you either have it or you don’t,” Houde says. “I know it’s tired and recycled, but when you see that X factor, that personality, you just know they’ll be OK.”
“They’ve also got a drive that’s a little different than a lot of the bands we work with,” Muir adds. “They do have that X factor, but to go along with it, they can also grind it out and make the right decisions.”
The first of those decisions is to decide who will replace McKee, hopefully in time for their next gig, an opening set at The Hive nightclub in downtown Kitchener on June 18.
From there, the band will do its best to navigate the murky waters of an industry rife with sharks and undertow.
And while the members recognize they’re still small fish in a great big sea, they know they’re only one cast away from that golden hook.
“At this time last year, we never thought we’d have a CD that people would listen to, let alone buy,” Moore says. “Who knows what could happen from here?”
• Every Other Day has a website : www.everyotherday.ca