RPM WEEKLY - Cover Story - April 26,
Frank Soda & The Imps - A hot stage act goes on vinyl
Frank Soda & The Imps have been together for some
time, making a bigger and bigger name for themselves on the Toronto club scene
through their energetic and entertaining stage show. With Soda on guitars and
vocals, drummer John Lechesseur and new bass player Peter Crolly; the band has
been attracting a constantly growing following of people who look forward to
Lately, Frank Soda & The Imps have also been
establishing themselves as a recording identity. Their debut live album sold
well last year despite a minimum of budget, promotion and distribution. Now they
are signed to Quality Records, and Quality are launching the group's debut
studio LP with a massive, full-scale promotion campaign which is as unusual as
it is intensive. Quality is seeing the act as a major force for the present and
the future, and for their part, Soda, the group and manager Robert Connolly are
taking a very businesslike approach to assisting in their own cause.
and drummer Lechesseur are Vancouver natives now based in Toronto. They've
worked together in various groups for a number of years, but it is in the
current alignment that they've come into their own, with the third part of the
trio. Peter Crolly, being added in the last two weeks on bass. Soda & The
Imps put on a highly energetic, somewhat humourous performance, which is a show
in every sense of the word.
Soda's approach is one, which blends
gimmickry with solid performance, props with something important to say. His
props range from an exploding television set he wears on his head to a suit of
lights. The show makes use of dry ice, confetti cannons and special lighting
effects, and Soda reaches ever-greater heights with the use of a trampoline he
has worked into the show. Having just acquired a bigger, better sound system,
Frank Soda & The Imps are, needless to say, gaining momentum steadily
through their live performances.
But in the last year or two, the group's
emphasis has shifted in the direction of a recording entity. Soda and manager
Connolly put together a label, Tube Records, and released the group's first
album; In The Tube, a live set recorded at Toronto's Picadilly Tube. Although
Connolly quickly admits that the record was really only a glorified demo, and
although distribution was basically limited to only a few regions, the LP
managed to sell about 6,000 units.
Heartened, Connolly took the group
into Master's Workshop in Rexdale to record their first studio album. The result
was this self-titled Quality debut, due for release this week or next. Connolly
had taken the record around to the various record companies and was impressed
not only by the offer Quality made but also by their enthusiasm about the
project. So the album was leased, with options for future recordings.
album is basically recorded with a live approach. There are few parts on it that
the group cannot duplicate live. There are few overdubs, although Soda plays
several guitar tracks through electronic and other equipment that roughly
approximates a keyboard sound. Soda wrote all the material himself, sings all
the lead vocals and plays all the guitars. He is, in every respect, the group's
The album is particularly wide-ranging, covering ground from
very hard rock to gentle, pop-oriented material nearing AC in format
compatibility. The jacket artwork is very strong, featuring Soda (pre-shaved
head) drinking a can of pop (yes, Soda) with a very pretty young
Quality's Director of Promotion, John Small, describes the
ready-made promotion campaign. "Frank and the girl on the cover will be bringing
around goodies to all the media people in Toronto and the surrounding area.
We're backing the campaign with radio and a showcase at the El Mocambo on April
29, to which buyers, media and the press will be invited to see the act in
Soda's name, and the group's rather fun-loving, yet
message-oriented musical approach, gave Quality its cue in designing the
campaign. "The basis of his whole show," notes Small, "is sort of pop
journalism. He's pretty much a street observer, and a lot of the songs he does
in the show are basic reflections of what his attitudes are. He puts a comedy
flair into it that presents a pretty wild show.
"When we saw him in
person, after Quality signed him, we saw it was fresh and new. We took the same
approach in the album design and promotion, and decided to have a little fun
with it. Every press kit that is handed to our key people across the country
will contain the usual bio, discography and pictures, but in addition to that,
there will be four soda glasses, four long spoons, straws, and an ice cream
scoop." There are even actual cans of pop being manufactured with the name Frank
Soda on them. "We've carried this idea on into retail P.O.P." Small continues.
"We will have hanging mobiles everywhere with pop cans hanging from the ceiling,
so anytime you walk into a record store between now and the end of summer,
you'll be banging your head on a pop can, courtesy of Frank Soda. The radio
commercials have the same kind of pop-fizz attitude too. Basically, we're going
to pour out the soda and hope they like it."
Quality Records have
specifically chosen not to release a single. The album is so varied that the
company simply doesn't want to pigeonhole the group into a particular musical
slot. Quality, the group and manager Connolly are hoping for widespread
acceptance of the album by radio stations in a variety of formats, with
different stations likely playing different cuts. "The album really represents a
large part of their repertoire onstage," notes Small, "and it would be, I think,
unfair for the company, at this early stage of the game, to zero them in on a
certain single that may not have anything to do with their image." Of course,
should one track begin to receive widespread recognition from different formats,
Quality is ready to change its mind.
Small is looking forward to having
the promotion in full swing. "It's going to be fun for all of us. With the
current 'entrenchment blues' that everybody in the industry seems to be
suffering from, while there's a lot more business in the show business aspects
of the industry, it's still fun to take something like this, which is so fresh
and new, and do something with it from a marketing point of view that has a
better overtone to it. So that's the approach we want to take with it. The show
is fun, and so the promotion should be fun."
So with the album coming
out, Small and Quality are looking for big things from Frank Soda & The
Imps. "The promotion is the icing on the cake," the Director of Promotion
concludes, "but after a while, the product does have to live on its own merits."