Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
What’s in a name?
Despite their humble assertion to the contrary, Indie-rock band The Unlikely Story hope theirs is a predictive moniker of success. The Toronto-based band are Daniel “Danno” Herridge (Bass, Vocals), Mike Jacques (Drums), Wing-Ching Poon (Guitar, Vocals) and Jay Vyas (Guitar). As any parent knows, naming is important. Ideally, a good name provides inspiration to live up to. After going through “a spreadsheet” worth of possible names (some with umlauts!), the 4 musicians agreed on bassist Danno’s suggestion of “The Unlikely Story” as an ideal reflection of the band members’ “completely separate histories”, and the fact “that any major commercial success would be extremely unlikely.”
In keeping with their name, the band’s genesis is also unlikely. Wing and Jay met on an e-jam session on Meetup.com, where the two guitarists recognized one another’s musicianship, and bandied around the idea of forming a band. Jay recalls that, despite having “close to no musical goals in common (indie vs. blues/metal, songwriting vs. jamming), we agreed to meet.” Wing adds, “we started composing songs and decided that we need to start fleshing out arrangements with a full band.” So they posted ads on Craigslist, and bassist Danno and drummer Mike joined as a result of several “mutual auditions.” And thus was The Unlikely Story born.
Jay likens the relationships within the band to a marriage among four people, each with unique perspectives and influences. “Being in a band is challenging, full stop,” he insists. “A band tries to find a common ground between each member’s musical ambitions, tastes, and sense of what is important.” A key to striking a balance is collaboration, adds Wing: “It’s the teamwork and chemistry between members. Technically, we all met through the internet and have known each other for less than a year. Our influences and styles can be very different, so at times, we have extremely conflicting views on how a song should go or who should play what.”
Clearly, they’ve come a long way within that short time. They can create, arrange, develop and play songs like “we have been together for the better half of a decade,” Wing proudly asserts. He gets immense satisfaction when everything comes together during a gig: “There’s an indescribable joy I feel when I can just give these guys a look, or play something, and they react to what I’m playing and to make a song even better.” Jay agrees that the most rewarding aspect of being a band is “when the pieces come together and the whole is far, far greater than the sum of the parts. The more we rehearse and gig, the more that happens. When that happens with an audience, it is even more rewarding. Connecting musically to an audience is very, very powerful.”
The band’s popularity continues to rise, with a growing fan base in the live club scene and on social media. On Friday, March 18, The Unlikely Story will participate in The Big Kick, a showcase event presented by Kickstand Sound at Toronto’s Opera House. “We are one of 8 rock bands performing original material in an attempt to garner positive response from the audience and the judges,” explains Danno, They’re seeking “what people typically call exposure. Internally, it’s a ‘battle of the bands’ idea, with the winner advancing to another event this summer.”
Though Wing and Danno have composed the songs for the 30-minute set, “every member has definitely worked hard to bring their own individuality to these songs,” Wing insists. “If I played you the demos, you’d see that the songs have developed into something completely different from their first conception. It’s a lot of darkness and a little light, but if we’re on point, we’ll be rocking it, and it should be a fun time.
“Hopefully there will be a lot of great bands showcasing a wide variety of approaches to rock music,” adds Jay. To find him, just look for a guitar player “wearing red pants, a cat shirt, beads, and dark glasses,” he quips.
This gig aside, The Unlikely Story are in this business for the long haul. “Perseverance,” says Wing, is their watchword — “though you also need to be fearless and let yourself take a plunge into the deep end, with some sort of stubbornness or stupidity to believe that you’ll find your way back up to the surface for air.”
Danno insists that in addition to persevering, The Unlikely Story — like any band — will also need to give itself time, expend lots of effort, and benefit from a bit of luck, just to achieve a modest level of commercial success. “The music industry has never been less forgiving,” he laments. “Recorded music as a pure art form has been devalued almost to the point of irrelevance. Access to technology allows anyone with enough gumption to be a ‘recording artist.’ The real question is: who is in control of your career? And who is in control of your product?”
On March 18 at The Opera House, you can see the band’s product live– and judge for yourself whether their success story isn’t a bit more likely than their name would lead you to believe.
News You Can Use
What: Kickstand Sound Presents THE BIG KICK
Who: Audiences 19 years and up
When: Thursday, March 18, 2016, 8 PM
Where: The Opera House, 735 Queen St. East, Toronto ON
© 2016 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya