Sometimes beginnings are simple.
An origin story can be clear and concise and uncomplicated.
Not a whim, necessarily, but a basic, fundamental launching point that makes such simple sense.
Even for bands.
“I just really missed playing,” says Stephen Schroeder when asked about the one behind his newish local pop-rock outfit The Finites.
Back in the ’90s, Schroeder was very much a part of the local indie rock scene, performing in a number of acts including, most notably, The Soft Tips.
Life. It happens.
He admits he “fell out of it for everything you can relate to,” and pretty soon the years ticked by, turned into decades and turned into that pang you often feel when you get older, that thing you remember as being an important part of your life, one that you want back again.
“We’re in our mid-40s, right, so you get busy with your work, you have a family, you have domestic stuff to deal with,” says the man who went from being the managing producer of One Yellow Rabbit to now being the executive director of the Calgary International Film Festival.
“And it’s that same story a lot of people go through — you realize you miss music so much in your life and you decide you need to make it a priority.”
So just over two years ago he teamed up again with Dan Willock, someone he’s played in bands with since they were teenagers, including the Tips. They started jamming together, were eventually joined by Willock’s son Luke, with them eventually welcoming Andrew Long onboard.
The process, Schroeder admits, was a patient one, with the quartet taking a year to “evolve a sound cohesively as a band,” them eventually “gelling together” into the quirky, clever, compact, jangly, jittery, peppy pop-rock act that they now are — think early XTC crossed with Sammy, Phantom Planet, maybe some Mental As Anything and, while he seems to loathe the comparison, a little Sloan for good measure.
That led them to recording their self-titled debut in the Willocks’ home studio in the latter half of 2016 and the first half of ’17, recording it pretty much a song at a time over that lengthy period of time.
“It was an interesting process to really allow yourself a month or often more just on each individual song, and focus on each song as a band — it was kind of fun,” Schroeder says.
Patience, again, is something that Schroeder admits is a pretty great trait to have, one that he certainly didn’t back in the day.
Same, too, for how the songwriting process, itself, went, with the elder Willock bringing to the table half of the 14 songs that made it on the album and Long and Schroeder filling out the other half.
“One of the nice things about being at this age in this band is that a lot of the ego crap you have in your 20s, I think, is mostly gone,” he says.
“Whereas it used to be, when we were young, you know, you have something to prove. It’s more of a competition and you’re thin-skinned and you haven’t mellowed as much. So it’s much easier to collaborate now at this age because if one of us was to critique the other one’s song a little bit or give constructive feedback it’s almost never uncomfortable. We just take the note and discuss it and try ideas until something works. It’s way better.”
He continues. “We have this youth culture where most of the music out there … is from people in their 20s. I actually think you can make better rock music, or better anything really, when you’re older. We have more to say, we know who we are, we’ve experienced more of life, you know we’re better at collaborating with each other, we’re better at playing our instruments than we used to be.
“And I don’t feel that vitality that people associate with rock music and music, I don’t feel like you need to lose that when you get older. I don’t think we’re trying to prove anything, but it’s just as valid to be doing this at this age as it was 25 years ago.”
Now The Finites want further validation by becoming a vital act in the city’s live music scene — something they’ll get a start on Friday, March 2 with their album release at the Nite Owl. Consider it their official coming-out party.
Yes, they actually did play a quiet show at Vern’s last year as something of a “live test,” but their only other experiences playing in front of a crowd have been performances during the last two Calgary Marathons — they hire bands to play along the route to encourage the runners.
Not exactly a captive audience.
“They’re running towards you and then running away from you,” he says, “and that’s not what an audience is supposed to do.”
So what does Schroeder expect the reception will be?
Taking it, perhaps lazily, back to the ages of most of the band members, does he think it will be a case of bored millennials telling gramps to get the hell off of the stage and back to the seniors home where he can gum his pudding and watch his stories?
“I hope we’re not perceived that way,” he says with a laugh.
“We’ll see how it goes, but I feel we’re very tight, I feel like our live show is going to be good. And I feel like ultimately once people hear you rocking they don’t worry so much about what you look like any more or what your age is.
“I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I think the right attitude to have on that is to not give a shit … Anybody whose attention that would be worth having would not care how old we are.
“Plus we have Luke, who’s our token twentysomething — he brings the average age of the band back down to thirtysomething. If you care about that kind of thing just stare at Luke.”
The Finites release their new album with a show Friday, March 2 at the Nite Owl.