The Superfantastics: Accidental Rock Stars
For a band that had to combine to “super” and “fantastic” into one word to arrive at their name, The Superfantastics – singer/guitarist Matthew Macdonald and drummer Stephanie d’Entremont* – are incredibly modest. Way too modest for a band that has toured Canada with an indie-rock stalwart like Julie Doiron and opened for Joel Plaskett, both of whom have been nominated for Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize. Hearing either member of the duo talk about their rise to semi-fame is almost infuriating, as both make it seem like it could not have been simpler.
“So we played a lot of local shows, then we started playing regional shows like Charlottetown, Fredericton, Cape Breton. And then from there I guess we recorded a demo EP. And then from there we started work on a full-length album. And so right around the time our full-length album came out we just booked our own tour across Eastern Canada… did some dates with Laura Barrett and then we flew out to Calgary and did all of Western Canada opening for Julie Doiron,” says MacDonald with an oh-just-another-day-in-the-life nonchalance.
So how did all the superfantasticness begin?
The band was born when MacDonald met d’Entremont one day while playing Frisbee on the Halifax Commons near Quinpool Road.
“She mentioned that she wanted to learn how to play drums and I said, “Ok Steph, I’ll teach you how to play drums.”
MacDonald began teaching d’Entremont simple beats in a rehearsal space on Cunard Street called The Rocker. MacDonald would then write songs that incorporated the beats he was teaching d’Entremont, providing d’Entremont music to play along with at lessons.
“I figured the best way to teach her to play drums would be if she was playing along to somebody.”
At some point the lessons turned into rehearsals.
“I guess it was like, “Hey, these are pretty cool songs.” It was kind of fun. Also, we just liked the sound and simplicity of it being just the two of us.”
The band’s minimalist dude-on-guitar, chick-on-drums set-up obviously first brings to mind The White Stripes, but unlike the tri-colored garage-blues-punk-pop twosome, The Superfantastics’ sound is influenced by the classic pop of bands like The Hollies and The Zombies, as well as local modern indie bands like Dog Day and Calm Down It’s Monday.
After developing their live skills at Reflections playing “Rockin’ For Dollars” open-mic nights, The Superfantastics started gigging around Halifax, the East Coast, and opening up for local bands all the while recording their debut album, Pop-Up Book. The band released the album in March 2007, around the time they went on their first tour which Wintersleep member and d’Entremont’s then-roommate Tim D’eon, helped them book.
“It was cool because it was our first time really sort of getting out of the Maritimes and playing in places like Quebec and Ontario. Some of those were really good. We had a couple good shows in like Toronto and some of the shows were maybe not-so-great but it was a lot of fun. It was a great experience.”
One of the stops the band has played on tour is an inn that MacDonald and d’Entremont are pretty sure is haunted.
“There’s this beautiful little village – town I guess – that has this inn called “The Black Sheep Inn” and it’s really old. The main level is like a restaurant, venue kind of bar – maybe not a restaurant anymore. Anyway, we played there a couple times and then they just let you sleep in one of the rooms upstarts. At the end of the night they’re like, “Ok, you can have a bedroom up here, [on] any of these three floors,” and they’re showing [us] all these hallways and it looks like (Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film) The Shining.
‘Joel Plaskett was there and he said, (deep voice) “Yeah, I stayed here once; it’s really creepy. There’s supposedly a ghost that plays mandolin at night.” And there was this woman who works there and I was like, “can you tell me – are there any ghosts here,” and she was like, “oh yeah, the ghosts kind of leave pennies around.” So we hear all these weird ghost stories but pretty much we didn’t really see anything.
‘On the second show we played there we had to leave. I woke up at like three in the morning and Matt and I were both really awake and we were both so scared because we were alone in this big [place] and also you hear sounds – probably just the building – but it’s kind of creepy so we were like, “let’s go.”” says d’Entremont.
Last year the band put out the Choose Your Destination EP and did a cross-Canada tour playing dates with Laura Barrett with Julie Doiron.
“Touring with Julie was aaaaaawesome. It was so much fun. If we went out West on our own we would have been playing empty bars but because we were opening for them we were playing to like packed houses every night,” says d’Entremont.
D’Entremont, who is also a videographer for the CBC, regularly posted entries from a video diary of the tour on YouTube, for which the band won The Coast’s “Best Local Appearance On YouTube 2008” award.
D’Entremont also plays a part in creating most of the band’s music videos, for which the band has received significant acclaim. Their video for “Tonight Tonight” (directed by Mike Holmes) even managed to nab The Coast’s “Best Local Music Video 2007” award.
“We worked with Mike Holmes, who did the album art for our album Pop-Up Book and our Choose Your Destination EP, did all these animations films for it and it was just stop-motion on top. It was based on this segment from Sesame Street from the 1980’s called “Teeny Little Super Guy” and that was really cool because [Stephanie] edited it all,” says MacDonald.
Next up on The Superfantastics’ agenda is playing the East Coast Music Awards on February 27th, rocking the King’s ward room on March 2nd, opening up for The Weakerthans and The Constantines on March 20th at The Palace, and working on a full-length follow-up to Pop-Up Book.
“With Pop-Up Book, our first album, and our EP last year, Choose Your Destination, it was just sort of like a rushed process where we just did all the recording over like a week, but this time I’m excited because we’re kind of giving things a little more time. A little more time to mull things over,” says MacDonald.
“It’s probably gonna be a lot, maybe more of a rock album? A couple of the songs are maybe heavier than stuff we’ve done before. I’ve started using a baritone guitar so it’s given kind of a lower feel to the songs.”
Like most of what this band does, it will very likely be superfantastic.
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