Zen and the art of rocking out
Calgary's A Team mix far-out philosophy with balls-out rock
According to Nietzsche, when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you. Standing on the outer edge of the universe and daring to gaze beyond its boundaries, Calgary-based hip hop-meets-hard-rock dynamos A Team take paradoxical philosophizing to a whole new level.
“There are five outer zones of existence,” guitarist and vocalist Pat Downing explains. “Sphere, cube, pyramid, blob and exit shell. Exit shell is where the edge of the universe starts. It’s like we’re a bird inside a giant worm and we’re so happy to be gorging on worm all around us that we don’t realize we’re being digested. The same thing goes on between us and our audience. It’s beautiful.”
After a lengthy absence from the local rock ’n’ roll scene, a newly streamlined A Team emerged from their jam space (which they amicably share with local punksters The Motherfuckers) in the basement of the Castle Pub to reclaim their title as Calgary’s favourite band named after a popular ’80s TV show. Stepping back in front of the mic, Downing (ex The Dudes) and fellow founding team member Andy Sparacino (Tron from Fubar) began a journey that would see a multi-EP project originally known as the Pegasus Evolution series morph into a full-length album appropriately titled The Rebirth of Rock Therapy. Not only does their new album mark their first release in seven years, it also showcases the duo’s eerily intuitive metaphysical connection. Even more impressive than their ability to collaborate on a subliminal level is the sheer audacity with which Downing and Sparacino face the self-exposure that comes from stripping an ensemble cast down to a skeleton crew of players.
“We trimmed the fat and did away with a lot of the things we’d always relied on.” Downing says. “In live performances, we are capable of operating as a two-man act. We work it by filling in the sound with wacky drum machines and keyboards. Right now, though, we’re performing as a four-piece with Peter Moersch on bass and Visar Dukadjini on drums. When we work together, we’re a full-on rock. As a band, you build yourself a paradigm and you don’t have to speak. We just feel our way around, moving between temporal phases. It all goes back to spheres in an infinitely large universe. We use the finite to expand the infinite. It’s all rock and roll.”
Mixing up moustaches and flowers, as they put it, the group that brought you the infamous “Labatt, Labatt, Labatt Wildcat” song continues to employ the same glee-versus-terror formula that has made them such a sensation. Like their previous release, Non Merci: Situations in the Key of Sound 1994-1999, The Rebirth of Rock Therapy integrates seemingly divergent aspects of rap and rock into one power primordial force. Silver-tongued wordplay and raw guitar gallops pay tribute to the glory of early Wu-Tang Clan and the ejaculatory rapture of Ween back in their God Ween Satan days. Leaving heartaches and earaches in their wake, A Team are accomplished experts at what they do; pumping out heavy-handed, head-nodding rhythms laced with cathartic lyrics, all amplified and enhanced by a magnanimous onstage presence.
“It’s all in the name of entertainment,” says Downing. “Putting smiles on people’s faces and getting them to think about hugs and high fives. Having been around since 1994, we have a lot of original songs to choose from, so we’re known for playing for three hours at a time without doing any covers. Yeah, we get way out on the shell.”
Originally published in FFWD Magazine August 9, 2007 by Christine Leonard