In 1994, 95 albums by Canadian artists sold more than 50,000 copies each. It was an industry record. But by the end of the decade, few of those indie bands remained standing. What exactly happened?
This is the narrative — the dramatic rise and fall of '90s CanRock — presented in the trailer for Rave & Drool, a documentary Regina filmmaker Tyler Elynuik is raising funds via Kickstarter to complete.
It's the era this very publication made its name exploring (in fact, 15 Kickstarter backers will be rewarded with vintage issues of Chart from the creator's personal collection). The first bands to grab Elynuik's young ears were Our Lady Peace and Mollies Revenge. He used to dream of being Raine Maida, he says.
[CanRock] provided inspiration. You could follow your creative dreams in this country and achieve them.
That '90s heyday represented the last musical era before the internet. "Back then, the only social media was playing in front of people and shaking their hands after the gig," he says. Bands had to be rehearsed and road-seasoned, building followings from touring and gigging, and oftentimes that hard work resulted in a record deal. Other times, the day's DIY spirit prevailed and bands self-released albums or started their own labels. It was a boom time all over — skate punk from Langley, B.C., alt rock from London, Halifax's pop explosion.
After years of wild growth, however, CanRock's decline towards the end of the decade was steep. Alternative fell out of favour for pop music. File sharing damaged record sales. Labels stopped signing bands. Elynuik waited for albums by The Gandharvas and Mollies Revenge that never came. The '90s were over. But what happened to all the bands? This is also part of Rave & Drool's story.
In the last year, he's seen Age of Electric and The Watchmen — acts that haven't put out a new release in 15 years — play sold-out shows. This after noticing that many of the era's seminal records had fallen out of print and weren't available. Following the hunch that there was renewed interest in the era, Elynuik dusted off old footage he'd collected and shot throughout the years. The decade ought to be preserved.
So far, Rave & Drool includes interviews with The Watchmen, Zuckerbaby, Finger Eleven, Big Sugar, Our Lady Peace, Age of Electric, The Tea Party, and the Crash Test Dummies, but he hopes to add many more voices. Elynuik wants to tell as much of the story as he can.