VANCOUVER--When you're on a roll, an exploding appendix can't stop you.
Moist is on a roll. David Usher, the band's singer, is recovering from an attack of appendicitis. The band is off the road, but it's not taking a break.
"The downtime is actually an advantage to us," said drummer Paul Wilcox. "I mean, we're missing some gigs, we're not touring, but we're getting to write new material, rehearse, do this (press interviews) and do another video."
Moist is the hottest new band in Canada, just signed to the major league EMI label thanks to the phenomenal impact on MuchMusic of the group's video for the song, Push, and its self-released compact disc, Silver.
When Moist inked its deal with EMI in April, the group couldn't meet the demand for its album fast enough and had a Canadian tour--it's fifth in less than eight months, remarkable for an independent band.
The record deal helped Moist's supply problem and the tour was going to be the best yet. Then, in Montreal near the start of the road trip, David started complaining of stomach problems. The others--Wilcox, Mark Makowy, Kevin Young and Jeff Pearce--dismissed the singer's woe as a bad attack of gas.
Then he collapsed and Wilcox "dragged him into the hospital."
"It wasn't your normal appendix operation," Kevin said. "Something had leaked and so the doctors had to take out some tissue around the appendix. It was the size of a gym bag."
"A small gym bag," noted Paul.
"A small gym bag containing a frisbee, a change of clothes and a few novels of choice," added Kevin.
David's three-month convalescence has forced Moist to slow down, but not much. Silver has shot up the national charts to Number 13, is selling approximately 1,600 copies a week and has already amassed sales of 35,000. The video of Push has peaked at Number 3 on MuchMusic and its single Number 10 on radio.
A U.S. release for Silver is scheduled for August, to be preceded once again by the single and video of Push.
To the wary, Moist's blazing arrival smacks of hype, but such suspicion doesn't credit a band that had a work ethic from the beginning and a clear sense of what it wanted--needed--to do. "We're pretty rabid about what we do," Kevin agreed.
"We're control freaks," explained Paul. "We've talked endlessly with the band about how we want to be perceived. People in the band may complain but everybody knows what's at stake."
From its inception late in 1992, Moist had a sound--dark and edgy but also rhythmic and melodic, a Canadian hybrid of American agression and English pop--but also an awareness of image. By February 1993, it had recorded a nine-song demo tape that turned out to be the springboard to what came after: The constant roadwork, a fan base, record industry buzz and, ultimately, the self-made Brent Spencer-directed video of Push.
Moist's progress wasn't as smooth as it appears. The demo tape immediately created a public stir and also drew out curious record company reps--EMI's Jody Mitchell being the first.
Yet the band had not jelled as a unit when it performed at Music West in 1993 and shortly after in Toronto. Interest in Moist cooled as quickly as it had simmered.
It wasn't until new drummer Paul settled in and Moist hit the road that its real development began. Then Moist got together with Spencer and MuchMusic, in an extremely rare move, took this unsigned band's low budget, independently produced video and put it into regular rotation. Moist was a national event.