The New Deal: A New Era

By: Matt Beck

The New Deal
As a mentor of mine is famous for saying, "If you're not gaining, you're losing," and it is this exact mentality that drives the New Deal. This Toronto-based live-tronica trio has been at the forefront of all things jam since their inception almost 12 years and 750 shows ago. Following an impromptu jam session that was later released as their first record, This Is Live, the band knew they were on to something fresh and rapidly spiraled away from Toronto's acid-jazz scene.

Now they are ten albums deep. The newest, Live: Toronto 7.16.2009, will be available for digital download on February 23 with hard copies hitting the street next month. Tempted by the novelty of a "Live from Tokyo" record, the band originally thought they'd release one of the shows from their successful Japanese tour earlier that summer. However, this recording ended up being the stand out.

"There are a lot of different things that have to be right for a New Deal show to become a live record, and this show really stuck out as a nice offering of where we're at right now musically," explains drummer Darren Shearer. "We never discuss our show before we play; we just go out and perform. Some shows don't translate well in a recording. If you were there and were rockin' out with us, it might make sense, but it may be a little too intense on record. It may not be something you'd listen to in your car."

Jamie Shields by Brad Johnson
Shearer continues discussing tND's progression and why they chose to release the new record through SCI Fidelity rather than their own label, Sound+Light.

"We did the major label thing and we found that they generally didn't know what to do with us. They were happy with the fact that we'd gone from zero to hero, drawing 1,000 people in our city without having a record out and nothing on the radio, that we were able to play New York City and Los Angeles and draw decent crowds so early in our career; they were intrigued by that," says Shearer. "What they ended up doing, which was real ironic, was promoting to our existing audience. It was part idiocy and part insulting because our audience is way more in-the-know than the record company. You don't need to tell our audience that we have a new record out - we drop one little message on Facebook and everyone knows. We really hoped they would break new ground for us, but they just didn't do that. We were moving up, up, up, then we signed a record deal and our career started plateauing."

For the release of the new live record, SCI Fidelity just made sense. They already have the infrastructure, the customer base, and a good track record of getting this music out to the people who love it. Especially in light of the band's other projects, it was a no-brainer. Bassist Dan Kurtz is touring and recording with retro-pop sensation Dragonette, keyboardist Jamie Shields runs a successful commercial music studio, and Shearer operates a children's creative arts program in Toronto and shoots documentary films all over the world.

The New Deal by Brad Johnson
"We are realizing that there are so many parts of the world that want to be hit up with our music," says Shearer excitedly. "We broke Asia, which was amazing. There is a full replica of the jam band scene there, which proves how truly international this music is. It communicates to people in a very profound way, and that can be done anywhere. A cool thing about the New Deal being an instrumental band is that we can play to any language. As far as they're concerned, we're playing in Japanese."

Shearer says, "We're all in this together." Their stage setup reflects this, with Shearer and Shields facing each other stage front with Kurtz standing center stage and slightly back, forming an all-powerful triangle. This not only allows them to fully absorb the crowd vibe but also enables them to maintain constant communication. Using hand signals and lip-reading to dictate the musical key, tempo and genre allows them to seamlessly flow throughout the show. With the ongoing goal of always taking it bigger, the band is also very excited to introduce a new lighting design. Unlike many other touring bands, the New Deal wants their display to remain analog; think Blue Man Group.

Continue reading for more on the New Deal...

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