TORONTO - At a private bash in the lavishly tacky back alley Volcano Room, Toronto pop group Moxy Fruvous announced its new Canadian record deal with True North Records, home to Bruce Cockburn and Murray McLauchlan, and distributed by Universal Music Canada.
On hand for the listening party was producer Don Dixon (REM, Smithereens, Matthew Sweet), who recorded the new album, Thornhill (due July 27), in March at The Tragically Hip's studio, The Bathhouse, a century-old Victorian mansion just outside Kingston.
"It's a pop album," says co-vocalist Jean Ghomeshi, "pop in the sense of Abbey Road, not in the Celine Dion sense."
In the U.S., Thornhill will be released through New York's Bottom Line Records, the label affiliated with the infamous club of the same name and distributed by BMG.
Moxy Fruvous's previous two albums, 1997's You Will Go To The Moon and 1998's Live Noise, were also on Bottom Line. They were the last of a five-album deal with Warner Music Canada (including The B Album EP).
"It was a mutual decision," says Ghomeshi of why the deal wasn't renegotiated. "We've done what we could with each other and now it's kind of tired."
The band -- Ghomeshi, Michael Ford, David Matheson and Murray Foster -- formed in 1991 and became a Canadian novelty hit with its vaudevillian pop satires. Its 1992 self-titled indie debut remarkably went gold (50,000) and its Warner Music Canada follow-up, Bargainville, was certified platinum (100,000).
With its second major label album, Wood, the foursome got subtle and serious, but Canadian listeners had already pigeonholed them as parody and political and largely turned their backs.
The band began working America and while it never had a major radio hit there or graced MTV, it developed a grassroots following of "Fru-heads", says Ghomeshi, "thousands of people who follow us from show to show much like Phish and Dave Matthews."
Asked if Moxy Fruvous is plagued by the Barenaked Ladies syndrome, where Canadians neglect an artist until America blesses its music, Ghomeshi says, "We're totally misunderstood and that's par for the course in Canada for some bands.
"Coinciding with this album, we're doing the Fleadh Festival in America, with Van Morrison and Elvis Costello, in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and New York, so we're in a different milieu there in an affirmative way and I think Canada will definitely catch on.
"I don't know if I would call it the Barenaked Ladies syndrome," he says, "but I think that's definitely what's going on here. I have no question that people will see us on Letterman or something and go, 'Oh, are those guys still around? Oh, we like that now,' (laughs) because we have a cool thing happening now."