tv rd at the ceilie march 27, 2014 by keila macpherson
Television Rd at The Ceilie, March 27, 2014. Photo by Keila MacPherson

Looking for somebody sexy to love you? So is Television Rd. At least, that’s according to the chorus of “Commodity Song” which is perhaps one of their catchiest tunes and a sing-along favourite.

“I think that was one of the hardest songs to record,” says Sara Ostrowska, lead vocalist of the band.

Television Rd is a five-piece band, and includes Sara on vocals, tambourine, and maracas; Dan Collins on piano/keyboard and melodica; Dan Mcnally on drums; Duncan MacKinnon on guitar; and Jay MacKinnon on bass. They’re all Trent students, although the former graduated last year.

We’re sitting in the LEC music room, chatting after the band finishes performing one of their newest songs, “Feeder Road”. Everyone is present, save for Jay, who had to be in Toronto for the weekend.

Television Rd definitely plays a unique blend of genres to create a distinctive musical style. Collins thinks they lean more towards the punk end of the spectrum, along with some rock, jazz and folk influences. “We are vaguely a punk band, I would say. Well, we wanna be a punk band”, he says thoughtfully.

“We try to channel the punk energy” suggests Mcnally.

Television Rd has been around for a few years, but their current lineup is relatively recent. They’ve undergone a few transformations, and began with Jay, Collins and Mcnally jamming in the LEC music room in their first year. In fact, they won the Trent Battle of the Bands in 2012, performing under the name Winghorns with another lead singer (ironically also named Sara).

“Sara [Ostrowska] is our fourth singer” explains Collins, “and best singer” he adds, smiling. Sara joined the band after running into Collins at a Trent philosophy society gathering last fall.

“He invited me when he was drunk at The Sapphire Room” Sara says. Collins protests, “I was drinking, I wasn’t drunk”. They knew each other from Trent Radio. Collins said he was sure she would be a good singer, even though he’d never heard her sing. “I knew her radio voice and I knew her taste in music, so I just knew she was gonna be a good singer”.

Duncan joined about the same time as Sara, around October of last year. If you’re wondering why the guitarist and bassist of Television Rd look alike and have the same last name, it’s because they’re brothers. “We’ve played music together for a long time” explains Duncan, “We were in bands in high school together… and we live together… and are brothers. So we’ve played a lot together!”.

The current lineup of the band started playing shows early this year, performing gigs at The Spill, the Red Dog, and even grabbing third place at this year’s Battle of the Bands competition.

As you’re probably aware, Television Rd is also the name of a highway east of the city. Jay suggested it one day and it wasn’t long before it was adopted as a band name. “We liked the name because you wouldn’t have any idea what kind of music would come from it. We chose it for its neutrality” says Collins.

“Wait, I thought the story was, ‘there’s this awesome band, we should name a road after it’,” Duncan replies.

Television Rd plays mostly originals, although they do play both a Clash and a Radiohead cover. They cite the Pixies as one of their other influences. From there, each member seems to be guided by their own personal styles. Sara uses inspiration from Lady Gaga and Metric in her singing, while Collins prefers Wilco and My Bloody Valentine. Mcnally alludes to classic rock influences in his drumming, such as the likes of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. As for the MacKinnon brothers, Collins explains, “Duncan likes Grizzly Bear and other folksy stuff, as well as Jay. Cause they’re from Guelph, so…”

As for local artists they follow, the band is keen to rhyme off as many as they can. “Blues in the Bottle, hello babies, the Lonely Parade, Watershed Hour, Dub Trinity, the White Crowleys…” lists Sara, “We don’t want to forget a local band, those are the main ones!”

An interesting thing to note is that everyone in Television Rd is able to play most instruments, so everybody can do a bit of everything if needed. In addition, the songwriting process is also a collaborative effort, with all band members participating.

Their latest album, Character Splatters, consists of nine songs recorded over two days at Acrylic Recording, a studio north of Toronto. The band can’t heap enough praise on Acrylic and is very excited about the finished album. “He’s really, really good at what he does” enthuses Collins, of the studio owner.

The meaning behind the title is pretty contemplative. “In the York Regional School Board they had this campaign for elementary schools called ‘character matters’. They would emphasize traits like courage and honesty,” explains Collins. “Losing your integrity would be what it’s about. When you’re younger they really emphasize that, but as you get older you get more careless and everything’s ambiguous, you’re like ‘what’s wrong, what’s right’’.

You can pick up a copy of Character Splatters at the release party this Friday at the Red Dog for $5. The band is also playing at a pancake kegger the next morning.

They state that the recording process was difficult at times, but very rewarding. “We are all just bicker-y, and we all have our own vision that really clashes with everyone else,” says Collins, when explaining how they tried not to get too mad at each other in the studio.

“I would definitely say we’re all stubborn,” Sara adds, “except maybe Dan Macnally”.

Any bickering the band does do definitely seems to come from a love of the music they play. They are quick to point out each other’s strengths and talents as we discuss each member’s role, and it’s easy to see that they are a tight-knit group.

“We all like to boogie. It’s a boogie thing” says Duncan.

“We like to boogie,” Sara affirms, “You can quote all of us on that!”

Be sure to come boogie at the Red Dog this Friday night for the release of Character Splatters. The White Crowleys and Tiananmen Square Dance will also be performing. Only $5 cover and doors open at 9pm.