It is somewhat appropriate that the chart-topping single from Neverest, Toronto’s hottest new rockers, is called “About Us.” With a highly anticipated debut album of the same name set to be released March 29, as well as an impending tour supporting JUNO-nominated Stereos, if people aren’t talking about Neverest yet, they will be soon.
Cadence got a chance to catch up with frontman Spyros “Spee” Chalkiotis and bassist Paul Loduca to discuss their new life in the spotlight, their upcoming tour and CD, and future plans for the band.
For a group of guys that are well on their way to becoming household names, the first thing that’s striking is how starstruck they still are in the company of music industry heavyweights. When talking about meeting Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough for the first time (whose company, 3 Street Management, Neverest is under), Spee and Paul go from confident, budding stars, to giddy fans in seconds flat.
“It was scary,” Spee confessed. “It was like, ‘Oh . . . we’re going to play for…a Backstreet Boy….who played in front of hundreds of thousands of people…and sold hundreds of thousands of records…and is a BACKSTREET BOY. Okay….that’s fine!’”
But the intimidation wore off quickly when they found Dorough to be down-to-earth, easygoing, and disarmingly straightforward.
“Everyone’s family in this team, and Howie is just, he’s like a big brother to us, and that makes all the difference,” said Paul. “He truly is one of the guys, and we’re comfortable with him. He gives us great advice, and it’s inspiring to see how humble he is, you know, for everything that he’s achieved – obviously – and you know, we’re just so grateful to even have this opportunity to be a part of that with him.”
Perhaps this familial atmosphere is part of the reason for Neverest’s paramount rise, as they are surrounded by some of the best in the music industry. The video for their breakthrough hit “About Us” was helmed by award-winning music video director Randall Thorne (better known as RT!), whom they point out also worked on the soon-to-be released video for their latest single “Everything.” Their producers are Anthony M. Jones, known for his work with Ashanti, Mary J. Blige, and R. Kelly; and Mike Kiofos of Vic Park Productions, whose credentials include work with Canadian songstress Keshia Chanté.
“Working with both of them is an honour, each and every day,” said Paul, referring to their producers. “Any time we get to even see them or be with them their guidance is like no other.”
Spee is no less in awe of the team they are surrounded by. He says that every aspect of creating the music is an inclusive process involving “everyone from producers to management, to engineers, to the band, to co-writers: Everyone’s got a say in it. There’s no ego; it’s all just very respectful and very organic. It’s great.” From each person’s input, the band creates a stronger, better, and more polished sound, and they are well aware of this.
“We’re working with visionaries in the field, and it’s so humbling,” Spee said. “Right out of the gates, like, we’re really nobody, and we’re working with the best of the best, being managed by the best of the best, with the best team. It’s like, I don’t know how we got here but I’m so happy to be here!”
The “getting here” has been a whirlwind ride for Neverest. It has been less than a year since the band, initially conceived over three years ago by Spee, a formally trained drummer, officially finalized their line-up. While studying jazz percussion at York University, his original vision for a band was influenced by the heavy riffs and melodic vocals of progressive rock, according to the band’s bio on their website. When Mike Klose, a talented bassist, guitarist, and classically-trained pianist came on board after the original band drifted apart, they decided to tone down the heavy rock riffs and infuse some of their more eclectic influences into the sound of the band. This involved drawing on genres as varied as heavy metal, reggae, soul, and hip hop, as well as looking to the iconic sound of Michael Jackson and the catchy 90s pop that was defined by bands like the Backstreet Boys.
With a stronger focus on songwriting, they recruited two more members (although by mid-2009 it was back down to Spee and Mike Klose playing local shows) and began working with producer Mike Kiofos and Angelo “Levi” Themelkos, the other half of Vic Park Productions.
It was this working relationship that would ultimately lead to their collaboration with Dorough’s 3 Street Management.
“Howie and CJ [Huyer] happened to have a management company called 3 Street Management and CJ knew our producer Mike Kiofos, and Mike Kiofos was working with Neverest at the time and helping develop us as a band,” Paul explained.
“CJ manages our co-writer, Levi. . . . He also manages Mike,” Spee added. “CJ would come by and kind of see what’s going on. He heard us sing, and he heard us do our thing, and he was very kind of taken aback by it, like, ‘this could work’ type of thing.”
“He mentioned us to Howie—” Paul recalled.
“Yup, he mentioned us to Howie, and back and forth, things went down – and here we are today,” Spee finished.
When the Backstreet Boys came to Toronto last August for their iconic tour performing at the Molson Amphitheatre, it had been only five months since current drummer Brendan Colameco came on board, and only three since bassist Paul left his band to complete Neverest’s line-up.
The newly-formed band then had the nerve-wracking job of proving themselves by performing live in front of Howie Dorough; but they passed with flying colours.
“That kind of set everything in motion; it really kind of showed him that we’re doing this thing,” said Spee.
Fast-forward a few months – and even before their debut album About Us has come out – the single of the same name has made the boys of Neverest recognizable faces across Canada.
“It’s a dream come true to even have a spot on the radio!” said Paul laughing in disbelief. “We’ve been very lucky with the success of ‘About Us,’ so far. The whole country has really welcomed it with open arms and our fans online have been incredible, and they’ve been voting for the video. They got it to Number 1 on MuchMoreMusic.”
If their fans’ response is anything to go by, then the spotlight on Neverest is likely to continue to grow when the video for their latest single “Everything” is released. Going down to Los Angeles to film the video was any artist’s dream come true, said Spee, but the bigger honour for them was the passion and dedication to the project they found in director RT!, who also did their first video. This latest one is a more ambitious concept, framed as a short film rather than simply a music video, Paul explained.
“He loved it so much that he worked on it himself; he edited it – the whole thing – on his own,” said Paul. “He’s so passionate about it. To have somebody of his stature be so passionate about our music and the video itself is just . . . something else entirely.”
The fan response to the single itself has already surprised the band, with listeners waiting up until midnight on March 8 just to buy it as soon as it was released, and lyric videos popping up online the very day the song came out.
“I think that ‘About Us’ has kind of laid the carpet. It’s kind of paved the way for future songs,” said Spee. “And ‘Everything’ is just such a great follow-up song that I think it’s bound to do better than ‘About Us’.” Just for that reason alone, you know, I think people have gotten to know us a little bit. The anticipation has kind of built a little bit; they kind of want to know what else we’ve got. And them hearing ‘Everything,’ I think, is going to, hopefully, get them to understand that we’re in this thing for the long haul, and we can build a good, strong fan-base and spread some love.”
They admit that being in the spotlight is an exciting new experience for the band, and one of the biggest thrills is when people recognize them together as Neverest.
“We’ve been stopped a couple of times at, like, a gas station. A little girl will come up, ‘Mom, mom! It’s Neverest!’” Spee recalled with a laugh. “And she’ll come in and she’ll ask for, like, a picture and an autograph, and we’ll be so happy to do it. And then she’s like, ‘Oh my God! I told you, mom!’ It’s so awesome; it’s so cute. It hasn’t quite gotten to the point where we’re recognized everywhere we go or anything like that, I think we still have a little bit of privacy, which I think is . . . I mean, I don’t know what it’s going to be like.”
Despite this, however, Spee points out that remaining humble is easy when they think of all the people that have helped them get to this point.
“I’m not sure the spotlight is quite on us just yet,” he said. “But if it does, I’m sure that we’ll have the tools necessary to work through it, just staying humble, staying thankful, and at the end of the day thinking [about the] big picture, realizing we would be nowhere without our fans; nowhere without the media; nowhere without anyone. Nothing should ever be a job or a chore; it should be an honour.”
Paul, putting it more bluntly, added, “And if any of us steps out of line we kind of kick ourselves back into shape. That hasn’t happened yet, but I know that if it does we’ll all, as brothers, have each other’s backs, anyways!”
Their tour supporting Stereos this spring will be the band’s first ever concert tour, and with their itinerary taking them right across the country, it will be an invaluable opportunity to promote their debut album as well as take in the beauty of parts of the country they haven’t seen before.
However, they also have another reason to look forward to the exhaustive tour schedule: “I think what we’re looking forward to the most is just actually going out there and doing it for the first time,” said Spee. “Feeling those sleepless nights; feeling the hunger; feeling the exhaustion; and feeling the rush of the crowd. Feeling all that, you know, because we hear so much about it but we haven’t really had the opportunity to go through it. So I’m really jacked.”
If they have it their way, this will only be the beginning of a long road career as a band. When asked about their hopes for the future of the band, they mention wanting to be able to get to a level where they can give back and use their position of social responsibility to help others. But for now, they are keeping it simple.
“Longevity of course,” said Paul. “And, hopefully, one day headlining our own tour, sometime soon. That’d be incredible.”