RAVE & DROOL: A CHRONICLE OF ’90s CANROCK
AN INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER TYLER ELYNUIK
There is no denying that the 1990s was a time of technological and musical innovation. And for those who lived during this era in Canada, it was also a time when Canadian musicians dominated the air waves. Yet, like all revolutions, the rise of the Canadian rockstars didn’t last and at the turn of the millennium, bands like Sloan, Barenaked Ladies, Our Lady Peace, Tea Party, and so many more simply disappeared. So what happened?
This is exactly the question that Canadian filmmaker Tyler Elynuik is investigating in his documentary film Rave and Drool: A Chronicle of ‘90s CanRock. “At one point a few years back I was working at a record store. HMV actually, may rest in peace, and I was talking with a coworker who was around the same age as I was and grew up in the 90s,” Elynuik explained recently during a phone interview. “We were reminiscing about the old Canadian bands, about how much fun we had … how good these bands were. So we looked them up on the HMV database to see how the records are selling … and we discovered that a lot of the albums were out-of-print…. I thought that was kind of odd…. So I did a bit of research and found that a lot of these bands quit around the same time, their last record came out around 98/99 and I just thought that that was kinda strange they all seemed to stop at once. So I started to do a whole bunch of research and I thought, ‘Hey, there’s a story here’ and there is.”
Elynuik even drew the title of the film from that iconic era. “I wanted to find something kinda short and punchy, something from the time period, and “Rave and Drool” is … a Killjoys’ song that’s from Big Shiny Tunes [released in 1996]. … I didn’t want to get something too negative or too obtuse, I wanted something that was punchy and would stick in people’s heads and it does the trick.”
This on-going project is definitely a labour of love for Elynuik. Over the past few years he has been working hard to track down and interview many of the musicians and those in the music industry from that era in attempt to answer his question. “You know … these guys went away for a while, did their own things, you know made solo records and changed careers….” But he has been successful in his quest and has spoken to many people already.
“We just finished a trip in Toronto in November. We talked to Barenaked Ladies, Lowest of the Low,… Alan Cross (legendary Canadian rock critic personality), … 54-40, … Tara Sloane. Previously, we’ve talked to Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven, Crash Test Dummies, … Age of Electric, and Bruce McDonald, the filmmaker of Hard Core Logo, we got him.”
Elynuik says that the film will feature “interviews of the bands, chatting with a few journalists, record producers, photographers, media personalities, and even some kind of fan perspective … because everyone experienced the 90s through their own lens.”
“Everyone has their own story to tell,” Elynuik continued. “What it’s [the film] going to do is focus on how the scene kind of germinated from the late 80s and really took off with the Barenaked Ladies and the… Indie music.”
“HMV and Sam The Record Man really bought into the music and had indie sections in their stores where bands would put stuff and there was college radio and that kind of thing. And that kind of led to the birth of the Canadian rockstar, which is due to the possibility of things like MuchMusic and Exclaim and CBC. These kinds of things kind of made Canadians, for me at least, rock stars. There was a lot of them. I mean you didn’t really separate them from like Pearl Jam, you know. Like Pearl Jam was on the cover of the Rolling Stone, Our Lady Peace was at the top of the charts.”
“We are going to take the film up through that big boom, and then start looking at some of the factors at what burst the bubble,” Elynuik explained. “There were a lot of industry things happening at the same time, a lot of bands were unable to break into the US, which dampened a lot of bands’ spirits. There were a lot of record label mergers that cut a lot of bands record deals, so there were a whole lot of events that came together around the late 90s. So we are going to look at and how it kind of ended, and then how it resurfaced now with kind of renewed interest. These bands are getting back together and doing sold-out shows, releasing stuff on vinyl, and all this renewed interest so hopefully this film will end in kind of an upward thing.”
However, the creation of Rave and Drool hasn’t been without its challenges.
“Crowdsourcing I found a bit challenging. Initially, I set la big goal because I didn’t want to be in this kind of situation where if I do a small goal then I can’t make the movie, and then I’m letting all of these people down. … So I just, sort of, shoot for the stars, enough to shoot the thing and see what happens.”
Funding for the film has primarily come from crowdfunding, but in a follow-up answer via email Elynuik added that in addition to crowdsourcing “spreading the word about the film” has been another big challenge.
“I say that because they really go hand in hand, the more people that follow the film on Twitter and Facebook, the better chance the crowd funding campaign will succeed.”
Elynuik initially began raising funds for the film with a Kickstarter campaign. “We did the Kickstarter campaign, which was unsuccessful, but … it raised all this awareness for the movie.” However, despite this setback Elynuik was not dissuaded from making the film and kept moving forward.
“Based on the Kickstarter, and the awareness that was raised, I launched an Indiegogo shortly after that just to cover Ontario shooting, which raised about $6000, and we went out to Toronto late last year to film a bunch interviews.”
And like any big project, the creation of Rave and Drool has had its up and downs. But the general excitement around the production of the documentary has been steadily growing, especially over the last couple of years.
“It’s been really good, I mean the thing is I shot all eight or nine videos a number years ago when I was working in the film industry, and I was kind of on my way to making the the movie. And then there was a new government that took over Saskatchewan that kind of put a damper on the film industry which made me get a real job. So I had to leave the industry…,” Elynuik said reflecting on the start of the project.
“Then, just last year I was thinking that nobody’s really still made the movie that I wanted to make, and I still had all this footage. … I threw something out on Kickstarter, and suddenly I started getting media requests … and a lot of fans are just sending messages and all this really positive stuff saying that this is really awesome and you know all this interest it’s really kind of drove me to continue this process. So I got on Kickstarter and got some producers attached to the movie who are as passionate as I am, and they grew up in the era as professionals… They feel the same way that I do about that era, which is that it’s a special time, kind of the golden age in some ways, you know, the last bit, the kind of last hurrah before the Internet really broke. Now, Spotify, iTunes, and, even before that, MySpace, there’s so much stuff out there that you really don’t know what to see.
Elynuik mentions how it has been the 90s music fans like himself that have really given the project a sense of community, and how it has created a place where Canadian music lovers can come together. “The receptions been really good because it is scratching that kind of nostalgic itch that a lot of people have, and you know we threw up a Spotify playlist for Rave and Drool, … we got a Twitter feed going and a Facebook page going, and people are kind of engaging and interacting… Like for ‘Throwback Thursday’ I’ll throw up the Edgefest poster … [and] people tell stories about the Edgefest that they went to in like Thunder Bay or something, … as opposed to the Edgefest that I went to in Saskatoon … so it’s kind of bringing a lot of people together. I’m meeting a lot of new friends that music meant as much to them as it does to me, and I just have to kind of put it towards the film.”
As for those who have been interviewed for the film and have assisted in its production, Elynuik expressed his delight at the enthusiasm those people have had about the film. “The other responses have been good, like as far as the artists themselves, the producers, and stuff like that…. I mean we haven’t heard or had any really hardcore ‘no’s’, ‘it’s not gonna happen’, or ‘don’t talk to me’. It’s been really amazing, and really amazing conversations…. Everyone’s really open to it. Photographers have reached out with things like ‘Man, is there anything I can do? I’ve shot like photos way back in the day. If you need any archival material, let me know.’ It’s just really exciting every time I get a call like that or a message like that. It really puts a smile on my face.”
And while the Elynuik still has lots to do before the film is finished, he remains optimistic.
“It’s really fluid right now. We really want to shoot in four or five more locations. We want to shoot in LA, Vancouver, Halifax, Montréal, and so forth. You know we might need another Toronto shoot. Canada is a beautiful but vast country. There is lots of space between each of those places, so we have to try to get the shooting finished and once the shootings finished, there will be a whole lot of postproduction as far as clearing the rights to use certain footage and certain songs, and uncertain postproduction things. We’re hoping to have it out by 2018, but that that’s a rough estimate.”
Rave and Drool: A Chronicle of ‘90s CanRock promises to be an in-depth film that Canadian music lovers are sure to enjoy and cherish. And for those who grew up with the Canadian rock of the 90s, the documentary will be a chance to hear from the many great artists and public figures who shaped our musical tastes and the Canadian music industry of today.
In a more recent email Elynuik had this to say about his labour of musical love, “…not everyone has the ability to support a crowd funding campaign financially (which is completely understandable) so getting a like or follow is just as important as they can then share a link and spread the word, then perhaps someone who has extra income can chip in a few bucks to help us tell the story of Canadian rock in the nineties.”