Tin Foil Phoenix

Official Site
MapleMusic Newsletter
Sign up to keep informed of MapleMusic happenings


Michael Allen Zirk - vocals
Steven Kray - percussion
Fish - guitar
Paul Robinson - bass
Phil Cholosky - guitar

On the eve of releasing their debut across North America, a terrible thing happened. The band that was Sonic Bloom became a band in limbo, album in hand but without a name.

As improbable as it may sound, Living In The Shadow Of The Bat was already being printed and pressed for release when it was discovered that other enterprises held rights to their chosen name in some territories; and that's when everything came to a grinding halt. Behind the scenes, the wheels resumed turning and the plans for release were shifted to the future. Some months and a name change later, Tin Foil Phoenix emerges from the tumult to resume the story they had begun so well.

In a manner befitting their history, the Winnipeg rock band came to prominence amidst irony. The story of their rise centres on a partially spoken-word song called "Neopolitan", seemingly named after the band's inside joke about an oddly-flavoured health food shake, but truly about something far more meaningful. "The song is actually about the band being independent and presuming that it could be all we might ever be," explains singer Michael Allen Zirk (a.k.a. Maz). The infectious number features the unforgettable underdog lyric: Art is its own reward/ Just ask Burt Ward/ Years of living in the shadow of The Bat. "It's funny that a song about coming to terms with the possibility that all we might really have is the enjoyment of our own music, ends up getting us a record deal. It's almost like it was some kind of subconscious or subliminal plan."

They had finished writing "Neopolitan" toward the tail end of making a demo EP which became the foundation of their debut album, Living in the Shadow of the Bat. After nurturing the song for weeks and having already maxed out their recording budget, the band volunteered the track for a recording class project at a local studio. Later, they decided to push the song to radio stations across Canada, where it was heard by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger. Chad quickly snatched the band for his 604 Records label and also wound up adding some production to two of the tracks on the album. "It was kind of a drawn-out overnight success, 'cause we'd been around for a long time but, from getting on radio, to getting signed, to brokering this international deal was a fast and furious process," says drummer Steven Kray.

It was Kray and Maz who founded Sonic Bloom in 1997, first recruiting guitarist Fish and performing as a power trio. The band later stole bass virtuoso Paul Robinson from another local group and recently enlisted Phil Cholosky as their second guitarist. A few years ago, they added a spoken word song to their wildly diverse repertoire and it became a popular element of their music. "There are things about it that people really attach to," Maz said. "Sometimes it leans a little towards rap, other times it's not rhyming whatsoever. It's just that I'm speaking right to you and the lyrics are very clear and people are catching every word." This direct connection to the audience and earnest conveying of their message has become the band's trademark.

Major label debuts from seasoned bands often feature an array of styles, because the songs were written over many years. That is not the case, however, with Living in the Shadow of the Bat. This debut bounces from aggressive rock (the ambitious "We'll Get to Venus") to hip-hop (the political "Bum Rush the Motorcade") to pseudo-balladry (the anthemic "The Outside") like a pinball, and does so for a solid reason. "We have some of the most bizarre influences you could imagine. The different sounds and flavours on the album actually come from the different musical influences of the members," Kray explains. "I pretty much only listen to gangsta rap, whereas Paul listens to a lot of progressive rock, while Maz listens to a lot of Top 40 stuff."

Living in the Shadow of the Bat is just as diverse lyrically as it is musically. Sometimes Maz takes on the deepest of topics, such as consoling a parent who lost a child ("Ms. Genova"), or sometimes he just spills out phrases with reckless abandon. "James Spader", titled after the Sex, Lies and Videotape and The Practice star, is a prime example of the latter. "Fish had a verse for that song for the longest time and we said, 'Let's just play the verse 'till we get to the chorus and see what comes out,'" Maz said. "What came out seemed like a good fit for a chorus that was going to be super aggressive. It was just a good play on the fact that Spader usually plays understated yet powerful roles."

Tin Foil Phoenix hesitate to label their band or make comparisons to other artists, leaving any interpretations open to their fans. As Kray says, "There's an element of everything in the music. Fans are free to put us where they want us." TFP are happy to be where they are; a working band, poised to bring their music to the eager masses. Call it divine intervention, call it justice or call it luck, the band have something to give back to music lovers everywhere - their art for their fans' sake.