After nine gruelling weeks of rehearsals, performances and music battles, Whosarmy was named the winner of CBC-TV’s Cover Me Canada, collecting a $100,000 cash prize, a recording contract and featured airplay of their single on CBC Radio 2.
“We’re humbled and amazed by how much support we’ve gotten,” said drummer Max Trefler.
The band heard about the show while watching the National Hockey League playoffs last year.
Canadian bands were invited to send in video auditions to Cover Me Canada, a reality TV music competition.
Whosarmy’s submission – a cover of Canadian rocker Bryan Adams’ Run to You – was one of more than 5,000 auditions.
Judges narrowed the hopefuls down to 50 bands, who were invited to a second live audition. Whosarmy was one of the eight bands picked to compete on the show.
Whosarmy started when two groups of friends joined together to focus on their music careers. Trefler met bassist Greg Markham in his Grade 9 music class and they began playing music together.
While studying music at Humber College, Trefler got a call to audition for Whosarmy, which then consisted of Travis Wood on vocals and Cory Williams on guitar.
“I had an opportunity to be in this rock band and it was what I always wanted to do, so we had to decide if we would continue studying or take a shot at making it in music business,” said Trefler.
“The more I played, the more I got into it, and it became apparent that it really was what I wanted to do with my life.”
The band decided to drop out of school and focus on their indie rock band.
It has been five years since they left school, and despite struggling at times, they are happy with the decision they made.
After many demos, endless rehearsals, hours of writing and working on more than 100 songs, Whosarmy released their first self-titled record in May.
But it was Cover Me Canada that gave the band their big break.
“We didn’t know what to expect. Everything that’s happened has been really surprising,” said Trefler.
Each week, bands were given a Canadian song to cover, with just four hours to finish practising their version.
Then they would record the song in the studio, and typically spend three days rehearsing the song in time for Sunday night’s live performance in front of three judges – New Kids On The Block frontman Jordan Knight, R&B songstress Deborah Cox and producer Ron Fair.
The most challenging part of the show for the band was quickly learning and rehearsing a new version of an iconic Canadian song.
“We’re a band that takes our time with getting songs together, so we had to get used to getting a version together and feeling confident in a short amount of time,” said Trefler, who added he’s proud to represent Jewish musicians and is influenced by drummer Max Weinberg of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
The bands that created the biggest online buzz (garnering the most Facebook “likes,” Twitter tweets and online votes) received immunity during the competition and were safe from elimination.
After performing Alanis Morissette’s song Ironic a few weeks ago,
Fair said to the band, “If you’re not the biggest band in Canada in a year, then something is really wrong here!”
During the finale last week, the judges’ votes, combined with the votes from Canadian viewers, declared Whosarmy the winner of the competition.
Trefler said what distinguishes his band from other Toronto rock bands is their commitment to original songwriting and the fact that they are made up of four people who contribute equally to the success of the band.
“We really feel confident in the calibre of songs that we write, and we bring a lot of energy to all our performances,” he said. “We’re not a frontman band, either. We all work together equally to write songs, rehearse and produce great music.”
Their major musical influences are U2 and Coldplay – and not just because they’re successful bands.
“They are able to stay friends for 25 years while making music. We were friends coming into this and we want to be like that,” said Trefler.
Despite the challenges on the show, Trefler said he’s grateful to have had this experience.
“We’ve gained so many fans from this show, and we have the opportunity to not think about anything but just playing music,” he said.
They performed their new single, Alive, written by the band and singer Chantal Kreviazuk, at the end of the final show and hope to work on a new album as soon as they can.
“We’re just really appreciative of everyone who brought us here from day one and everyone who made sure we were a part of this show, and we couldn’t have been more proud or humbled to have been here,” Wood told a CBC interviewer following their win.
Check out the band at www.whosarmy.ca.