Meet novelty rock wizards New Horizzons

Robert Dayton (half of Canned Hamm, and also known as the Canadian Romantic) tells us about his new project, launching an EP in Montreal tonight.

New Horizzzons pic
New Horizzzons feat. Robert Dayton (right)
Robert Dayton has navigated the Canadian music, art and literary scene in many guises. Until recently, he was (the smaller) half of Canned Hamm. He’s also been known as the Canadian Romantic, an alter-ego of sorts that’s been described as “a melodramatic figure of faded glamour who tries to bridge and explore the gap between Canada and romance.” Now he’s teamed with Craig Daniels, formerly half of garage rock duo the Leather Uppers, and comics artist Michael Comeau to form New Horizzons.

Based in Toronto, the band is in town for a Montreal launch of their debut EP, Trial by Fire. I spoke to Dayton about this new project earlier this week, as he was hauling a pile of obscure vinyl out of Aux 33 Tours.

Lorraine Carpenter: So what did you buy?
Robert Dayton: Mostly glam. A Peter Ivers collection, Nirvana Peter, post-murder; Arthur Brown; an Isabelle Adjani album produced by Serge Gainsbourg; Fancy’s “Wild Thing.” A bunch of stuff. I thought I was spending $40 or so, but it was more like $80.

LC: How long have you been in town?
RD: Since Saturday. I played a benefit, as the Canadian Romantic, for a children’s theatre company whose van got vandalized. People spilled milk all over it and took it for a joyride, and it was the really the backbone of their company. They’ve done a lot for me so I wanted to help them out.

LC: So how did New Horizzzons come together?
RD: We all had projects just shatter. Michael and Craig gave me a call — they knew I needed a boost, and I did. It was lovely of them to ask me along. And the music formed really naturally. We also created a manifesto: We live in a world where Nickelback exists; we know that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds, and thus we have to create a new world. We have to make modern rock alright. And it’s been a joy.

LC: Knowing about some of your other projects, I’m not surprised that you’ve put effort into the aesthetic.
RD: Two out of three of us are visual artists and the other one has a real flair for scarves. Being such clothes horses, we thought, “How can create a visual angle?” We’re still experimenting. We can’t stop, really.

LC: I’ve never seen so many tigers on one shirt.
RD: —and yet they all get along.

LC: I’ve never received a record in the form of incense (with a download code) before. I understand you burn it at your shows, and that there’s a stick for each song?
RD: We have burned incense before, definitely, but we want people to use it when they listen to the EP at home, and use as many senses as possible, even the ones that aren’t talked about.

LC: Where does the incense itself come from?
RD: We have our sources, but I don’t to talk about that. Let’s move on. But I will say that I designed the package, and don’t worry about negative effects. If it happens, it happens.

LC: Do you have any advice for the people going to check you out at l’Escogriffe?
RD: Don’t worry about any negative effects. We’re trying to make the world better. If they want some mumbler in a plaid shirt discussing earnest, bland concepts, they’re not going to get that it’s just not going to happen. They’ll get a show.

LC: I know you have some local friends who are in bands. Will there be any surprise guests at the show?
RD: Are you saying people are planning to rush the stage? That’s okay, we’ll go with it. We know how to deal with special unannounced guests, when they’re unannounced to us. ■
New Horizzzons launch their Trial by Fire EP/incense with openers Tang Soleil and Babysitter at l’Escogriffe (4467 St-Denis) tonight, Friday, July 25, 10 p.m.