With influences ranging from Wayne Shorter to Levon Helm to J Dilla, The Worst Pop Band Ever is a Toronto based quintet that tries to combine a love of improvisational jazz and modern popular music. Despite their name, the band features in demand, award winning Canadian musicians who have shared stages and/or recorded with such esteemed international artists like Feist, Ernie Watts, Brad Goode, The Bad Plus, Blue Rodeo, Quique Escamilla, Brandi Disterheft, Milosh, Hisaka, Terry Min Hsieh, Shan Vincent De Paul, Tanika Charles, Amanda Martinez, Johnny Reid, Sultans of String, Louis Cole, Matt Dusk, Laila Biali, Elizabeth Shepherd, and the Shuffle Demons. Together, whether it be blending acoustic bass with turntables or analog synths with the saxophone, the WPBE sets out to twist and bend both originals and covers, straddling genres and butting heads with expectation.
They have filled festivals and clubs throughout North America from IAJE to NXNE; St. John’s to Chicago, New York to Vancouver and most recently had a successful tour of Taiwan. They were called “highlights of the festival ” on the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival’s own website; reached #1 on College radio; were showcased in All About Jazz, the Toronto Star, Canadian Musician Magazine, Jazz FM; shortlisted in NOW Toronto’s Soundclash competition; and provided music for CBC, the National Film Board, The Toronto Public Library, the UN and even Disney.
The band has also been running Masterclasses and Workshops for elementary schools in the Toronto District School Board and private schools, like Upper Canada College to Post Secondary Institutions like Western University, Carleton University, Mohawk College, Grant MacEwan College, etc. They have also worked closely with the Jazz Performance and Education Centre, as well as the Jazz FM 91.1 Education outreach. The clinics touch on a range of subjects from improvisation to the influence of jazz on and from modern music.
The Worst Pop Band Ever is:
Chris Gale — Saxes
Juno Award winner, Performs/ed with the Shuffle Demons, Brandi Disterheft. Rich Underhill, Blue Rodeo, Amanda Tosoff
Adrean Farrugia — Keys
Juno award winner, Performs/ed with Matt Dusk, Kelly Jefferson, Quinsin Nachoff, Ernesto Cervini, Brad Goode
Tim Shia — Drums
Performs/ed with Rich Underhill, Quique Escamilla, Ron Davis, Rhonda Stakich, Kevin Barrett
LEO37 — Turntables
Performs/ed with Soliva, Magnolius, Sunclef, Abyss, Tanika Chawlz, The Blast
Drew Birston — Bass
Performs/ed with Amanda Martinez, Sultans of String, Chantal Kreviazuk, Justin Hines, Lori Cullen
Dafydd Hughes — Keys
Perfoms/ed with Feist, Christine Bougie, Jake Chisolm, Esthero, Ben Gunning
Gord Mowat, Kelly Jefferson, Sophia Perlman, Attila Fias, Rhonda Stakich, Howie Shia, Michael Herring, Chris Banks and Elizabeth Shepherd
Selected Press Clippings/Testimonials
For Live Performances
Mike Deicont, torontojazz.com (July 2012)
The Worst Pop Band Ever is the total package - great compositions, unique covers and standup-worthy comedic banter… the group’s two-set night at The Winchester Kitchen was a highlight of the festival. With Tim Shia on drums, Chris Gale on tenor sax, Adrean Farrugia on keys, and Drew Birston on electric and upright bass, the band showcased the players’ unique ability to jump from jazz to hip-hop flavoured rock with minimal effort… Known to fans as WPBE, the ensemble conveys the refreshing image of being a band, something often unseen in the world of the busy freelance musician, juggling gigs and rehearsals. Clearly the product of several shows, recording sessions, and tours the group has surpassed the introductory stages of the panicked rehearsal prior to the gig.
Kevin Hurley, Huffington Post (June 2014)
Of course Jazz isn’t dead. The core idea of using pop music as source material for creative exploration is still very much alive…It is easier to appreciate (and follow) where these artists take the music when you already understand where they started… Snarky Puppy, Mehliana, The Worst Pop Band Ever…
Marie Boulanger, camuz.ca (March 2012)
Musicalement, le WPBE, c’est un setlist de jazz recherché, tant au niveau des ambiances sonores que des compositions originales. +1 pour la présence d’un DJ et pour les lignes de basse solides et puchées; les refrains, eux, sont marqués d’une tournure pop indéfectible, mais tellement réconfortante. En bref, un band de jazz solide, ludique (pour une fois!!) et rafraichissant à découvrir avec légèreté.
Dennis Slater, FFWD magazine (March 2011)
Indeed, titles can deceive. When it comes to the Worst Pop Band Ever, don’t assume it’s about pop. Don’t even assume it’s about jazz. But know that it’s about some of the most clever, talented and wide-ranging musicians in the nation.
Andy Frank (CIUT 89.5 FM, 2008)
The Worst Pop Band Ever is a rare vintage that delivers some of the most unique and delightful flavours in the Toronto music scene. Theirs is a creative, refreshing sound, (seemingly) effortlessly performed with a truly gentle touch.
Tia Kim, the Newspaper (U of T, 2008)
The group put on an amazing concert at Hart House last Friday, impressing even the most critical jazz fans… preserving the feel-good soul of that genre (jazz) while throwing sprinkles of synthetic pop sounds on top. It’s a funky combination that seems puzzling at first, but it’s a unique style that just works. It’s a concert must for the die hard jazz fan and anyone craving some cool music.
Ted Quinlan (Wholenote Magazine, March 2016)
“Blackout is a fresh and successful take on a genre-hopping approach to music making that has seen a growing number of exponents in recent years…. the group grafts wide-ranging musical elements onto each other that serve to subtly or not so subtly transform the source materials. Peachy Keen features modern jazz piano comping over a reggae feel that creates a surprisingly ideal setting for Chris Gale’s soulful saxophone solo. The abrupt switch to a full-out rock groove with electronica for the tune’s ending somehow seems completely appropriate. “
S. Victor Aaron (Something Else Reviews, Jan. 2016)
“Though not as overtly funky as Medeski, Martin & Wood or as acoustically inclined as the Bad Plus, TWPBE finds its niche in meting out Wurlitzer-grounded grooves like the steady struttin’ introductory track “Inor Man,” or Gospell” which walk the line between catchy, almost pop melodies and loose, egalitarian improv. They are able the shift strategies on each song without losing any identity, too. From “Inor Man,” there’s the faux-reggae “Peachy Keen,” the multiple rhythms propelling the rockin’ “Panic,” or the dark, piano-based strain of “Scene Two aka Not So Fun Anymore.” There aren’t any vocals this time around, but Gale’s got a big, soul-laden tone that often serves as the band’s lead voice, and serves it well… In sum, the appeal with Blackout remains the same as it was with 2009’s Dost Thou Believeth In Science?: quirky titles but no-nonsense organic grooves usually topped off by a revolving cast of proficient soloists who know how far to take it before they run out of steam. And they do it with a touch of wit. The Worst Pop Band Ever has a hand-made, unforced approach that makes rock-jazz uncommonly relaxing, and Blackout keeps that relaxed vibe going.”
For “Sometimes Things Go Wrong”
Mark Turner, allaboutjazz.com (July 2012)
Recorded live at Cory Weed’s Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, The Worst Pop Band Ever’s Sometime Things Go Wrong (and other songs we shouldn’t play)is music for people, whether they dig jazz or not. The group delivers a set that cares less about genres… There’s no crossover message here; just a tight band playing with substance and feeling for an appreciative audience.
Ben Conoley, Canadian Musician Magazine (June 2012)
The Worst Pop Band Ever might not have a name that screams confidence, but their blend of improvisational jazz and indie pop makes them stand-outs in a scene that gets little attention in popular music circles….While jazz might not be the most popular type of music on playlists these days, if anyone can make the genre break through to a pop-loving mainstream crowd, it could just be The Worst Pop Band Ever. Ironic, no?
For “Dost Thou Believeth in Science”
Geoff Chapman, Wholenote Magazine (July 2010)
The Quintet makes smart if curious music…It’s all easy on the ear, expertly and effortlessly delivered with elaborate solos and surprising heat.
Mark J. Turner, allaboutjazz.com (Jan. 2010)
The Worst Pop Band Ever’s title displays a sense of humor and frivolity, but in name only…. Street wise yet substantive, these compositions would appeal to fans of Vijay Iyer, Brad Mehldau, or DJ Logic, as dealt by the poised sax/piano front line (Chris Gale and Dafydd Hughes), a robust rhythm section (bassist Drew Birston and drummer Tim Shia), and excellent colorizations by turntablist Leo37... From start to finish Dost Thou Believeth in Science? is hip enough and deep enough for jazzers and non-jazzers alike.
John Patten, allaboutjazz.com (Feb. 2010)
The Worst Pop Band Ever may not live up to its name, but this Canadian combo is working hard to produce some innovative sounds melding jam-band jazz with sound effects, courtesy of turntablist Leo37, on Dost Thou Believeth in Science? …The musicians’ firm grounding in hard bop and modern jazz is clear, and it’s a pleasant surprise to hear the twists they take to engender faith in Worst Pop Band Ever’s science.
Pico, Something Else.com (formerly of Jazz.com, Jan. 2010)
A truly democratic group where everyone pitches in on the songwriting, the WPBE are very listenable, even when they aren’t grooving…[They] might be a little weird but they strike a good balance between accessible and creative, and is one that should be checked out by anyone looking for bands like MMW or The Bad Plus.
For “Thanks For Coming Out”
Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star (May 4, 2006)
This may be one of the worst band names ever, right up there with JMOG, but the jazz on its seven tunes is intriguing, well-calibrated and focused in a very contemporary, accessible fashion.. The music’s fresh, may appeal to pop lovers but assuredly to jazzers keen on a kind of driven fluency as genre stylings are examined, discarded and reworked.
Andy Sheppard (CBC After Hours, 2007)
The CD is really cool...Lots of surprises and turns and fascinating layers, both in the arrangements and the ‘atmospherics’ (is that even a word?).