With that heartless wench named winter about to rear its pock-marked mug, Canadian bands far and wide are breaking out the snow tires and bracing themselves for the black ice.
For a band like Windsor, Ontario's Flint, the season's change holds even more gravity, considering the hours Flint logs travelling between their hometown and their quasi-second skin in Toronto. It's a sacrifice that vocalist/bassist Gary McLean and his bandmates are willing to make in hopes of grasping that elusive brass ring of CanRock renown. "It's the same route The Tea Party [who also formed in Windsor] took when they broke; they're originally from Windsor but everybody they dealt with early on was Toronto-based. I don't think we necessarily have to leave Windsor to become successful but we definitely have to focus a lot on Toronto, which means a lot of travel."
Alongside guitarist Jay Pickering and drummer Marc Dalzell, Flint play a riff-heavy strand of modern rock that can be slotted nicely beside such homegrown mainstays as Nickelback, Default and Three Days Grace. The trio came together in 2002 and have been chugging away across southern Ontario ever since. "Gary and I have been writing and playing together for years," says Pickering. "We were doing an acoustic thing for a while because we couldn't find a third member since we kept going through drummers. About two years ago, Marc e-mailed us, we more or less auditioned each other and it stuck."
Flint's debut album, Smoke & Mirrors, was released in early December of 2004 and already, it's beginning to cause a crackle, thanks in large part to a video for the cryptically-titled lead single "Aah". The clip was directed by Gavin Booth, a seasoned friend of the band who's worked with Third Eye Blind, Switchfoot and popular children's singer Eminem in the past. It features McLean menacing patrons at a local diner, and has landed Flint in steady rotation on cable TV outlet Much Loadůnot too shabby for a maiden voyage.
"I met [Booth] years ago when I was working in a big÷ box÷ store," says Pickering with a snicker and a pregnant pause. "That very first day, he told me he was going to be a filmmaker when he grew up. And I told him I was going to be a musician when I grew up. So we met up a few years later after he had just flown back from a job in LA.." Dalzell adds, "He was looking for a band that would give him full director's credit. Until he did 'Aah', he'd only had producer's credit. He wanted director's credit and to hit Much, and thankfully, he got both."
You might imagine that living mere minutes from Detroit and the American border, Flint would be inclined to focus their efforts stateside. Yet while Dalzell fully admits to the Yankee influence that informs the band's sound, the logistics of expropriating in 2004 make such best laid plans difficult. "Detroit definitely influences our sound if only because a lot of the radio and a lot of the music we hear in Windsor comes from Detroit. Unfortunately for a band like us, it was a lot easier to play shows in the States pre-9/11. Now, if you go over the border and get caught playing a paid gig without the proper paperwork, they can ban you for five years." Pickering confirms, "I went to the US to roadie for a friend of mine and they sent me back on the suggestion that an American could do that job. I wasn't even being paid but they're a lot more suspicious and a lot more careful now."
Whether it's a matter of national security or crotchety border guards, it's a moot point for Flint at the moment since success at home seems well within their reach. Early 2005 will see the band hitting the road and building strategic alliances in attempts to spark the Flint canon going forward.
"Very few bands have the ability to take whoever they want on the road with them," says Dalzell. "A band like Finger Eleven, they're just now reaching that level. Hooking up with those type of bands is key for us right now."
Flint will be playing the following dates in support of Smoke & Mirrors:
Jan 7: Toronto, ON, Reilly's
Jan 8: Toronto, ON, Club 279
Jan 22: Toronto, ON, 102.1 The Edge
Feb 11: Belleville, ON, Reality Check
For more information on Flint, please visit their official web site at www.flintsite.com
Writer: Cameron Gordon