The Sadies surf into Moncton tonight

It has been a long steady journey for The Sadies.

Not that the Toronto band would want it any other way, however. Over the past 15 years, the band has uniquely combined country and surf music, cultivating a loyal following of fans, while arguably becoming one of the most sought-after backing bands in Canada.

The Sadies are no strangers to the Atlantic provinces and returning to play Moncton tonight at the Manhattan Bar & Grill on Westmorland Street. The show is actually a make-up date for a concert that had originally been scheduled this past March. That show, along with many others had to be cancelled when Sadies vocalist-guitarist Dallas Good had an unfortunate run-in with a patch of black ice on a Saskatoon sidewalk in February.

“We had just wrapped up sound check in Saskatoon and were scattering to get a bite to eat before show time,” drummer Mike Belitsky recalls. “It was a fairly mild day, above freezing temperature wise but as the sun went down, things started freezing again on the ground. Dallas ended up falling rather awkwardly, breaking his tibia and fibula and ended up needing to undergo surgery. It is almost as though he broke his foot off.”

Though Dallas has rehabilitated rather well since the fall, Mike says the uncertainty that arose from the situation was confusing for the remaining members of the band.

“We ended up playing as a trio that night but we spent the whole show wondering how badly he was hurt and if he was alright. It was a weird situation for us to be in both emotionally and musically because to have one person out of the four of us missing was like having an appendage missing.”

Indeed, it is hard to imagine The Sadies without any one of their four members. Since their inception, they have developed and refined their sound so precisely that they are able to legitimately claim a sound of their own. Why else would artists like Neko Case, Jon Langford and The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie want to collaborate with the band?

“It really is a badge of honour to play with others,” Mike says. “It is something we are proud of, the fact that people look at us as being a band that they want to work with. All of these artists have known that when you are hiring The Sadies to back you up, you are getting a certain sound with the end result, but these bands are asking us to do it because they like the sound and like the idea of what they are going to end up with.”

Mike says that he will be the first to admit that the manner in which The Sadies has grown in the past decade and a half has been completely natural and conducive to growing as a unit. The Sadies’ evolution in their career might not have seen the band on the fast track to success, but their hard work and dedication to their craft is certainly not going unnoticed.

“It has been a slow evolution for the band, however it has also meant that we have been able to grow organically,” Mike says. “You see some bands have their record companies do these elaborate marketing campaigns for them where they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars but then don’t end up seeing the sales from the result of that. That would kill some bands but I think for us and the fact we have never been set up in such a way, it has kept us together in a weird way.”

When talk turns to The Sadies’ upcoming collaborative record with Gord Downie, Mike says that his band’s friendship with the Tragically Hip vocalist stemmed from years back when the two groups toured together. Although no release date has officially been set for the release, Mike is confident that the record will see the light of day sometime in the not-too-distant future.

“The record is close to being done,” he confirms. “We’ve been working on it for the past two years which sounds like a long time, but it has never been a really high-pressure project for any of us.”

Touring plans behind the record are currently up in the air, which isn’t terribly surprising given the fact that The Sadies are seemingly always on the road while Gord Downie himself has a solo career as well The Hip’s schedule to contend with.

Yet as busy as The Sadies’ tour schedule is, Mike insists that he and bandmates Travis Good, Dallas Good and Sean Dean know their limits of what works for the band in terms of time spent on the road.

“We definitely put a cap on how long we go out on the road in one stretch because if we want to be doing this in another 10 years, we have to be smart about it,” he says. “It is hard on everyone when you’re away for 12 weeks and then home for four days before you go out again. It can be hard to maintain that personal side of life but I think we have stayed together because we are all from family-first type of upbringings. We know what it takes to stay together and to be dedicated to each other as a band but we also know that we need time to ourselves, as well.”

Article published in June 16, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript