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Thursday, May 28, 1998, Mean Red Spiders spin a sonic web, By KIERAN GRANT - Toronto Sun

New bands are often so eager to commit their sound to disc, they'll even risk embarrassment if it means a piece of plastic with their name on it.

Local noise-pop quintet Mean Red Spiders, however, took nearly three years to spin their sonic web into a debut CD, Places You Call Home, which they launch at the Rivoli tonight.

"We were in no rush," agrees guitarist-singer Greg Chambers, who formed Mean Red Spiders with guitarist David Humphreys and singer-bassist Lisa Nighswander in 1995. Drummer Adam Rosen and keyboardist Minesh Mandoda were later recruited from local art-rock outfits 122 Greige and Parts Unknown, respectively.

"We actually finished a whole album two years ago," says Chambers, "nine or 10 songs, but our technological resources were limited and we weren't satisfied. So, we basically scrapped the whole album and started again."

"It gave us a chance to rethink what we were doing," says Rosen. "We sort of needed a gestation period. In a way, these songs have been put to bed now."

Places You Call Home takes MRS' penchant for loud guitar noise and smooths it into some very palatable soundscapes. It also features a version of Burt Bacharach's Trains And Boats And Planes, exposing the group's love for big, over-the-top pop.

When not holed up in their west-end jam space, Mean Red Spiders kept themselves busy weaving a web of another kind. Since December '95, Humphreys has put on five Kanadian Independent Music festivals, a sort of workshop and network for underground bands in Toronto, Ottawa and the surrounding areas.

In the process, MRS have acted as catalyst for a growing scene-within-a-scene comprised of like-minded groups.

"We wanted as many diverse bands as possible without starting a clique," says Humphreys. "So we tried to include hip-hop and R&B, stuff that was going on in the north, northwest or east ends of Toronto that, at the time, nobody had brought downtown.

"The idea was to try not to be exclusive, so that bands could be playing on the same bill as someone they've never seen before."

Chambers adds that interest in branching out is shared by MRS' record label, local indie Teenage U.S.A.

"Teenage U.S.A.'s philosophy is that they don't need to be seen as a Canadian label," he says. "They're not trying to focus on just being the biggest thing in Toronto, they want to be seen around the world. We have a similar outlook. We are proud to be a product of the Toronto scene, which is very tough to play in. But we want to be able to go anywhere without being thought of as another Toronto band. We don't always need to be seen in comparison to other places."
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