It’s a bold move for any band to create a rock opera. It’s an especially bold move when you’re a pretty-much unknown band from a small town.
Revelstoke band Havok Way have created a rock opera, and they’re hoping their boldness will lead the way to becoming a working band.
“We had this realization we wanted to grow the band and do something different,” Strathon Bajowksy, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, told me over coffee. “Our old show was just a collection of songs and we wanted to focus on something bigger than that.”
In 2009, the band toured across Canada, experiencing many of the usual trials and tribulations small band’s go through on the road. They played at inappropriate venues and their van broke down, but they also had some successful shows and sold a bunch of CDs.
Upon returning to Revelstoke, they had a band meeting and decided to try a new focus – something that would get them noticed amongst the seemingly infinite bands that are all striving for the attention of a finite audience.
“We were really seeking to do something different and we wanted to do something we felt would be great,” said Bajowsky.
That something was a concept Bajowsky had been thinking of – creating a rock opera called Of Harlots and Harlequins, which will be performed for the first time at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre this Saturday, Nov. 9.
After the 2009 tour, the band holed up in their practice space. They saved up money at their day jobs ($10,000 each, Bajowksy said), bought their own PA system and lighting equipment, and set about creating the story and music for their show.
“It’s heavily inspired by Tim Burton and his works. What I like about his work is he takes dark subject matters and makes them fun,” said Bajowksy.
Bajowsky plays the role of the hero and the anti-hero. Bassist Katrina Thompson plays the love interest and drummer James Kincaid also plays a character.
The basic story, explained Bajowsky, is that it’s about the hero’s struggle to live in a world that has been made in the image of the anti-hero.
“The underlying thing is there’s this hero that’s struggling against this evil that’s working against him,” he said, adding that they’ve also developed a great deal of back story and lore that could end up forming an even bigger production one day.
Havok Way describes themselves most basically as an alternative rock band. For their rock opera, they had to branch out, writing in different styles depending on what the performance required. Different songs throughout the play are in the voice of the various characters, so a song about the anti-hero is darker, while the hero’s songs are more anthemic.
“We do jump genres quite often but it’s all under the banner of the story and it all has a purpose. When we’re playing in a certain style, there’s a reason,” said Bajowsky. “When a song sounds dark and moody, it’s supposed to be.”
Bajowksy wrote the lyrics to the songs with the story in mind. They also added pre-recorded orchestral elements that will come in during the show to complement their sound.
Last year, Havok Way played their first show in several years at the community centre. The show was a test run for Of Harlots and Harlequins and Bajowsky said the reception was great. They have spent the past year refining and perfecting the show. They will be spending two days video taping the show for a DVD that they will send out to fans and people in the music industry. The hope is that it will wind up in the hands of someone who will be suitably impressed to take Havok Way under their wings and help them develop as a band.
“This is everything we do,” said Bajowsky. “This is our hard work, our blood, sweat and tears coming out in one package. I strongly believe this will attract the right person that wants to work with us.”
With so much at stake, and so much time and money spent, Bajowsky admitted to being nervous. If they pull it off, it could lead to great things. If they don’t – well, I didn’t ask if they had a plan B.
“I’ve always had that mindset where I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew what it would cost,” he said. “When we say rock opera, it’s truly a blend of a theatrical performance and a rock band playing. It presents its challenges but when we nail it, it’s worth it to me.”
Havok Way performs Of Harlots and Harlequins at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m.