Band is a labour of love for four friends, even with haunting lyrics

Perhaps it wasn’t the month to book, with an arrival date right after Valentine’s Day, but as each member of the band has “never written a happy, I’m so in love kind of song,” The Heartbroken’s name, at least, is incredibly fitting.

  • Feb. 8, 2011 3:00 p.m.

The Heartbroken consists of Stuart Cameron

Perhaps it wasn’t the month to book, with an arrival date right after Valentine’s Day, but as each member of the band has “never written a happy, I’m so in love kind of song,” The Heartbroken’s name, at least, is incredibly fitting.

From All My Friends Are Dying to the mournful prayer for a change of destiny in Too Weak, bounce-from-your-chair joy does not appear to be this band’s forté—until one gets them on the phone.

On the day of this interview, guitar player Stuart Cameron and drummer Blake Manning had just learned their longtime band mate, Matthew Good, had become a new father, adding a far more compelling reason to head out West than even a first tour can provide.

Much like that new bundle of joy, The Heartbroken is a labour of love for the four friends who formed the band two years ago.

“It comes from an honest place,” said Cameron, noting the group started by building the music rather than letting industry executives hold all the strings.

“We’re all the best of friends,” he explained.

“Peter and I have known each other since we were 13 or 14 years old and I’ve been hanging out with Damhnait going on 17 years now.”

The first very “honest place” they started playing was a kitchen where the friends—Cameron, Manning, singer Damhnait Doyle and bass player Peter Fusco—were sitting around drinking and playing guitar.

With touring credits like the Crash Test Dummies, Ashley MacIsaac, Amanda Marshall, Matthew Good Band and Shaye to their names, one can imagine it was probably a fairly impressive kitchen party right from the get-go; but the results speak for themselves.

The group debuted with an impeccable step out on the soulful side of the Canadian music scene at the East Coast Music Awards.

It’s taken two years to build the band into the finely-tuned ensemble it is today, touring their first album Tonight, Tonight.

The songs were recorded in the Tragically Hip’s famous studio, The Bathhouse (of Coming Clean at the Bathhouse), and contains an irrefutably haunted sound Cameron can personally confirm they also came by honestly.

During their nine-day recording session, he saw the ghost of a woman in a long dress with dark flowing hair passing by one of the rooms and soon discovered he was by no means the first to have seen the ancient music fiend.

Whether it’s just a fitting story or a sign from the other side, he sounds every bit the believer as he juggles the phone and orders chicken tikka in his new Kensington Market neighbourhood.

One cannot say whether The Heartbroken can speak to those beyond the grave but as experience the crush of emotional defeat one can honestly say their songs have a universal message anyone and everyone who turn out to hear them play at the Minstrel Café will understand.

The Heartbroken play The Minstrel Café, Feb. 21.

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