By Nicole Kobie
The members of Guy Smiley have good reason to smile. The Winnipeg punk band released three critically acclaimed CDs, toured the world, wreaked havoc on Jenny Jones and are sponsored skateboarders. What more could anyone want?
While they may have it good now, it hasn’t been an easy trip. Problems with management led the band to buy the rights to their own album.
"We’re self-managed, self-booked, we do everything ourselves," says lead vocalist Derek Kun, explaining how their first management company simply didn’t do a good enough job. Kun, bassist Jamie Fyles, drummer Ryan Francis and guitarist Kurt Bond are now satisfied with Winnipeg’s Smallman Records.
The very fact the band does so much of its own work makes their success all the more rewarding.
"We’ve come a lot further than I’ve ever expected we would," explains Kun. "I definitely think we’re a success… more a success than a lot of major label bands because we’ve done everything ourselves and we’ve worked a lot harder than most people in the industry."
Kun explains that while releasing their first CD and going on their first tour was amazing, their travels to Europe and their upcoming tours in Japan and Australia are extremely encouraging. Fans who don’t even speak English have Guy Smiley’s lyrics memorized and sing along. The favourite in both Europe and North America is their ode to the old Winnipeg Jets, "The Canadian Way." Many hardcore followers trail the band from venue to venue, taking in every show for weeks on end. As well, the mosh pits are much more intense than at domestic concerts.
"It’s nice to see the world for free, to get paid to do it," Kun says.
"The Canadian Way" was re-released on their latest effort, Alkaline, because "it was going world wide. Even when we tour Europe it’s our fan favourite."
They’ve toured Canada nearly 30 times since Guy Smiley’s creation in 1992, but Winnipeg is still home. While Kun is a proud Canadian, he’s even more attached to his home town. Enthralled with the amazing local music and art scene, he thinks he knows the reason why so many bands come out of the city.
"I think that Winnipeg is just colder than [most] places. I think that has a lot to do with it. People look for things to do in the winter," theorizes Kun. "It’s a very close-knit community too; it’s a big city, but not compared to Calgary, for instance. But, there is a really solid music scene."
While they are self-proclaimed clean-living guys, Guy Smiley are still typically crazy punkers. Once, they played Queen’s "Another One Bites the Dust" at a tribute to a man who’d just died. They skinny-dipped at hotels they weren’t staying at. They even started a skirmish on Jenny Jones over breast implants, when drummer Ryan Francis shouted that those willing to go under the knife needed "attitude adjustments." All this occured while they were sober, as Kun doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs.
"I grew up skateboarding… a lot of kids are either going straight edge or right into heavy drugs. Well, all my friends went into straight edge, and that’s how I stuck with it," explains Kun. "On the road you see a lot of drugs and you see a lot of bullshit. I’ve seen a lot of friends, including former members of this band, brought down very heavily by drugs. That makes us steer clear."
Sponsored for the past 10 years by Winnipeg company Skate, Kun previously participated in demos and competitions.
"Now, we just bring our skateboards on tour, all of us," says Kun.
Guy Smiley will be hit Calgary with The Misfits and Speedealer on Oct. 1, in the MacEwan Hall Ballroom.