by Marianne Dowling
Listening to The Robots talk about music is a little like listening to a physicist talk about the construction of an atom—the band mates’ plethora of knowledge on the subject is so detailed it can be overwhelming and confusing unless an encyclopedia is near by.
The band sites composers Ennio Morricone, and Vangelis as well as obscure art-rockers Can, as influences to their unique rock sound. Unfortunately, this uniqueness has meant the band has had trouble finding an audience in a city more familiar with Hoobastank and Nickelback than with Kraftwerk.
“We’re really segregated from the rest of the scene,” says drummer Phil MacIsaac.
He and Chris Doiron (bass), Keith Baglole (piano/vocals), and Peter Rankin (guitars/vocals) are sitting in an empty Chinese restaurant on a quiet Sunday afternoon. They laugh as Baglole and Rankin reminisce about their unorthodox (and admittedly pretentious) projects of the past—including an EP inspired by Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment—but turn serious when they discuss isolation from the rest of the PEI bands.
“I think sometimes that we’re in a vacuum. We’re only welcome at Baba’s,” says Rankin.
He is very frank as he discusses why The Robots feel like outsiders.
“If you’re going to be successful in Charlottetown, you’re either going to be an Emo band and court the proletariat of the all ages show…or you’re going to be a jam band.”
The Robots’ unusual song structure, often including more than one chorus and not as much repetition as most radio-friendly music, ensures they are neither.
“We listen to some pretty far-out stuff, but we are pop music. We’re not trying to confound,” says Rankin.
The band hasn’t been able to gauge what the public opinion is of them, but as far as they can tell, most people are leaving perplexed.
“Just in general, it’s been confusion and apathy,” says Rankin.
“It’s a lot to take in at once, especially at a small place like Baba’s,” admits MacIsaac.
“I think people are almost too polite in Charlottetown. They won’t tell you when they don’t like you and I’d almost rather that,” says Baglole.
When asked if this means he wouldn’t mind a bit of heckling at his shows, Baglole pauses and jokes, “Just as long as it was done eloquently.”
Audiences may be stand-offish to this point, but the band does not intend to compromise.
“I would love if the songs we wrote got on Magic 93. I think that would be cool as hell,” says Baglole. “We’re not doing this in any attempt to alienate people—we just want to write the stuff that we find interesting.”
Some of those songs will be on The Robots upcoming EP, due out in either April or early May. A subsequent tour of the Maritimes will follow, and the band hopes to play in Montreal as soon as possible.