“I wish I didn’t disable the police siren on it”, my friend Zach says.
“We could get through this much faster.” By this he means Tuesday evening rush-hour traffic in Toronto. He is driving his repurposed police cruiser, and I am a guest tonight to a rehearsal session with his band 7Times. The back of the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, where once bad guys in handcuffs sat, is now loaded with guitars and pedal boards.
It’s 6 PM and we park at a west end Starbucks for a Q&A with the band first. The late October air is crisp and loaded with hints of what’s to come, but inside there’s hot chai and laughs coming from a busy table. When I look at 7Times, what I really see is a cross-section of Toronto: the bassist and the drumer were born & raised in Canada, the singer moved one year ago from Paris, the keys wiz arrived from Russia via Israel, and the guitarist is a Romanian import. An alembic where global creatives mix.
“I don’t usually pay attention to people’s tattoos at the gym – drummer Shaya begins – but this guy has a freakin’ 7-string Ibanez BTB on his leg, and a power tube! I had to ask him about it, and then jam with the guy. That’s how it all started.” The guy, properly bearded bass ace Nick Sacco, was part of the Toronto music scene for a while (“about the lenght of my whole life”, the ebullient young drummer chimes in). But jamming was so good that the idea of a band was born. In come guitarist Zach Dacian, another experienced local based musician, Guillaume Pascual – a singer recently landed from France, and Oakville-based keyboardist Roman Bershadsky. “I hated chemistry when I was in school – Zach tells me. But what I found with these guys is truly great chemistry: playing, writing music or just being together.”
I’m about to put the good chemistry to test, as we unload the instruments at the rehearsal room. The rail corridor to Toronto is right behind the room, and trains darting in the dark at high speed set a stunning visual background to the complex, compelling flow of sounds emerging out of the 7Times ensemble. The music & lyrics combo is equally pleasant to mind (for its intricacy and level of musicianship required), ears (for its large palette of colours) and soul (for its alternating dramatics and serenity). “Carpe Diem” is an earbug that will have you humming it for days; “Notre Dame” will take you through the dramatic fire last summer that was wiping out our history; “Lord of Lies” will leave you guessing the time signature changes (it’s 2 times 7/8, 2 x 8/8 and 2 x 9/8, by the way, you’re welcome).
It’s an intense 3-hour session, and with few minutes left I guess they must start packing. But then Guillaume grabs his acoustic and lays a theme. Seconds later the whole band is building on it, rejuvenated by the sheer joy of playing music with friends.
Back in Zach’s car, I remind him of one of his former Toronto bands, where the drama was not in the music but in the rehearsal room. “I didn’t know it then, but I do now: you shouldn’t spend a single day trying to make music with people that don’t make you happy. This time it will last, because – and he opens in a large smile – we got friggin’ chemistry, man!”