The Odds, The Grapes of Wrath and The Salteens
Odds’ journey began in Vancouver in 1987, when Northey (vocals-guitar), Steven Drake (vocals-guitar), Doug Elliott (bass) and drummer Paul Brennan got together for reasons they couldn't figure out. Maybe that's why the name stuck. When explaining the oddity of their name, Northey says “it's a dumb name that you can't really search on the internet, you know gambling and stuff, but it seemed to fit.” They cut their teeth and paid bills with a six-night house gig, playing sets as a satirical '60s and '70s cover band. This allowed them to record and write in the daylight and venture to places that might accept them. Soon, an LA bigwig heard what was going on and came to visit.
Odds eventually rolled the dice and made one of those naïve follow-up trips to Los Angeles. The music quickly opened doors as they duked it out at a regular house gig while commuting from Vancouver. After securing a deal with Zoo/BMG, they released their first LP Neopolitan in 1991. The debut was a precocious demonstration of the band's ability to craft songs anchored by addictive melodies, clever lyrics, and classic pop arrangements. It featured their first radio hits, “Love is the Subject” and “King of the Heap.” Rock scribes scrambled to applaud them for their black humour. Famed music journalist Griel Marcus included a description of their track, "Wendy Under the Stars" within his book Dead Elvis.
The literate rock world came knocking and a mentorship followed as the touring band for “Mr. Bad Example” himself Warren Zevon. Odds then returned with 1993's Bedbugs. The album's leadoff single “Heterosexual Man” broke into the charts on both sides of the border. The music video featured the band members performing in drag with the Kids in the Hall. Two other songs, “It Falls Apart” and “Yes (Means It's Hard to Say No)” followed up to establish a pop culture beachhead for the band.
1995 brought a line-up change as drummer Paul Brennen left the group during the recording of their watershed album Good Weird Feeling. Old friend Pat Steward, who had previously manned the kit for Bryan Adams, walked right in. That year also saw the band break into the mainstream. Good Weird Feeling yielded six Top 40 singles, including “Truth Untold” and “Eat My Brain.” They quickly followed up with Nest in 1996, which featured the band's first #1 chart hit to date, the irresistibly catchy “Someone Who is Cool.” Playing to larger and larger crowds the band toured extensively until 1999 when, inexplicably, announced they'd be taking a hiatus to pursue other projects.
Northey, Elliott and Steward continued working together on music in the coming decade, forming new acts like instrumental Memphis soul group Sharkskin and Strippers' Union with Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip. Northey released a solo album, Giddy Up (2002), and began a fruitful collaboration with Gin Blossom's guitarist Jesse Valenzuela. In addition to releasing an album together, the pair co-wrote “Not a Lot Going On,” the theme song for CTV's hit comedy Corner Gas.
In 2007, Northey, Elliott, and Steward started writing together again and took an invitation to join pals the Barenaked Ladies' on their first Ships & Dip concert cruise. Joined by new guitarist Murray Atkinson, the revitalized group recorded the stellar Cheerleader (2008) album and released it under the name The New Odds. The original members wanted to honour their past, albeit with their traditional gallows humour. “With The New Odds, we thought it was a funny in-joke and we kinda did feel like a new band. It's a rock cliché to break up and then add New to your name. It still gave people an indication of our past and we thought it might give us a leg up. But in the end it just confused the bejesus out of people.”
In 2008, after some scrambling with the naming rights, the band became, once again, just Odds. Northey says it's been both strange and wonderful reintroducing Odds to the world. “The most fun we have is playing this new music but we get a small charge out of the strange spell the catalog songs can cast. The whole cocktail makes new fans. We play shows and, we're in our forties, except for Murray, and we see people who are 18, 19, 20 going crazy in the front row. A lot of them were in Grade seven when they got an Odds record and it means so much to them because it was one of their first experiences with music. They just can't believe they're seeing us play because they thought it was never going to happen.”
“And that’s cool, but we're not doing it to be some nostalgic curiosity. We got back together because we had something to say musically. That's why this play came about. We can look back and put it all together now. We see that every weird decision we made, every pratfall, was all part of staying true to ourselves. That's how we can still be looking forward to this day.”
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In 1984, they signed to Nettwerk records, releasing a self-titled EP that year. The following year, their debut album September Bowl of Green was released.
It was a major hit on university and college radio in Canada and the U.S. 1987's Treehouse, produced by Tom Cochrane, took the band to a new level yielding the minor hit single "Peace of Mind" and fan favorite "Backward Town".
The Band added keyboardist Vincent Jones in 1988. Now and Again, released in 1989, was the band's big breakthrough. The singles "All The Things I Wasn't" and then "What Was Going Through My Head" propelled the album to platinum status and soon the band went from playing bars to theaters and stadiums.
The original Grapes Of Wrath lineup has reformed and will be performing again in 2010.