After leaving one of Toronto’s hottest all girl bands in The B-Girls after only a single, Lukasta Ross met another promising pseudo-punk group Popular Spies, whose drummer Graham Stairs and keyboardist John Percy also saw their time was nearing an end after only one single.
Both groups were regulars at The Horsehoe Tavern, and the three hooked up and Minutes From Downtown was born. Rochas changed her stage last name to Ross, and they filled out the roster with John McKellar on keyboards, Ron Feather on percussion, and bassist Gary Hynes, and played the local club circuit for about a year until catching interest from reps at Capitol Records. The group was signed and released the single, “Heaven Street” b/w “24 Karat Gold” in early ’83.
Encouraged by results, the label sent them back to the studio with producer Jon Mathias, and they rushed out their eponymous five-track EP that summer. Predominantly written by Stairs with Ross and McKellar, the light AM new wave/pop mix struck gold when “Wrapped In Velvet” b/w “I Wish I Had Stayed” peaked in the top 40 nationwide. The single’s video also gained them some extra exposure on MuchMusic, still in its infancy.
The band played across Canada on some tours while writing new material, but with a six-member line-up, touring was a logistical nightmare. After a bit of time off they went back to the studios, but while recording, the band called it quits, and the material remains unreleased. Their single, “Heaven Street” gave the band new life in the ’90s, when it found its way onto a couple of compilation albums.
Ross still performs on occasion in various pick-up bands around the GTA, but also administers her late father’s master tapes from Revolver Records. Stairs and Percy formed the short-lived Go International. Stairs then went on to work in the offices of Intrepid, then Latitude Records throughout the ’80s, as well as managing National Velvet and Chalk Circle. He then began producing other acts in the 1990s, including Barenaked Ladies, Sandbox, and Cadence Grace, among others. He also ran a music consulting/promotions firm for a few years, who acted as liaison for the Ministry Of Culture and Communications at international music festivals.
Feather went on to play for the Cirque du Soleil show Alegria. Percy moved to Halifax and set up an A/V digital media production company. Hynes moved to the West Coast and founded EAT magazine, celebrating BC’s food & drink industry, then moved back to his home province of Newfoundland in the early ’00s.
MINUTES FROM DOWNTOWN (1983)
Wrapped In Velvet
I Wish I Had Stayed
Pushing The Limits Of Love
24 Karat Gold