One of the west coast’s hottest alternative rock groups in the 1990s was Odds. Guitarists/vocalists Steven Drake and Craig Northey met in 1986 when they were both entered in a radio station Battle of the Bands competition in their respective groups, but frustrated with where they were each going – Drake with 20th Century, and Northey with Hoi Polloi. Both of their bands did well in the contest and later appeared on the Vancouver radio station’s compilation album, SPOTLIGHT ’86.
Drake, along with Doug Elliot on bass and Paul Brennan on drums, had begun rehearsing and writing their own material when Brennan suggested his friend Northey join in. By November 1987 they performed their first live show as The Odds at Vancouver’s Savoy Club. In an effort to escape poverty they soon began to moolight as a classic rock cover band called The Dawn Patrol. They landed the job as houseband at The Roxy, and it soon became one of Vancouver’s hottest nightclubs during the week.
They recorded in the daylight hours and played anywhere they could land a gig, allowing them to try out their own material on live audiences. While honing their chops they funded their own demo recordings at Crosstown Studios, hoping for a break. They sold two independent cassette albums of these songs from the stage. After over a year of shopping their demos around to no avail, they grew disenchanted at the lack of interest in Canada and made regular trips to Los Angeles throughout ’89 and ’90, where opportunities proved more plentiful.
Eventually they were signed to Zoo/BMG and recorded their first major label album NEAPOLITAN in 1991. The first two singles, “Love Is The Subject” and “King of the Heap” both started getting airplay, and both hovered near the Canadian top 40. A popular live song “Wendy Under The Stars,” was edited for profanity and failed to chart. All three singles had accompanying videos, and the band toured North America extensively. While touring in 1991 Warren Zevon (“Werewolves of London”) heard their album and promptly hired them for his own purposes. Odds opened the shows and then did double duty as Zevon’s band while touring in support of his album MR BAD EXAMPLE.
Their sophomore release, 1993’s BEDBUGS, featured a cameo from Zevon. Co-produced by Jim Rondinelli, the album was more refined than their self-produced debut, and featured the singles “Heterosexual Man” and “It Falls Apart.” Again, both hovered near or in the top 40, but the breakout single still eluded them, despite the release of videos for both of them. Critics raved over the video for “Heterosexual Man,” which featured the band in drag and cameos from part of the cast of “Kids In The Hall.” “Yes Means It’s Hard To Say No” was released as a European only single. Another connection to Sweet was the track “Jackhammer,” which featured cameos from both Warren Zevon, and Sweet’s guitarist Robert Quine, who’d also spent time with Lou Reed. For their efforts, the album went gold and they were nominated for a Juno in ’94 for Best New Group.
They left Zoo Records and signed a major deal with Warner Music, for whom their first effort GOOD WEIRD FEELING in ’95 was met with critical praise. When Brennan left the group in the middle of recording and eventually joined Big Sugar, he was replaced behind the drumkit by Pat Steward, ex of Paul Laine and Bryan Adams‘ touring entourage, and who’d also played with Elliot in his former group, Rubber Biscuit.
Over the next year and a half, that critical thumbs-up for the record was matched with a pair of singles that placed in the top 20, “Truth Untold” (#15) and “Satisfied” (#19). Two more, “Eat My Brain” and “Mercy To Go” followed them into the top 30, and with a fifth single and video for “I Would Be Your Man,” the band had themselves their bonafide breakout album, and their first platinum selling record.
The band got some additional exposure when “Brain Candy,” the movie based on “Kids In The Hall” hit the theatres. Northey composed the musical score, which “Eat My Brain” wound up on. As well, the band co-wrote and served as backup for the two Bruce McCulloch tracks in the movie, “Some Days It’s Dark” and “Happiness Pie.” A Canadian arena tour that year with The Tragically Hip cemented their newfound success.
Although they were nominated for a pair of Junos, for Best Rock Album and Group of the Year, they failed to capture either of the paperweights. Released in the spring of 1996, NEST followed in its predecessors’ footsteps, full of alternative and indie rock. Four singles were on the airwaves within a year. First up was “Someone Who’s Cool,” which was initially intended for the “Friends 2” TV compilation album. That album never happened. It ultimately wound up being the band’s first #1 hit in Canada and cracked the US top 40 and the video was nominated for but didn’t win a Juno, but was later used for the short-lived comedy series “Love Monkey.” Next was “Make You Mad then “Nothing Beautiful” but neither got the results the band was hoping for.
Still in ’96, they contributed the song “Pipefitter’s Clubhouse” to BMG’s compilation album, TRIBUTE TO HARDCORE LOGO accompanying the film Hardcore Logo. But although things were looking up, the band still hadn’t managed to headline their own major tours, despite being on the underbill of the some of the hottest tickets on the circuit, including The Tragically Hip‘s and Barenaked Ladies‘ North American tours.
Instead, the band inexplicably went on hiatus for the rest of the decade. They dispersed and concentrated on outside projects, including working on Murray McLauchlan‘s GULLIVER’S TAXI album and Kim Stockwood’s BONA VISTA record, among other ventures. Drake was also keeping himself busy on the side, including engineering and mixing The Tragically Hip‘s TROUBLE AT THE HENHOUSE album and 54-40‘s Trusted by Millions.
Odds were reportedly offered the slot as live band for Sir George Martin’s North American symphony tour but that tour was, in the end, never mounted. Odds then quietly disbanded after Northey’s announcement he was leaving, but not before headlining the 1999 Arts County Fair year-end concert at the University of British Columbia. Before the decade was up, everyone except Drake recorded an album as Sharkskin, an instrumental soul group that also included Simon Kendall on keyboards, ex of Doug & The Slugs.
Their first greatest hits package, SINGLES: INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED was in the stores less than a year after the band’s final performance, which nicely summed up their tenure on the Canadian rock scene, and also included “Kings Of Orient (We Three Kings),” previously only available on A LUMP OF COAL, a 1991 compilation album put out by BMG Music meant to showcase up and coming unsigned talent. A second compilation was released in ’05, part of Warner Music’s ‘The Essentials’ series.
Drake meanwhile continued throughout the ’00s working as a producer and recording engineer in Vancouver. Northey released a solo album, GIDDY UP in 2002, and also served as a songwriter and producer throughout the decade, working with the likes of Wide Mouth Mason, Rosanne Cash, Stripper’s Union (with The Hip’s Rob Baker and Odds Steward and Elliott), Jimmy Rankin, Blair Packham, and Colin James, among many others. Along with forming his own Craig Northey Power Trio with Steward and Elliott, in 2004 he collaborated with Gin Blossoms guitarist Jesse Valenzuela on the NORTHEY VALENZUELA album. That team recorded “Not a Lot Going On,” the theme song to the sitcom “Corner Gas.”
In ’07, Northey, Elliott, and Steward started writing new material as a group. They then took a gig on The Barenaked Ladies‘ “Ships and Dip” concert cruise through the Caribbean Sea to try the new stuff out. For the nautical gig, they hired new guitarist Murray Atkinson. The new material was mixed in to the shows along with Odds standards. Barenaked Ladies asked what they’d like to be called on this trip and they sarcastically replied the New Odds. The name stuck.
In May of ’08, with Northey now handling all the lead vocals and Atkinson aboard as a full member, they released the new album CHEERLEADER. Because of legal issues, it had to be done under the name The New Odds. It was the first release under Kim Cooke’s new label Pheromone Recordings, and along with other tracks like the lead-off “Cloud Full of Rocks,” “Jumper,” “Out of Mind,” and the only single, “My Happy Place,” the record was met with favourable response from critics and fans alike.
After resecuring the rights to the name ‘Odds,’ the band landed a US distribution deal through the indie label Second Motion Records. A new EP, the seven-track NOISE TRADE soon followed in the spring of ’09, featuring “I Can’t Get You Off” and four others from CHEERLEADER, as well as two covers by two of their favourite Vacouver bands – The Young Canadians and Pointed Sticks.
That same year, they also appeared as themselves in an episode of the final season of “Corner Gas.” During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, they were also the house band at Canada Hockey House, and were dubbed the house band during the Canucks’ playoff runs in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Odds are due to release their next album UNIVERSAL REMOTE in 2012/13 and will be celebratig their 25th year.