Not to be confused with the group from Sheffield, England around the same time, The Extras hailed from Toronto, when Mississauga highschool friends Dennis Keldie and Leon Stevenson decided to put their group Sneakers on the shelf and try something new.
In 1979, both were also working with BB Gabor as he finished up his debut album. But when the various members were told to sign publishing contracts for the material they’d co-written with Gabor, they refused, and were fired by the label execs and tossed out of the studio.
Rather than keep Sneakers alive, Keldie, Stevenson, and drummer Paul Armstrong began rehearsing and started playing some clubs around the Toronto area, eventually signing with Ready Records. They released BIT PARTS with producer David Bendeth in ’81, which churned out a pair of singles – the surf-rock stylings of “Jealous Girl,” which Gabor eventually recorded himself on his second album, and “Everytime I See Your Face.” Both singles got decent local airplay, but failed to make the top 40 nationwide.
Still, the suits at Ready were encouraged enough to send the boys back to the studio for a follow-up album. A year later, they released THE ROAD TO ZAMBANDO, which produced the single “Turning It Out,” as well as its b-side “Mega Media Myth. Once the subsequent cross-Canada tour was over, Armstrong left, and the band brought in guitarist friend Pat Rush (originally from Georgia) and bassist Paul Daiter. For subsequent recordings and touring purposes, hired guns were used behind the drums.
In 1983 two versions of their next album, THE WATCHER were released, produced by Kevin Doyle and M James. The full album saw three singles make the top 40 – “Fever Fire,” “The Watcher,” and “I Never Told You I Told You So,” as well as re-recordings of “Jealous Girl,” “No Generation,” and “Circular Impression” from their debut album. Later that year a five-song EP version was released, featuring an extended mix of “Fever Fire.”
It wasn’t until 1984 with EXTRAPOLIS that the band finally cracked the top 10 nationwide with the smash single “Can’t Stand Still.” The video got heavy airplay on MuchMusic and was one of the first ever animated Canadian music videos. The album peaked in the top 40 on several radio stations’ lists that year, helping earn the band a CFNY-FM U-Know Award (later dubbed the Casbys) for the video to “I Can’t Stand Still.”
They toured the country, making stops in the US and were about to venture to the UK. But with Ready Records closing its doors, it spelled the end of the group in ’85 when they were unable to land a new deal. Everyone went on to other projects or got out of the business all together, with Stevenson joining Industrial Artz in 1990.
The band reunited in 2003 for a series of gigs around the Toronto area, which sparked the notion of recording some new material to coincide with a CD compilation of their previous works. Instead, just the new album, entitled RIPE, was released independently. Critically acclaimed, along with the new songs “Cult Kids” and “One Last Time,” it featured several re-recordings of earlier hits, including “Circular Impression” (a ska flavoured tune about condoms), “Jealous Girl,” and “No Generation.”
Following a series of sporadic shows, the members again drifted apart, but have still reunited for the occasional one-off engagement now and again. In ’07, Stevenson released a solo project called Mojo X, which is expected to be re-released in 2012.