Formed in 1987 by vocalist Dave Wanless, guitarists Dee Cernile and Andy Frank, Shawn Mahar on bass, and drummer Steve Macgregor, within a little over a year Sven Gali had become one of the top covers bands on the southern Ontario circuit.
All the while they’d been writing their own material, and by ’89 they’d incorporated enough of their own songs into their sets that they were taking up three quarters of the shows. By now Macgregor had been replaced by Rob MacEachern, and deciding to take things to the next level, they began shopping around some demos. Unable to land a deal at home, they started making trips to LA in 1989, and soon became regulars at some of the hottest clubs on the strip.
The live shows became notorious for the on-stage antics that included overly energetic mosh pits, encouragements of destruction outside the clubs, trashed instruments, and decapitated mannequins. Retail giant Toys ‘R’ Us also got involved, sicking lawyers after the group when they started wearing t-shirts and selling them that had the store’s logo and the phrase “Sex Toys ‘R’ Us.” But despite the controversy, or because of it, they managed to attract some attention from the record labels, and after playing some high profile gigs in New York, the band signed with BMG in 1990.
They were shipped off to the studios with producer Devid Bendeth, but while recording, MacEachern was replaced by new drummer Gregg Gerson, ex of Billy Idol, Roger Daltry, Mick Jagger, and Mick Jones. They released their self-titled debut album in ’92, producing a string of singles. The first three – “Under The Influence,” “Tie Dyed Skies,” and “In My Garden” also had accompanying videos, opening up new audiences for the band. “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” and “Sweet Little Gypsy” followed. Along with their cover of Teenage Head‘s “Disgusteen,” featuring a cameo by Frankie Venom, their new age grunge/metal mix was a hit, keeping them on the road for the next year and a half.
Along with being certified gold (50,000 copies), the album also earned the band a pair of Juno Award nominations in ’93, for most promising group and hard rock album of the year, although they didn’t take home either prize.
Their sophomore album, INWIRE was in the stores in the summer of ’95, with the Japanese version containing one extra track, “Now.” Recorded in Seattle with new producer Kelly Gray (future guitarist for Queensryche), the album followed in its predecessor’s path, but critics were quick to note the maturity in the songwriting, particularly in the single, “What You Love.” The diehard fans however all but shunned the new record because of what they considered selling out and jumping on the grunge bandwagon.
Gerson had also left and was replaced during the recording process by new drummer, Mike Ferguson, recommended by Gray, as they’d played together in a band called Dog Daze. The album featured several guest musicians, including Christopher Thorn of Blind Melon, and Candlebox’s Kevin Martin and Scott Mercado.
But following a series of tours across Canada and into the US, Mahar left before the end of the year to concentrate on his outside project, a new clothing line he’d started up, as well as to try and pursue his ambitions to work on film production.
Despite being signed to a seven-album deal, the band split up shortly afterwards, and everyone went on to other things. Wanless formed The Betty Ford Band. Mahar eventually got back into music and joined Forgotten Rebels, while after bouncing around in a few bands, MacEachern eventually joined Helix for a short period. Gerson meanwhile got out of the business and became a music teacher, as well as working in TV and film.
The band reformed for the first time in over a decade for a show in Thorold, Ontario in 2007. It was recorded and was intended to be released on DVD, although it never came to fruition. Cernile had moved to LA, but when he was diagnosed with cancer, two benefit concerts were held for him in ’09. He passed away on February 25, 2012 at the age of 46.