Hailing from Thornhill, Ontario, Tall New Buildings was formed in 1983 by longtime friends vocalist Jean (real name Jian) Ghomeshi and bassist Murray Foster, along with Tracy Jones on guitars, keyboardist Reno Manfredi (who Ghomeshi met at a Psychadelic Furs concert), and John Ruttle on percussion while they were still in high school. It wasn’t long before they discovered they had many musical interests in common – and decided to make a serious go at it.
They practiced at the church Jones went to on the corner of Avenue and Wilson. After splitting up during their first year at university (U of T for Foster, York for Ghomeshi), they reassembled the band when Ruttle, who was a year older than the rest of the members, took a year off university. Before long they were playing all the hot spots around Toronto and caught the attention of management at Reg Quidinho of Man Made Productions, who agreed to cut a record. Quidinho also happened to be the band’s clothing designer and makeup artist, and was the hairdresser of The Spoons‘ Gordon Deppe. Deppe was talked into coming on board as producer with a painting as partial payment.
They booked some time at Sound Path Studios in Oakville, with the result being a two-sided 12″ release in 1986 on the indie label High Rise Records. Both “Fashion In Your Eyes” and “Swimming Pool of Crisis” were written by Ghomeshi with him singing lead, and quickly became underground hits and favourites on campus radio station playlists around the GTA. “Fashion” broke commercially when Toronto station CFNY-FM began playing it, and before long the hastily put together video was also getting good rotation.
They continued their studies at the U of T while performing side gigs until Ruttle graduated and left. Everyone else soon graduated as well, but with Ruttle unable to re-commit to the band after leaving for Carleton University to study journalism, he was replaced behind the drumkit by Steven Lance (real name Steven Cohen). Nearly two years had gone by since their eponymous EP, when they hooked up with new manager Jeff Rogers. After securing a deal with Somersault Records, they went to Phase One Studios in Toronto with producers Joe Primeau, Bruce Bradley, and Howard Ayee. They re-recorded “Fashion In Your Eye” and gave it two mixes, as they did with “Breaking Her Walls,” another Ghomeshi penned single. The four tracks wound up on their second 12″ EP, and “Breaking Her Walls” got a decent plug on local area radio and MuchMusic, eventually reaching #5 on the MuchMusic charts.
But by 1988, the band had fallen apart, and Ghomeshi (now reverting back to the original spelling of his first name – ‘Jian’) and Foster ended up forming the short-lived Chia Pets while in University, then Moxy Fruvous. After seven albums from ’92 to 2000, that group also disbanded. Ghomeshi became a journalist on CBC TV and Radio One, while Foster eventually joined Great Big Sea and also moonlighted for awhile in the band Great Atomic Power, then started a jazz project in the mid ’00s called The Lesters.
In 2010, he formed The Cocksure Lads, a project in the works for over a decade, with fellow Moxy Fruvous alumni Michael Ford and Dave Matheson, releasing one album entitled THE GREATEST HITS OF THE COCKSURE LADS. Foster is currently writing and directing a movied based on that group called “You Gotta Stay Cocksure,” scheduled for release in 2013.