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The maturing Spin Doctors find a home in the blues

Spin Doctors. From left to right is Eric Schenkman, Aaron Comess, Chris Barron and Mark White.

It's possible that the Duchess of Cambridge hums their biggest hit these days, but to many of us the 90s band Spin Doctors and the groovy single Two Princes are rather forgotten, tossed in the trash of time like Kate Moss's old Discman. The New York-based band is still around though, with original members intact and with a new blues album (If the River Was Whiskey) just out. With Spin Doctors playing twice Saturday (in the afternoon at Toronto's Festival of Beer and at night at the Horseshoe Tavern), we caught up with band's lone Canadian, Toronto guitarist Eric Schenkman, who spoke from an airport.

When you're going through immigration at the border or at the airport, do the inspectors remember the band, when you tell them you play guitar with Spin Doctors?

Oh, yeah, if you're lucky. "That band from the nineties," they'll say. It happens. Or the U.S. Customs will just Google you.

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Is it humbling? You guys were riding pretty high for a while, with the videos and the Pocket Full of Kryptonite album.

It is humbling. But, for me, it's something I had to go through. I wasn't happy when we were riding high. Well, I was, but I wasn't ready for it. I still had experiences to have. It felt early. It was crazy.

And now?

It's cool that we're all still together. The experience is much better than the first time around.

Spin Doctors broke big in 1991, when record companies were throwing money around willy-nilly. Young bands today must shake their heads when they think about how it used to be.

The game has changed completely, for sure. But the young cats are extremely good. There's great music everywhere. For us, now, we're sort of half an old band, has-been, used-to-be-successful band with guys that have the chops and experience, and kind of half a band that still has to fight its way.

It's nice to have a couple of songs that booking agents know though, right?

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It gets you gigs. But that feeling, fighting for it, that's rock and roll. Or maybe that's just me.

I think those older hits allow you the latitude to record a blues album. I know If the River Was Whiskey has been compared to the old Chess records, but I hear a grittier approach – Hound Dog Taylor or the Fat Possum records from the 1990s.

Me too. Thank you.

Has the band and album been accepted by the blues crowd?

I also play with Jerome Godboo, a blues harmonica player and singer here in Toronto. So, I've fell into a bit of the blues scene in Ontario and I've been quite amazed by the community. I wouldn't have been into that scene when I was younger, but now it seems like home, the blues.

You guys are funky enough. I imagine the blues numbers fit in well with the older material on stage.

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Absolutely. We still do the songs from the day, and we've put the blues songs into the set. They work. It's really rounded out our repertoire.

Sounds like Spin Doctors are maturing nicely.

I was in Home Depot here the other day and I was wearing one of our T-shirts. A guy looked at it and I asked him if he liked those guys. He said, "Yeah, man, they got a good beat. What are they doing these days?" It made me feel good.

Spin Doctors play Toronto's Festival of Beer (July 26 to 28) on July 27. $39.50 to $75, Bandshell Park, Exhibition Place, ; they also play the Horseshoe Tavern, July 27, 9 p.m., $20, 370 Queen St. W.,

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More


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