DJ La Grange, vocalist and guitar player for Red Deer-based band Half Chance Heroes, describes himself and his bandmates as “a bunch of music nerds who gravitated towards each other.” Along with bass player Jordan Little and drummer Ryan Schultz, the three formed their band in July 2009 while still students at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School in Red Deer.
“We jammed for every day that summer. We didn’t know each other at all,” said La Grange.
Three years later, the band will be playing at Sylvan Lake’s Shake the Lake festival, which runs from August 10-12. The event features music, skateboarding, and BMX bike riding.
Half Chance Heroes has been playing at Shake the Lake since their formation.
“Sylvan Lake has always been good,” said La Grange. “This is like our birthday show because we played Shake the Lake in our first year.” He added that there has always been lots of energy at the festival.
“We were still in the phase where we had really weird songs,” said Schultz of the band’s first year at Shake the Lake. He added that this year, they will be playing three songs from their album “Good Intentions, Bad Inventions” in addition to new material they wrote while on tour from January to June this year.
The tour, which started in Toronto and headed west to Vancouver Island, was facilitated by Live Different, a motivational organization. School assemblies featured inspirational speakers, in addition to a concert.
The band performed a total of 85 shows, said La Grange, with crowds averaging 400-500 people. Their biggest show was for a crowd of 1,100.
Despite spending hours with each other in a tour bus, they all agreed the experience wasn’t too difficult.
“We’re pretty cohesive with each other,” said La Grange.
Schultz said there were times when the three of them would sit and listen to music while writing songs.
“Just the lifestyle is very writeable,” said Schultz.
The band played at venues ranging from a school in the Greater Toronto Area (“The teachers were outside with walkie-talkies,” said Little), to a school on a reserve in Saskatchewan.
“Everyone there was crazy. We felt like Justin Bieber… they were grabbing our stuff,” said Little.
La Grange said everyone in the band tried to stay healthy while on tour by avoiding fast food and exercising every day, adding that they’re not “typical rock stars.”
The band’s combined musical tastes run the gamut from hip hop artists like the Beastie Boys and Mac Miller to punk bands like Rancid. However, all three share a love of reggae, citing artists such as Sublime, illScarlett, and Goldfinger as inspirations.
“When you put us together it’s just kind of this weird thing,” said Schultz of the band’s music. “We just blended everything.” He added that inspiration for them comes from everything, especially when they’re going through a difficult time.
“I think people write their best when they’re feeling their worst,” said Little.
Despite how they’re feeling when they’re writing, the trio said they produce “feel good” music.
“I don’t think we made a conscious decision to write positive music, we’re just positive people,” said Little.
While La Grange said the band always maintains their musical mix of pop, punk, and ska, they’re not afraid to expand their horizons.
La Grange, Schultz, and Little are all original members of Half Chance Heroes, which has seen its fair share of comings and goings of other bandmates. As the band got more serious, casual members were unable to commit. Most notably, former guitar player Craig Gomez left the group when he was unable to tour with them due to other obligations.
“All three of us dedicated our lives to this band, but he was on the fence,” said La Grange, adding that they still remain friends with Gomez.
As a result, the band is looking for a new guitar player, but they are picky about who it is. La Grange said it’s been hard to find someone who fits with the music and personality of the band. Potential bandmates should have a diverse skill set in addition to guitar playing, and need to have the right energy, said La Grange.
“When you’re finding a new bandmate it’s basically like choosing a new brother,” said La Grange.
The band has been told they would not succeed because they’re from Red Deer.
“When you’re a kid and you tell people you want to be a rock star, you’re not really taken seriously,” said La Grange. He added that they’ve learned a lot in the past year because of everything they’ve done.
“Your parents aren’t there to help you now. You do it yourself and that kind of fuels your fire,” said Schultz.
Things will change once the summer is over. Little will be studying graphic design in Edmonton, and the band has accepted they will have to do more activities by correspondence. However, just because they will be separated doesn’t mean the band will be finished.
“We definitely don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” said La Grange.