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North Van band set to take Poland
They're not the first rock-and-roll band to find an audience overseas before finding one at home. Nor are they the first plotters of world domination to pick Poland as their launch pad. But they might be the first to do both.
The Black Powder Toys came together in North Vancouver in 2006, but band co-founder and keyboard player Pete Ryznar has been playing in North Van bands with singer Clayton Blancard ever since, well, he can't remember.
But none of those bands ever played for 80,000 fans in the centre of Warsaw.
That's about to change when the Toys embark next month on a seven-date Polish tour, kicking off with a Jan. 8 gig in the capital as part of the 20th anniversary concert for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity.
"Between rehearsals, coordinating hotels, passports, flights, van and equipment rentals and our day jobs, we really haven’t had time to think about being nervous," Ryznar told The Outlook. "I’m sure the nerves will set in as we’re sitting on our 13-hour flight."
Long as that flight will feel, the band's long, strange trip to Warsaw was already underway last spring with the release of their debut disc Made in China.
As Ryznar tells it, the Toys were playing a Harvest Project benefit show at Centennial Theatre on April 1, when the director of a Polish-language radio program on 93.1 Red FM approached the band.
"After the show he said, 'Can you guys give us five signed copies [of Made in China]?' and we said, 'Yeah sure,'" Ryznar said. "He was going to Poland in the weeks after the show and so he went there and he handed them out to a number of radio stations over in Poland."
Warsaw's Radio 3 picked up on two tracks, "Push Pull" and "Stones Throw.". Another station spun the album in its entirety, Ryznar said. All that despite the band's lack of any real ancestral link to their newly adoptive country.
"We started to see increased sales on our website of the CD and started mailing copies pretty well weekly to purchasers in Poland," the keyboardist said.
They also saw a spike in song sales on iTunes and Amazon.com.
Asked why his music seems to resonate so strongly in the streets of Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk — where the band also has dates — Ryznar is at a loss.
"I guess just because the songs are catchy," he said, touting pop music's universal appeal. "It's radio-friendly music. It's catchy hooks, edgy guitars, yet it's very melodic."
Taking their moniker from a 1914 federal government document outlawing "black powder toys" such as firecrackers and toy cannons, the band's name, album title and current popularity conjure up an interesting international riddle:
What's Made in China, banned in Canada and big in Poland? This band in Canada: Black Powder Toys.