The Arrogant Worms have been doing things their own way for almost 30 years. It feels weird to refer to a band from the ‘90s as being together for that long, but 2020 is upon us and we are all getting older and wiser—while the world around us just keeps getting weirder. That weirdness is good news for the Worms, who have made their career poking musical fun at the crazy world around them.
I reached out to the Worms over the holiday season in advance of their January 11th Gig at Meaford Hall and chatted with Trevor Strong about their unique path to success as a Canadian Musical Comedy Act.
JM: How did The Arrogant Worms as we know them today originally connect? What is your origin story?
TS: We all met back in University at Queen’s. All of us were a part of a group called the Queen’s Players, which puts on cabarets (at that time in the Engineering Pub). I happened to know a guy who had a show on the campus radio station (CFRC) and lots of time to kill. So some of us from the Queen’s Players started recording little sketch comedy bits and the occasional song and then he’d play them around 1:00 AM on Sundays. Eventually we sent a song off to a show on CBC radio, and they played it, which sort of got the ball rolling.
JM: The Worms are a unique act—what led you to decide that Musical Comedy was the path forward for the band?
TS: We started doing mostly sketches and the occasional song, but once we actually started performing in front of people who didn’t already know us we discovered that it was much easier to get people’s attention with songs. We were playing a lot of campus pubs and also doing a lot of busking in the first few years and found that people need to pay attention to a whole sketch to get it. With songs you can still get some kind of audience reaction even if people tune in and out.
JM: What is your songwriting process like?
TS: We mostly write separately. I have a couple of ways. One is to try to pay attention to any funny ideas or concepts I might stumble upon during the course of the day. Another is to write lists of things and just hope something comes out. If I have no idea at all, I’ll just start strumming the guitar and sing randomly in the desperate hope that something funny pops up. It’s actually worked a few times.
JM: Who would you say are your biggest musical (or comedic) influences? If you could collaborate with any artist (living or dead) who would it be?
TS: My biggest music/comedy influences are probably Monty Python, The Muppets, SCTV, and Tom Lehrer. I would be very happy to work with muppets.
JM: What performances stand out in your career thus far as being particularly epic shows? Any favourites?
TS: My favourite is our first symphony show in Edmonton. It was pretty Epic, and because we’d never done it before, there was this feeling that it could go off the rails at any moment.
Looks like fun – Seriously though how many bands get to do an album with a Symphony Orchestra???
JM: I read somewhere that you guys went to Engineering School together—any truth to this myth? If so, has that background in science/engineering impacted your career? I ask because I am also an Engineer/Musician Hybrid and its a strange existence.
TS: Mike is the Engineer, so I can’t answer for him. Although he used to be really good at packing up the car which might be related. Sadly, it is a skill that seems to have disappeared over time and now he is an average car packer.
JM: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?
TS: Probably the ridiculous size of Canada. I would have been so much easier to tour if we were somehow all in Britain or Europe. https://www.youtube.com/embed/tOM-TmZBzZo?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1
JM: What factors do you think have helped you to realize the success that you have experienced in the music biz?
TS: One lucky thing in hindsight is that we never got a “big break” like a record deal or something like that, so we’ve put out all our albums on our own, and mostly managed ourselves. This means we never had a big overhead to worry about, so we’ve always been able to do things at our own pace.
JM: Describe a day in the life of an Arrogant Worm.
TS: Well, when we’re on the road, I generally wake up earlier than I’d like. Then I try to figure out where I can find coffee—often there is “lobby coffee” where we’re staying, but it’s generally undrinkable. We’ll meet up in the lobby and get in the car and then drive off to the next show. I generally spend this time staring out the window. Then we check into wherever we’re staying, go to the venue and do the soundcheck, find dinner, and do the show.
I seem to have left out lunch, but it is definitely in there somewhere.
JM: If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
TS: I’m a realist when it comes to the “industry,” so there aren’t any big changes I could see. Increasing streaming rates would be a good thing, though.
Thanks to Trevor Strong for taking the time to chat with me, to Route 26 for always promoting rad independent artists, and to you awesome folks for reading and supporting local music!
See y’all at the Meaford Hall!
This article was written by Josh ‘The Note Troll’ Maitland. Josh is a Collingwood based professional engineer, musician & producer . When he’s not at home with the fam, he likes to slap the bass and help people make dope records over at his studio: Red Room Recordings