illScarlet brings the music of the sunshine state to the north

By Bethie Girmai

illScarlett with Pepper

Mr. Smalls Funhouse

Oct. 15

8 p.m.

Tickets… illScarlett with Pepper

Mr. Smalls Funhouse

Oct. 15

8 p.m.

Tickets $15


Considering that illScarlett has the laid-back Southern California style of Sublime, it might surprise many fans that the band is actually Canadian.

Alex Norman, lead vocalist and guitarist, spoke to The Pitt News about what first attracted him to the music that he and his band have now made a career out of.

“I would describe our music as a kind of rock-reggae thing, like our own sort of sound, pop-heavy reggae, a little bit of everything, but not too much country or techno,” Norman said.

Norman said that most of the bands in illScarlett’s genre are from the Southern California or Hawaii. It’s rare for a band like this to have Canadian roots when its peers are so often singing about the sand and surf lining the West Coast.

“When all the So-Cal bands were popular, they came through the Warped Tour in Canada. They were different from all the screamo and sh*tty little hipster bands that were popular then,” Norman said. “We’re proud to play the music we want to play, and that music opened our eyes to the possibilities there.”

Norman acknowledged that setting his group apart in a genre with such a distinct style proved to be a challenge, but now illScarlett has come into its own as a band.

“Our music is not a very conscious act,” Norman said. “We play what we like to play even though we’re from Canada and not part of the So-Cal scene. We have fun with our music and see what we like, and if we like it, we like it.”

Although the band formed as a hobby when Norman and two of his bandmates were in high school, it soon became their life.

“We didn’t go to university or college after high school, so we thought that we might as well go for it, so it became more of a job, but we still enjoy and love it.”

illScarlett originated in the band’s hometown of Toronto, Ontario, about nine years ago. Norman, Swavek Piorkowski (drums) and John Doherty (bass, vocals) met in high school. The band then met Will Marr (guitar) through a mutual friend and Anthony Carone (keyboard) through the local music scene.

Norman has been playing the guitar since he was about 14 years old. It wasn’t until he heard bands like Sublime, No Doubt and 311 that he thought, “This is wild, like nothing I had ever heard before.”

Along with these bands, illScarlett draws inspiration from anything and everything.

“We all kind of write the music, usually we’ll figure out the parts musically and I’ll sing a melody over it with gargled lyrics,” he said. “Once I get a melody, I’ll begin to put thought behind the lyrics. We’re inspired by everyday life, it’s usually accidental.”

illScarlett has played with chart-topping artists like Avril Lavigne, Bill Talent, Blink-182, The All-American Rejects and Chester French over the course of its career.

Norman explained that although the band managers handle logistics of collaborating acts, it’s the band that makes the final call.

“We met Pepper about a year ago while we were on tour with Flogging Molly in Europe,” Norman said. “We kept in contact with them and they eventually asked us to join them on this tour. We had our tour managers figure out the business aspect of it, but it was ultimately the band’s decision.”

Green Day is on Norman’s list of bands that he would love to play with. But Norman emphasized that when it comes to picking a band to tour with, it’s not about the music, but rather the chemistry that the artists have.

“The most important thing about bands on the road is who you are as people,” Norman said. “You do everything with them for months, so you have to get along, and Pepper has been very accommodating and great to play with.”

Like their music, the inspiration for the band’s name was unexpected. They thought of the name en route to a bar with intentions of dropping off their demo.

“We were on our way to drop off a recording at a bar and realized we needed a name. On the way we passed this neighborhood called Sherwood Forest, whose street names were modeled after characters in Robin Hood. One of the streets we passed was called Will Scarlett, so we played on that.”

illScarlett will play with Pepper at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale at 8 p.m. on Thursday.