A staple within the local music scene, motown cover-band The Big Sound tells their story

If you’re a fan of soul music, yet have difficulty finding a modern band that adequately encapsulates the Motown sound of the ’60s look no further. The Big Sound is a 30-piece Motown cover-band from Toronto that recreate the intricacies of soul music with a fine-tuned attention to detail, and a devout passion to the powerful musicality of Motown’s celebrated compositions. The band holds regular performances at the Mod Club in Toronto, and is known for starting their shows around 11:00 pm, and finishing their set around three in the morning. After their new year’s eve performance, I spoke with Chris Sandes, the ringleader, or ‘curator’ of The Big Sound, about the band’s history.

The Varsity: When did The Big Sound come into existence?

Chris Sandes: About five years ago.

TV: Was it just something you had been thinking about for a while?

CS: I’d been playing music off-and-on in town forever, and I did know a lot of people… I had a moment when I saw a really cheesy, wedding style band playing a song I liked horribly, and it occurred to me that nobody ever got to hear Motown music performed the way it was recorded — that is to say, with a full horn section, full string section, full backup singer section, and a full rhythm section. The idea was very detail oriented. Toronto has such a wonderfully vast music scene. Through word of mouth and through going to gigs and keeping my ears open, I was lucky enough to wind up with some of Toronto’s best talent, and have been lucky to keep it going as long as I have. However, being as big of a band as we are, we can’t play everywhere, and there are very few venues that can hold us. You can imagine the cost of drawing from the best players means paying them a living wage, and that is something which is really important to me — is that everyone gets paid. I guarantee the pay, and I’m not saying anybody is getting rich off of this, but I guarantee pay, and partly because of that we can’t do it every day.

TV: And you guys have no plans to stop either? It’s just a passion project that’s going to keep on going?

CS: The idea or concept is providing Toronto with a renaissance of Motown music, and that can continue under the same name. We’re constantly getting new singers as other people go on tour, and it’s great. It’s great that there are people in their early ’20’s and then there are people in their ’30’s; it keeps it interesting. We do have a website coming up but… I have no idea when it will actually exist. But it will be on the Facebook when it does. 

The Big Sound can be found online here.

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