Canadian duo is touring the country and offering local musicians the opportunity to share the stage
While many think of the little green and white capsules when they hear the word Prozzäk, for a certain group of Millennials, Canadians in particular, the term brings back memories of fictional cartoon musicians who dominated Much Music’s programming in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Originally members of The Philosopher Kings, based out of Thornhill, Ontario, Jay Levine and James McCollum’s musical ambitions eventually led to the creation of Simon (Levine) and Milo (McCollum), the made up, animated members of Canadian pop duo Prozzäk.
The group first burst onto the scene in 1998 with the triple-platinum selling album Hot Show, and while selling over 240,000 albums in Canada is a notable achievement, the formation of the duo is almost, if not more, impressive. “We were pretty at odds in [The Philosopher Kings], it actually got physical one night in Montreal,” said Levine. “After that, we were like, ‘listen, we actually have this commonality here,’ and we wrote the song “Europa” and started to really connect musically, and it worked.” The two have been friends ever since.
While the characters of Simon and Milo are fictitious, the content of the music is inspired by Levine and McCollum’s real lives. Levine explained that by creating characters for themselves, McCollum and he were able to put themselves into their music more freely, without directly associating the topics with their lives. “I envy people that can do that,” he said, “That can take themselves so seriously that they can just put their pain out there.”
The basic narrative of Prozzäk’s albums is that Simon is on a constant search for love, but is unable to find it, and continuously gets himself into precarious situations due to his hunt.
Prozzäk continued to see success over their next two albums, but released no new music for over a decade after 2005’s Cruel Cruel World. Both Levine and McCollum continued to thrive in the music industry, just not together.
However, after a somewhat impromptu performance at Toronto’s Atomic Lollipop music festival in 2015, Levine and McCollum’s passion for their Prozzäk project was reinvigorated, and what started as a new single turned into a new album. It also inspired a short tour of Canada late last year that saw the group sell out numerous shows across the country, including one at Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre. “It was a surprise that people were still interested,” said Levine.
With their first album, Forever 1999, celebrating its 10-year anniversary this past week, the duo is once again hitting the road. Starting out east, Prozzäk will make their way across the country, landing at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom on Friday, Apr. 14.
Levine and McCollum added even more excitement to their tour by teaming up with Tournado, a company that offers local musicians the opportunity to open for their favourite bands. “A friend of mine actually started this company called Tournado and I love the mandate of it,” Levine said enthusiastically. “I think it’s a really cool thing for local acts to get in front of a bigger audience. You can put your music out online, you can do all that stuff that we have now which we didn’t used to have, which is awesome, but one barrier that really still exists is how do you get a real gig in front of new people to hear you?” he explained. All local groups need to do is apply online, and the winners are announced about a week before the show.
Regarding Forever 1999, the duo has rediscovered a passion for their Prozzäk project. While it maintains the musical stylings and continues the narrative of the groups past releases, Forever 1999 has an evolved sound – and is the pair’s strongest release yet.
“It’s not so much a business anymore, it’s just fun,” reflected Levine. “When we were doing it in the late 90s and early 2000s it was much more about ‘is it selling? What are the radio chart positions?’ Now it’s not like that. Now it’s just pure fun and we made an album that we’re proud of, and we get to go out there and share with people.”
How’s Simon’s hunt for love going on the new album, you may be wondering? “Simon is, right now, in a sex and love addicts anonymous program, a 12-step program,” said Levine. “He had something good for a while, but blew it as usual.”
With the Apr. 14 show fast approaching, local musicians are encouraged apply soon for the opportunity to open for Prozzäk at the Commodore. In terms of Prozzäk’s future and Simon’s love life, Levine and McCollum are playing it by ear, but are “thinking of developing a musical theatre show based on the characters, and [Simon] might just figure it out in that format,” according to Levine.
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