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Busker Do : The Leslie Spit Tree-o crafted their honest folk and rock on the sidewalks of Toronto.


The Leslie Spit Tree-o can neither spell nor count, but fortunately, can sing up a storm. Following the Beatles' advice, they do a lot of it on the road. (Singing, that is.) It even has a name: busking . You'll find it in the dictionary.

Maybe you can take the street out of the musician, but for the Leslie Spit Tree-o, it's tough to even get them off the street. But at least for tonight, these street-corner musicians from Canada will play inside. They'll be at the venerable Ventura Theatre, as the opening act for the Alarm--a group they also share space with on the roster of I.R.S. Records.

Their funniest tune, "One Thought Too Long" is a paranoiac's theme song. It explains that not only is everyone out to get you, but inevitably they will.

The band offers a little rock, a little blues and a lot of folk, besides being smart enough to cover a cool John Prine song, "Angel From Montgomery." The band members have theater backgrounds and sort of fell into the rock 'n' roll thing. Singer Laura Hubert explained in a recent phone interview.

How's the album, the tour and all that?

We're in Detroit right now and everything's going great. We've played all over Canada, but this is the first time in America for us. The album was released in Canada last September, then we got a Juno Award for Most Promising Band, then I.R.S. came to see us and signed us up. We're not rich rock stars yet. Man, I still got quarters in my pocket.

Where did the name come from and why can't you spell "trio?"

Three of us started the band and we used to go practice at this place called the Leslie Spit, which was this overgrown landfill in Toronto. We used to go there to take the dog so he could run around and we'd sing on these big old piles and practice our harmonies. Also, there were a lot of trees there so we took the name "Tree-o," sort of a joke.

How did the band get going?

We all met in the theater, which also means that we were not always working in the theater. So we started playing on the street, and sometimes on the waterfront for the tourists. It paid the rent.

How would you describe Leslie Spit Tree-o music?

I would say our music is vocal-based, but the song itself really dictates our style. We can do country, we can do rock. Sometimes our harmonies are kind of ragged, other times we do in-your-face rockers.

What's the best thing and the worst thing about your job?

For the worst thing . . . I wish we had air-conditioning on our bus. I've had so many lousy jobs in my life--like typing--there's really nothing bad about this gig. The best thing is being able to sing and have a positive audience response. There's a sense of a future. Last night we played a little bit on the street and sold a couple of tapes. Other times, we like to play in hospitals.

What was your strangest gig?

Most of the strange ones are on the street where there's always half a dozen people who tell you how good they are and want to play your guitar. Sometimes, it's quite a scene, yet it feeds me, also it has paid our rent. You can use the street sounds like bus noise as part of the song. In Canada, we even have busker festivals. Some nights there's like three or four buskers working one street--it's getting bigger and bigger.

What's the most misunderstood thing about the band?

That we're a trio--there's actually five of us. Don't ask.

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