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Discorder Revisited

Go Four 3! Vancouver’s Unsung Pop Heroes

author
Erica Leiren
illustration
Naomi Nguyen

You are never a prophet in your own country. How true.

It is 1991 and Gord Badanic, Roxanne Heichert, and Steve Quinn — plus an often rotating drummer — are Vancouver’s Go Four 3, a perfect radio-ready power pop outfit primed to blast from the launch pad at the speed of light. Nurtured by epic talent-spotter Grant McDonagh (owner of Zulu Records); four years of hard gigging across the expanse of Canada, playing venues and college campuses from Victoria to Halifax, and up and down the U.S. West Coast, have sharpened every arrow in this oh-so-talented quartet’s quiver. Go For 3 have survived things — like hitting that black cow in their touring van one dark prairie night — that would have stopped lesser bands.

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Go Four 3 || illustration by Naomi Nguyen

Go Four 3 are fully armed with songs to kill for, chops to burn, and the fierce ambition that has brought them this far. Their two full albums and three video singles have made them college darlings of music’s new medium — video. Erica Ehm, Much Music’s top VJ, loves the band and hosts them on her show again and again, where the banter and their camera-loving irreverence evoke the kind of charm, wit, and silliness not seen since the Beatles. They have multiple songs in heavy rotation on Much Music, the new TV station all the kids are watching for their music fix. Billboard magazine proclaims them “the next big thing!”

Go For 3 travels all the way to London to strike gold, where a record deal is so close they can taste it! Thousands of miles from home, in one shining moment, their entire odyssey comes down to the crucial pivot point: a choice between two hot Brit-Pop producers, both wooing the gophers (as their fans affectionately refer to them) with a deal they hope will make them rich and famous. It’s between Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics or Joe Bloggs. Which one to pick?!  

With benefit of hindsight, Stewart with his track record of worldwide success, was probably the better bet. But the band is swayed in Bloggs’ favour by the fact that his recording studio is more impressive.

At this crucial juncture, instead of taking the band to world domination like they’d  expected, their producer/manager gets a divorce and loses interest. Go Four 3 is left with only memories and the new name he’s foisted upon them: Thrill Squad. As Thrill Squad, they release an excellent three song 12” in England and later self-release an EP and one full length album. That is it for their career.

But oh what a career it was. Seven years and seven drummers worth!

The Go Four 3 saga began when bassist Badanic met singer Heichert at CiTR in 1983. Badanic’s girl-group party band, the Debutantes, had just lost its lead singer, so he asked Heichert to try out. She did, and the rest is history.

Go Four 3 had a mod sensibility (Badanic and Quinn revered the Who, Jam, and the Kinks). Original drummer Rob Tomkow, was a pilot and “Go Four 3!” is aviation control tower speak for “ready to go — perfect landing position.” Very apt. Together, they sparked off an energy and excitement that was the crux of every live show. Heichert’s girlish, yet intense vocals were unique, evoking shades of ‘60s girl groups mixed with punk. Badanic’s monster bass riffs and concert-pianist-level keyboard playing enhanced songs with spectacular baroque flourishes. Quinn slashed brilliantly at his guitar like the second coming of Pete Townsend. The drummers played big, bold, echo-y, and perfectly in the pocket. Together, it all sent shivers down your spine. Go Four 3 were one of the best power pop bands Vancouver has ever produced.

Go Four 3

 

My first fave from their 1985 self-titled debut album (produced by Ron Obvious and Go Four 3) is “In My Dreams.” This track evokes everything you are feeling in your early 20’s with Heichert’s girlish vocals showcased at their best. Their second album, Six Friends has gems like “Right From Wrong” with its strangler-esque keyboard intro and incendiary guitar solo, “Round at Number One,” the super catchy dance inciter, and “Kaleidoscopes,” with L.A. paisley underground influences.

The band always suffered for the fact that they bestrode the chasm that existed then between mainstream and alternative music; a gap that has since mostly closed. Although Go Four 3 didn’t quite grab the brass ring when it swung round on the music-business-merry-go-round, they wrote, played, and recorded great songs. One could say so much more, but in the end, it is the art they created together, not fame or money, that is truly lasting and worthy of another good listen today. Bon Appétit!

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Go Four 3 || illustration by Naomi Nguyen