Canadian Musicians Show Off Their Favourite Band T-Shirts
Sam Roberts, k-os, DJ Shub, Bad Waitress and more model their best music tees
Published Apr 14, 2021"Stop wearing T-shirts of bands you don't listen to," some asshole wrote on a cardboard sign and then got 1.5 million likes on Instagram.
People are, of course, free to wear whatever the hell they want, since band T-shirts can serve many functions. Buying music tees puts money in artists' pockets, supports local retailers, and functions as the very bedrock of the concert industry. And, perhaps most importantly, they look cool as hell.
We asked an array of Canadian artists to take photos wearing their favourite band shirts, and they responded by shouting out key influences, waxing nostalgic about memorable live shows, and promoting friends and collaborators. Regardless of the stories behind the shirts, they all share one common denominator — they look awesome.
Bad Waitress — Descendents, PRETTYBOY, the Orchard Keepers, IDLES
Toronto's Bad Waitress kick ass, so it's only fitting that all four members of the punk-inclined band chose shirts from similarly heavy bands.
Singer-guitarist Kali-Ann Butala picked a shirt given to her by her friend Jake. It's a Simpsons-themed play on the Descendents' Milo Goes to College, "a raunchy album that makes you wanna fuck and fight," she says.
Bassist Nicole Cain picked PRETTYBOY, a "Toronto band that kicks so much ass." She first heard PRETTYBOY at a house show, and she remembers, "I was blown away by their ferocious energy — their music makes me wanna move."
Drummer Moon got their shirt from the Orchard Keepers during Bad Waitress's tour with Fucked Up in 2018. "I remember them having a great energy and some rocking tunes! Missing tour life but having shirts like these kicking around always brings back good memories," says Moon.
And finally, guitarist Katelyn Molgard is a huge fan of British post-punks IDLES. "I'm a sucker for working class rage," they say. "I see myself in their music. I haven't been this enthusiastic about a band since I was a teenager. It's fun to walk down the street blasting their tunes in my headphones and accidentally yell out, 'Like Kathleen Hanna with bear claws grabbing Trump by the pussy.'" Relatable!
Bernice — Thunder & Lightning and L.A. Club Resource
Bernice are known for their esoteric, deconstructionist approach to pop music — and evidently the Toronto band take the same inventive approach when picking band shirts. When we asked the band to model their music tees, Thom Gill and Phil Melanson didn't actually pick band shirts.
Gill selected a shirt from Sackville, NB's Thunder & Lightning, a pub that he calls the "spiritual headquarters" of local music festival Sappyfest. He says, "Sadly it closed its doors this past year, but I have a feeling it'll reincarnate somehow sometime soon — fingers crossed!"
Melanson showed off his shirt from electronic music label L.A. Club Resource. He explains that he got it at a Delroy Edwards show on Toronto's Geary Avenue, and that "it reminds me of all the great raves that happened on that street."
Myles Castello — Bob Marley
Myles Castello is quickly making a name for himself as a soulful R&B singer, but the Toronto songwriter also loves reggae for the way it lifts his mood. With warm weather right around the corner, reggae is sure to be on all his spring and summer playlists. "Bob Marley is an artist I grew up with that I will probably listen to forever," he says. "Energy, positivity and good spirit is what Bob stands for in my eyes, and I want to live through the same lens."
Caveboy — Whitney Houston
Montreal pop trio Caveboy have closed their shows with a cover of Whitney Houston's iconic '80s anthem "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" — which is why bassist/synth player Isabelle Banos is shouting out the singer with this sleeveless shirt. "It's such an amazing feeling to lose it with the crowd and connect through our shared love for Whitney," Banos says of those show-closing singalongs.
DJ Shub — Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Snotty Nose Rez Kids guested on DJ Shub's most recent album, last December's War Club — the culmination of a friendship and collaboration that began around the time SNRK gave Shub this shirt. "I remember watching their live set and thinking these guys are gonna be big," says the former member of A Tribe Called Red (now the Halluci Nation). "And I was right. Ha! When it comes to players in the indigenous music scene, this crew — Young D, Yung Trybez, DJ Kookum — are on top and pushing the art into the mainstream."
ELIO — Valley
Charli XCX isn't the only notable artist ELIO has collaborated with — she also recently had her single "LA in Two" remixed by her friends in Toronto pop combo Valley. "This is one of the comfiest shirts I own," ELIO tells Exclaim! "I get my band tees super oversized so they're super cozy."
Matt Rogers of Fleece and it's matt — Starfruit
Like so many Canadians, Fleece frontman Matt Rogers longs for the return of live music — and that explains why he chose this shirt that he got when playing a show with "this super rad, funky and queer AF band called Starfruit."
The show in question took place in Denton, TX, at the end Fleece's 2018 North American tour with Tokyo Police Club. Rogers says, "I feel super nostalgic whenever I wear it. It reminds me how incredible that tour was, and how much I miss being on the road right now."
k-os — The Beatles
The Beatles have had a major influence on k-os's career — he even signed to Capitol Records because that was the label that broke them in North America. "My dad didn't have any Beatles records," he explains. "I went out and did research. Lots of it. So by the time I recorded the second album, Joyful Rebellion, I had to have all the Beatles' documentaries playing at the studio on repeat." To this day, he finds them the most inspiring group in music history. He says, "Ever lose your way in music? Go listen to the Beatles."
Alex Porat — Anna Sofia
Alex Porat is a Toronto pop artist who's quickly making waves with catchy tunes and an impressive online following — a description that also fits Anna Sofia, whose shirt Porat is wearing here. "I am obsessed with how soft it is on the inside, and I love Anna, so this was an easy pick for my fave shirt," she tells Exclaim! "I love a monochrome look and have recently found courage in wearing more white, so pairing it with a white tennis skirt and collared shirt felt like the natural thing to do."
Sam Roberts — The Clash
If this shirt looks familiar, that's because Sam Roberts used to wear a similar one onstage ("I swear I washed it every day," he promises). Although that shirt was "tragically lost somewhere in the haze of 2020," he ordered this new one just in case he gets the green light to tour sometime soon.
The new shirt is a bootleg, and that only makes it better. Roberts tells Exclaim!, "This blatant and yet somehow awesome forgery arrived in the mail. It bears no resemblance to the actual album cover, and apologies to the Clash for sporting contraband merch — but I've gotta say, it's growing on me, especially the eye-popping aquamarine backdrop. Someone with a silkscreen and a dream really took this one for a walk. The only thing that would make it better is if it read 'The Closh.'"