The creative duo at the core of iconic Canadian new wave band the Spoons have journeyed from being high school sweethearts to rock icons in one of this country’s most celebrated bands. They have a new album in the works and a fundraising concert coming up at the Guelph Concert Theatre on April 28.
“Gord and I met in high school in the senior band,” said Sandy Horne. “I played trumpet and he played sax.”
In the mid 1970s Horne, 14 and Gord Deppe, 16 were students at Nelson High School in Burlington. They both played guitar and it was during a school band trip to a high school in Arnprior, Ontario that the seeds for their four-decade collaboration were planted.
“There were two acoustic guitars on the bus,” said Horne. “I was playing with the girls at the front and Gord was playing at the back and eventually the guitars came together.
He asked me to play the root notes on the four thicker strings of the acoustic and told me he needed a bass player for his band, Impulse. ‘Do you want to play bass?’”
Horne agreed and that led to them composing music for a new band called Tryst.
“Tryst was like early Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator with really long epic songs,” said Horne. “From that, we picked kibbles and bits and formed four-minute songs for the Spoons.”
By 1979, the newly formed Spoons included Horne and Deppe as well as schoolmates Derrick Ross on drums and keyboardist Brett Wickens. Rob Preuss joined when Wickens left for art school.
It was the turn of the decade and the dawn of a new wave in pop music with video and technology playing a central role - perfect conditions for the Spoons and their trademark sound.
“Everyone thought we were from England because we sounded like the British wave,” said Deppe. “The song Nova Heart was a groundbreaking thing for Canada and Romantic Traffic was on the very first episode of MuchMusic. There were a lot of firsts and having a girl bass player in the band sure helped the image.”
It was also a challenge for Horne in a male dominated genre.
“When I first started no one took me seriously,” she said. “People that hadn’t seen us play live thought I was just a figure and somebody else was doing the recording.”
She responded with characteristic humour.
“I started off wearing ballet slippers and ballerina outfits,” said Horne. “You want me to play this tough instrument I am going to play it on my tippy toes. One of the funniest lines I heard was this guy up in Wasaga Beach. He said, ‘You know, you’re more than just a tootsie roll. You’re a tootsie roll that plays bass'.”
Horne and Deppe’s romantic relationship ended in the mid 80s but the Spoons continued with a string of awards and hit records with the help of legendary producers such as Daniel Lanois and Nile Rogers.
“At the beginning of the 90s we kind of laid low and didn’t do a lot of shows because there was a change toward Grunge and heavier music,” said Deppe. “For a while we thought, well, I guess it’s over and then by the mid 90s it started picking up and we were like, what, how did that happen?”
Deppe now splits his time between the Spoons and touring North America playing guitar for the Flock of Seagulls.
Horne has lived in Guelph since 1991 where she and her former husband raised a daughter and son. She has worked in film and collaborated with other musicians such as Tsimshian elder Shannon Thunderbird.
“The Spoons never stopped playing,” said Horne. “We’ve been more active in the last three years then we’ve been since the big time.”
Guelph was a regular stop back in the 80s but they haven’t played here in 30 years.
“The Chooch was the first place we played here and we played a lot of the super pubs at the university,” said Horne. “Our last show in Guelph was at the Palace in ‘88.”
They have been doing a lot of charity shows and jumped at the opportunity to help their friend Doug Todd raise money for his daughter’s soccer team, the Rockwood Football Club U14 Girls Elite.
“We are taking fundraising to a different level,” said Todd. “There are some 80s icons that are going to be here. That’s why it’s called 80s Addiction. The opening act is 80’s tribute band The Bomb. John Gallagher, originally from Q107, and a mutual friend of ours, boxer George Chuvalo are coming and we are waiting on a few others for confirmation.”
Many local businesses are supporting the show including Sip Club, Bin 23 and Post Game Brewery.
“We try not to take ourselves too seriously but later in life it really makes you feel good when you can do stuff like this,” said Deppe. “It’s nice to come back to Guelph but it is also nice to be a part of the community and what they are trying to do and help out a little bit.”For tickets and information about the show, please visit here.