They were just kids from the ’burbs, but Burlington, Ont., outfit The Spoons found themselves at the centre of Canada’s burgeoning new-wave scene in the early ’80s. There would be a string of club and radio hits (“Romantic Traffic,” “Tell No Lies,” etc.), a high-profile ad campaign with the Thrifty’s clothing chain and shows with Culture Club and The Police. But it all started with a synth-pop song called “Nova Heart,” from the 1982 album Arias and Symphonies. On the eve of celebrating the band’s 30th anniversary, vocalist/guitarist Gord Deppe talks about bringing back those old emotions.


What is the origin of the phrase “nova heart”?

Well, a nova is an exploding star, an all-encompassing phenomenon. The song was written way at the beginning, when we were still pretty young. In university, I was reading science fiction, and was into this book by Arthur C. Clark called Childhood’s End. If people want to hear it as a simple love song, I don’t want to take that away from them, but it was about an idea in that book — that no matter what happens, we’ll be all right.


How did a guitar player end up writing a song that’s all about the keyboards?

I actually wrote the song on a keyboard. And I’m no keyboard player! But when you write on guitar all the time, your hands go to the same place, and I wanted something different. I had just seen OMD at a little club in Hamilton, Ont.,  and I was so inspired. I borrowed a lousy old String Machine, with fake orchestra sounds and not even enough room to move your hands on it. That was fine for me, I was just klonking around. Our keyboard player, Rob, said he could never have written it, it was too simple. That melody only has three notes.


How important was it to you that people could dance to this?

That was [producer] John Punter’s doing. He introduced us to the 808 drum machine, this little box that helped create the rhythm patterns, like those handclaps. There was no real formula for what works in the dance clubs in those days, but he knew what would be best. The song was originally just supposed to be a B-side to the track “Symmetry,” but half-way through recording, when the drums and the synths came together, we knew we had something.


Were you surprised by the success?

I never thought it would do anything, no. We just wanted to make it onto the chart at CKOC in Hamilton! That was a big deal. Then I remember seeing it on the CHUM chart, right next to Led Zeppelin and Queen. I think it hit No. 4. KROQ in L.A. had it on its Top 10 for the year. I was really surprised that it did what it did.


You still play the song live today. Considering how a lot of ’80s synth pop sounds dated, how do you think it holds up?

In the 1990s, we got rid of the drum machines and did pop/rock interpretations, with more guitar. But we’re appreciating the synths again. We realize that the drum machine sounds are key to it, and people can be disappointed when they don’t get what they expected, what they remember. They want the handclaps.


What do you think is this song’s legacy?

It really caught us when we were innocent, at our most creative and vibrant. We may have written better songs, technically, or improved on our instruments, but you can’t capture that youth again. I like knowing that, in our small way, we were a part of a musical shift. People remember us, if not the cause of it, as a part of it.