Amir Epstein, the one guy in Toronto’s Crash Karma who didn’t come from a multi-platinum-selling Canadian rock band, wasn’t intimidated about playing his songs to ex-I Mother Earth singer Edwin, ex-Tea Party drummer Jeff Burrows and ex-Our Lady Peace guitarist Mike Turner, even if, “truth be told,” he says, “I Mother Earth influenced me heavily as a musician.”
The bassist, who earned his credentials as principal songwriter in the jam band Zygote, says he had full confidence in what he originally played for the guys at Turner’s recording studio, The Pocket. “I sat down with an acoustic guitar and played 24 songs,” Epstein recounts. “They didn’t have names, they weren’t finished and they didn’t have lyrics.”
No one rushed into starting a band. Turner had his studio and played in Fair Ground, Edwin was three albums into a solo career and Burrows was an on-air host at CKUE The Rock in Windsor, Ont., and a frequent session player. Epstein was actually finishing law school — in Australia. “[The project] would go into hibernation during those periods because we were all doing other things,” says Turner, who ended up producing the self-titled album. “It was definitely something we approached gradually. It was like, ‘We’ve got a weekend, let’s work on this.’”
Epstein, now back in Toronto for good, and Edwin would congregate at The Pocket; Burrows would take a morning train from Windsor and get back in time for his radio shift. “We’d grab a guitar and go, ‘Well, that’s cool, how about let’s arrange it like this?’ It was done on the fly. We started to do drums when we were still finalizing arrangements,” says Turner.
As they continued to work on songs, such as the psychedelic “Awake,” a recent Top 10 radio hit, and “Fight,” the empowering second single, they realized they had something, an amalgamation of all their personalities, pedigrees and signature styles. Of course, that might have had something to do with Epstein writing songs with the others in mind. “Even when I was singing, I’d imitate Ed to see how that would sound,” he says.
As Crash Karma emerged as a band, the four started behaving like one, including undertaking a tour in March/April. “We’ve all known each other a long time and respect each other enough to listen,” says Turner. “And Amir was so open. He more or less said, ‘Hey guys, I love what you do. Do what you do with this.’”
While Epstein never had “new-guy syndrome,” he does admit it’s kinda cool to be in a band with one of his favourite singers. “What a voice,” he says of Edwin. “Hearing him sing a melody I’d written, it sounded a bit like I Mother Earth but it was my song. It was really trippy.”