The band Toque will perform Canadian classic-rock hits at Surrey’s Canada Day event on Sunday, July 1. Pictured from left to right are Shane Gaalass (drums), Cory Churko (guitar), Todd Kerns (vocals and guitar) and Brent Fitz (bass). (submitted photo)

As Toque, ‘Eh’-list musicians to rock Canadian classics at Surrey’s July 1 party

Todd Kerns finds time for ‘passion project’ when not playing in Slash’s band

The most Canadian rock band ever just might employ a bunch of guys currently living in the United States.

They’re called Toque, and they’ll perform at Surrey’s 2018 Canada Day event, on Sunday, July 1.

The foursome features Todd Kerns on vocals and guitar, Cory Churko on guitar, Brent Fitz on bass and Shane Gaalass on drums.

If you don’t recognize the names, maybe you’ve heard their work on songs by Slash, Kelly Clarkson, Alice Cooper, Shania Twain, the Guess Who, Gene Simmons and other high-profile artists.

As a band, Toque first played in 2012 at a charity event in Winnipeg, where they exclusively rocked Canadian rock-pop covers — songs by Streetheart, Queen City Kids, Kim Mitchell, Loverboy, Saga, Aldo Nova and the like — for a packed house that had the A-list musicians thinking about future gigs together.


Kerns, who plays bass with Slash’s band, first rose to fame in the 1990s as leader of alt-rock outfit Age of Electric.

He recently called the Now-Leader from his home in Las Vegas, where Fitz also lives.

“It’s funny because I’ve known Cory Churko since we were teenagers, because he’s from Moose Jaw and I’m from Saskatchewan as well, and we just sort of kept in touch,” Kerns explained. “He lives in L.A. and plays with Shania and Kelly Clarkson, all that stuff.”

One day, they got driving around Hollywood and had Queen City Kids songs playing on the vehicle’s sound system.

“That’s the weirdest thing to, like, look around at all the cars on the road and think how weird that is — not only playing Canadian music but extremely regional Canadian music, specific to where we grew up,” Kerns recalled. “For me, that’s part of the fun, as Canadians living in the States and having all this deep knowledge of all this Canadian music.”

Years later, Toque has become a “passion project” for Kerns and the others.

“It all started with the idea of, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to record all these songs and turn our American friends — and European, South American friends, Asian, Australian — on to Streetheart and Queen City Kids and Orphan, those super deep cuts,” Kerns said. “And obviously we got into stuff like Loverboy and April Wine and things that translated into a more universal sense. But to me the passion was always about working as a sort of musical ambassador for this music we grew up on and had such passion for. And I’ve seen that happen — people in places like Japan saying, ‘I love that song,’ and they’d have never heard it if we hadn’t played it, you know. That’s a rewarding part of it.”


Surrey will party with Serena Ryder, Brett Kissel on Canada Day this year

No more Canada Day parade at Canada Place

Toque’s 13-song GIVE’R album includes bang-on covers of “Go For Soda,” “Raise A Little Hell,” “New Girl Now,” “Fantasy” and other beer-drenched hits of Can-Con past. As a promo release notes, the songs are all “inspired by a love of hockey, rock, beers and being Canadian, eh.”

A second album is in the works for Toque, with a “mildly more modern” take on Canadian songs from a certain era, Kerns noted.

“We’ve done some Red Rider and still another Harlequin song,” he said with a laugh. “We could probably exhaust ourselves on just the Prairie music we grew up on, but it does get a little more on the newer side, this next record. We’ve tried to stretch out a little bit, and we’ll all come in with new songs and we try to pick the ones that overlap throughout. I’ll still be fighting for ‘Eyes of a Stranger’ by the Payolas, and someone else will be fighting for a Rough Trade song, you know. There are obvious ones we all kind of agree on and then there are others that just don’t make the list.”

No Triumph song has been recorded or played yet, but that may change.

“Not doing a Triumph song is kind of sacrilege when you’re doing a Canadian tribute thing, but part of this is definitely about turning on people to music they’ve never heard before. So Triumph or Rush or Loverboy, some of the ones that crossed over in any huge way, everybody will know. But that said, we have done a Rush song, a couple of Rush songs, actually, so Triumph still needs to be added, along with a few other things as well. But that’s the fun of it, getting the ideas out there.”

Toque rehearsals don’t require a lot of homework, Kerns says, because everybody in the band has either been playing the songs since a young age, or the music is just “part of their DNA.

“It’s prog rock, and there’s pop, rock — it crosses a lot of streams under the umbrella of Can-rock, and it still has a wide variety of stuff going on,” he said. “In some ways, the only continuity of it all is that it all comes from the same country.

One of the best parts of Toque is the ultra-Canadian band name, which can cause some to verbally trip.

“Hearing all these people try to pronounce it is the best part, right – toke, talk-we, I’ve heard every possible version, and I just kind of giggle,” Kerns said. “Any place other than Canada, that word is just alien, you know.”

Looking ahead, Kerns will be busy again with Slash’s band once summer turns to fall.

“We just finished a record – mixed, mastered and in the can,” he said. “There should be a single out this summer, and then we’ll be on the road as of the fall, and that’ll probably take us into late 2019. Getting everyone’s schedules aligned has been really crazy, but it’s starting to come together. And the new record’s killer, I’m really excited about it.”

As for Age of Electric, 2019 marks that band’s 30th anniversary.

“Although nothing has been planned or structured at all, I would have to deduce we’ll do something based around that idea,” Kerns said. “And I like to try and step up for these causes – that’s the wrong word. It’s an event, more like it, you know. Thirty years later, I’d like to see something at the Commodore. I don’t know, we’ll see. We’ll try to make something happen, for sure.”

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

Fees ensure patients have access to parking at SMH, FHA says

Fraser Health Authority hasn’t heard yet from city hall about pay parking at Surrey hospital

Surrey memories: How the ‘IGUISBCSIR’ Facebook page became a hub for anecdotal history

Former Whalley resident Wes Mussato launched the group in 2011, 11 years after he’d moved to Ontario

OUR VIEW: Fraser Health should park the Surrey Memorial Hospital parking fees

On Monday, city council approved free parking, for two hours at a time, on the streets around SMH

UPDATE: Surrey RCMP say missing 17-year-old girl located

Police say Rachel Friend was last seen at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 19, near the 14900-block of 81A Avenue

Three-team trade brings another goalie into Surrey Eagles’ nest

BCHL team ships Chase Stevenson to Trail and acquires blue-liner, goalie

VIDEO: Two officers of B.C. Legislature escorted out amid investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

Late 2019 too long to wait for ridesharing: B.C. Conservatives

“While the rest of the world is embracing this transportation revolution, B.C. is only now staggering slowly toward legislation on a business model that’s been mainstreamed for over a decade in other jurisdictions.”

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Jason Aldean, Old Dominion to headline Merritt’s Rockin’ River concerts next summer

Four-day music festival at Coldwater River from Aug. 1 to 4

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

Most Read