Grapes of Wrath on the ‘High Road’


Multi-Platinum selling Kelowna band The Grapes of Wrath may not factor (yet) into the mind of today’s teen, but it certainly did from the mid-eighties and nineties.  Tom and Chris Hooper are two Kelowna natives, Kelowna Secondary School graduates and the mortar of The Grapes of Wrath. Together with a high school friend, Kevin Kane, the band is perhaps the most famous music group to come out of Kelowna.

The Grapes of Wrath in Kelowna, 1983

The Grapes of Wrath members had a couple of unsuccessful punk rock attempts with a short stint as Kill Pigs, Kevin Kane played for a short time with Empty Set and the Hoopers that grew into Gentlemen of Horror, eventually dissolving.

But all clouds have a silver lining—at least theirs did.  In April of 1983, after collaborating on a one-off show as cover band Honda Civic, the Hooper’s and Kane decided to bring their talents together again. The Hooper family garage turned into a practice studio and with a farewell show in hometown Kelowna, they took off to live in Vancouver. The Grapes of Wrath were born.

The Grapes of Wrath, 1985

The band’s site unfolds the story:  [The Grapes of Wrath] produced ‘Now And Again’ in Woodstock, New York, where the band lived in isolation for the first half of 1989. They record in an old haunted Catholic church called Dreamland Studios. ‘Now and Again’, was the band’s big break through. The singles ‘All The Things I Wasn’t’ and then ‘What Was Going Through My Head’ propelled the album to platinum status and soon the band went from playing bars to theaters and touring Europe, opening for Lloyd Cole. Their Canadian tour to support this album was also notable for it’s opening act, a then-emerging singer/songwriter named Sarah McLachlan.

Ironically, The Grapes of Wrath’s final show was on Halloween 1992 in Vancouver, twenty years ago.

In 2010, The Grapes of Wrath reformed to play at the Surrey Fusion Festival.  They met with such great response that the band once again began touring Canada and were signed by Aporia Records to produce ‘High Road’, released in March, 2013.  They played Kelowna in August, the first time to rock a hometown stage in 21 years!

If you want to check them out, you’ll have to hit up their concert in Victoria on November 1st.  Their Concerts through Alberta have brought out old and new fans, and they have started touring their Native British Columbia starting with Fort McMurray.

T. Hooper
Tom Hooper, KSS Class of 1983

The Grapes of Wrath kindly agreed to an interview with Censor This! reporter, Emily Draper.  Here’s the Q & A from that encounter:

Censor This!: How did you like KSS?
The Grapes of Wrath: We were kind of outsiders. We did our own thing which completely involved music.  We would play Vancouver on weekends and be back in class Monday morning, tired!

Censor This!: Do you have a favourite memory from KSS?
The Grapes of Wrath: Graduation-we were able to dedicate a lot more time to writing and performing.

Censor This!: What was it like playing in downtown Kelowna this summer?
The Grapes of Wrath: It was amazing. Playing for so many people in our home town was very surreal. We often talk about how difficult it was to get people to listen to us when we started playing in 1983. Back then, I don’t think we could have imagined the show this summer.

Censor This!: How does it feel to be back on the road?
The Grapes of Wrath: It’s really good. Casual, easy and no pressure. We’ve really received a good reaction from old fans and new ones as well.

Censor This!:  How is the band different now?
The Grapes of Wrath: I think we are taking time to try and enjoy it more now than back in the late 80s/ early 90s.
Back then, the business of the band really overshadowed what it was supposed to be about, which is having fun playing and recording music.

Censor This!:
Who are your favourite current artists?
The Grapes of Wrath: Real Estate, The Pack A.D., Elephant Stone, Josh Rouse, Ladytron
Link to our playlists:

Censor This!: What was the strangest place you’ve ever played as a band?
The Grapes of Wrath: A party on the Staten Island Ferry, in New York City would be one.

Censor This!: What made it strange?
The Grapes of Wrath: We played on a stage set up at the back of the boat. The ferry motored around Manhattan.
We met Paul Shaffer from the David Letterman show and due to food poisoning, Chris vomited on a woman.

Censor This!: What has been your favourite place to play so far since you’ve been back?
The Grapes of Wrath: Kelowna was one. Another would be the Mod Club in Toronto when several guests joined us on stage, such as Sam Roberts and Ron Sexsmith.
Censor This!: How did you get the name “the Grapes of Wrath”?
The Grapes of Wrath: From a book of movie lists. Other names from the book that were being considered were “The African Queen” and “The Bermuda Triangle”. Glad we picked the one we did.

Censor This!: Do you have any words of wisdom for budding young artists?
The Grapes of Wrath: Play and write the music you want and don’t try to sound like other bands. Sure, you’ll be influenced, but stick to what you do. Oh ya-don’t be a [email protected]

Censor This!: Anything else you’d like to add?
The Grapes of Wrath: Stay in School.