It was Dec. 30, 1993 when a young Mikey Hawdon went to his first local punk show.
As often happened at the time, original bands had to book multi-band showcases in order to play live.
This particular show was at the Windsor Park Hotel ballroom and featured local bands Kite Eating Maples, The Spigots and Room 206.
“It was my first show and it seriously opened up a whole new world for me,” says Mikey Hawdon, frontman for the Fairmounts and founder of Soolebrity Records.
“It changed my life. Room 206 played exactly the kind of music I was searching for at that time … and the fact that the band members were just a bit older than I was, gave me hope that maybe I could do something like that too,” he says.
“They made me see that kids my age could create something truly beautiful and I started a band the next day.”
The Origins of Room 206
Room 206 was made up of three musicians not much older than Hawdon at the time: bass player Brad Lacell, drummer Al Watson, and guitarist/vocalist Mike Yorke.
“Al and I lived on the same street and Yorke was just through the bush across the street,” says Lacell.
“We would walk to school together every day during elementary school.”
In high school, the trio found themselves on the same bus and in some of the same classes.
“We decided to make a band ... Al was always at my place playing drums on his legs … so he was the drummer," says Lacell.
"Yorke had started as a drummer but was way better as a singer and guitar player. And he could get along with everyone. Especially during a time where there was a thick divide between the jocks and the freaks. So he could get even the jocks to come see us play. It was perfect.”
“I was a jock, but skated and learned to play guitar,” laughs Yorke.
Al Watson was a skateboarder who eventually learned to play the drums.
“Playing music came natural to the three of us,” says Watson, noting that Lacell was also a voracious songwriter.
“Brad was an underappreciated bass player. He is awesome and always was. His songwriting skills overshadowed his bass playing. Still to this day, Brad writes songs at such a pace that it would take a year to get through his material … Yorke is a natural talent. The minute we started 206, it was obvious that he was a natural frontman.”
In grade 10, the three friends were in the same classroom for Parenting Class: Room 206, giving them their name.
“My parents had a jam room … because my dad was in a wedding band called Night Shift,” says Yorke.
“I think we used some of their stuff for a bit at first but then brought our own gear. After the first couple jams, we were totally hooked and it ramped up really quickly. From learning Born to be Wild to Brad bringing a couple originals to having a 30-song setlist in no time.”
The Sault music scene in 1993
The Sault music scene in 1993 was pretty varied.
“[There were] trained musicians, remnants of 80s hair bands, ‘bushcore’ punk bands and everything in-between,” says Watson.
“Sure there were bands with skill, but our goal was to play really cool cover songs and to write really cool originals.”
Yorke notes that their music scene piggybacked on the scene that came before them in the Sault.
“Cambrian Lanes was the first kind of ‘scene’ and then The Purple Lantern,” says Yorke, noting that these venues were popular for multi-band shows.
“We knew we had something different to offer the scene as a whole,” says Lacell.
“We were not as heavy and fast or as quirky as some of the other bands. I kept asking other bands for a slot on their upcoming gigs and was always kind of scoffed at.”
So with musician Mike Morrin, the decision was made to put on their own show at the Windsor Park Hotel.
“By the time we started our third song, all the other bands were standing next to the stage blown away that us young kids were as good as we were. We represented the new kind of alt-rock that was a mix of The Replacements and Beastie Boys type stuff with some poppy punk rock vibes happening,” says Lacell.
"2 Innies and 1 Outie"
The band recorded their songs at Satellite Sound, the Sault’s only professional recording studio at the time, eventually releasing 2 Innies and 1 Outie.
“We were proud of that cassette,” says Lacell, noting that cassettes were the most common format for local releases.
Once released, Lacell would skip out of school every day with a little satchel full of tapes and flyers for the next gig and would go from school to school handing out pamphlets and selling tapes to kids in the smoking areas.
A different track from Room 206’s album was played every morning on the St. Mary’s public address system.
“We sold out of the first tape in about two months, pressing 1000 in total. Many people also just dubbed the tape from their friends, so the album travelled quite a long way … It was a really magical time for all of us.”
The album’s legacy
“It is still on people's playlists somehow after all these years,” says Watson.
“I rarely go a week or two without hearing from someone who remembers the band.”
For Yorke, the initial reaction to the album gave him a real sense of pride and accomplishment.
“We started doing larger shows at Club Princess and that introduced us to a much larger scale of people … It was a surreal feeling to be on that stage in front of 1800 people at one of the shows. It still gives me the goosies.”
With local success in hand, the band eventually made the decision to move to Toronto and take a shot at the big time, eventually breaking up.
28 years later, the album lives on
For Mikey Hawdon, Room 206’s debut album is still a huge influence.
“The songs themselves are still fresh and full of energy,” he says.
The reason for Soolebrity Records to re-release a cassette from 1993 on vinyl in 2021 is multi-faceted.
“The first is that I love this music and just selfishly want a copy for myself in vinyl,” he says.
“The second reason is because it's such an incredible time-stamp to those years … When I hear these songs, I'm instantly transported back to Gore Street, standing outside The Princess, or on Queen Street outside the Windsor Park … They're great songs and the fact that they were written by fifteen and sixteen-year-old kids is mind-boggling to me. They're still my favourite band to ever come from Sault Ste. Marie...”
The search for the original master tapes was a challenge.
“We did a whole Indiana Jones thing trying to track them down. At one point, I talked to a music producer outside of Hamilton who thought he had them in an old safe. Unfortunately, the safe was locked and the combination had been lost. I paid a locksmith to open it, but the master wasn’t there.”
In the end, Hawdon digitally transferred the songs from a 27-year old cassette.
“Steve Rizen from Drive Studios here in Toronto did an amazing job remastering the album and giving it a 2021 volume boost. It sounds huge now.”
The members of Room 206 could never have ever imagined their album from 1993 would be re-released all these years later.
“It’s a time capsule of great friendships, great memories and amazing music,” says Lacell.
The artwork will be slightly different than the original, with some cool details that artist Kevin Powe helped create.
“It will certainly include the original drawing by the band’s St. Mary’s classmate, Marc Visperas,” says Hawdon.
There will only be 206 copies of the vinyl manufactured.
Bonus tracks and special guests
When Hawdon eventually played in the Inner City Surfers with Lacell, he got to hear Room 206's unreleased songs.
“I made Brad tape me copies of all the unreleased songs they ever did, including the two I’ve now re-recorded …they’re great songs and it was a blast to record them.”
The new vinyl release will feature two unreleased Room 206 tracks, but featuring some well-known guests Hawdon met through his YouTube series, Mikey and His Uke.
“Adrian Young of No Doubt is one of them and he was stoked to play drums on this project. When I told him the idea and showed him the rough demo, he really liked the song and gave it his own flavour. Same thing with Darrin Pfeifferr of Goldfinger and Matt Riddle of No Use for a Name. It was very cool having those guys jump in on these songs. I also had my new pal Scott Lamb in Sweden help out with mixing and adding backup vocals.”
Inner City Surfers alumni Dustin Jones, Dave Bahun and Hawdon himself are also featured on the bonus tracks.
For Brad Lacell, it was a “huge honour” to have those unreleased songs re-recorded.
“It’s nice to hear that the songs are still relevant now and that they don’t sound dated. Especially hearing such accomplished musicians bringing them to life,” he says.
“It brought tears to my eyes.”
Lacell also notes that it was especially important that Dave Bahun (from Inner City Surfers) also played on the new versions of those tracks.
“Bahun joined [Room 206] shortly after we did our second tape, which has been lost over time. He was the glue that made the band better and put us on bigger stages. Because of his talents, we started to take things more seriously.”
“In the fall/winter of ’95, I recruited Dave to be in the band. He was by far the best musician I knew. I basically begged him to move to Toronto with us,” he laughs.
“The other [guest] musicians brought the tunes back to life with a modern twist. I got so jacked to hear these songs with so much talent playing on them … and come on guys from bands we grew up listening to and admiring playing your tunes ... it doesn't get any more humbling than that.”
“This is a super proud moment, not [for me], but for Mikey Hawdon,” he says.
“Such a cool ability to pull together leading artists to have fun, be relevant, timely and awesome. Such an honour.”
“To see where [Hawdon’s] gone from being a scrawny kid in a mosh pit at the Windsor to where he is now is astonishing to me,” he laughs.
“I love what he's done to resurrect a time in our lives that we'll never forget … I'll always love the 206 guys like brothers.”
Soolebrity Records is currently taking pre-orders for the limited edition of 2 Innies and 1 Outie.
“Unfortunately because it's such a small run, each record will be $40. It's expensive, but certainly, a collector's item and I know they'll go fast. I've already had a lot of pre-orders.”
Watch a promotional video for the vinyl re-release of Room 206’s album here.