Kowalewicz, nearing 30, admits Billy Talent won't be next week's TRL darlings. He'd rather see the band remembered like Faith No More: underrated and still deemed cool even a decade after it broke up. Like FNM's Mike Patton, Kowalewicz has vocals that give Billy Talent its signature sound, one that draws heavily on hardcore and late-1970s British punk. "Yeah, that's where my vocal styling comes from," says Kowalewicz, who sported a Buzzcocks T-shirt at Buzzfest. "We think of the Clash as the template of what kind of band we want to be -- you know, they played ska, rockabilly and punk and weren't afraid to branch out -- that was punk rock, not the look they had or anything else."
Eleven years ago in the Toronto suburbs, Billy Talent began life as Pezz, but a name change became necessary when a U.S. band with the same name threatened some good ol' American litigation. Kowalewicz picked the new name after watching the cult-fave punk mockumentary Hard Core Logo, which included a drummer by the name of Billy Talent. Many a cross-Canadian tour in mind-numbing 30-below temperatures left the quartet "a little wiser, all chewed up and spit out" and fueled the band's desire to attract a big label -- in this case, Atlantic.
Another partially masticated and digested person -- specifically, a streetwalking prostitute -- was the inspiration for their self-titled album's best cut, the resplendent-with-power-chords "Standing in the Rain." The song showcases Kowalewicz's most powerful lyrics; the young woman is characterized as a "milk carton mug-shot baby missing since 1983."
"I saw this same girl a few times who was my age, and I kept wondering what horrible things were forced upon her to make that choice," he recalls. "The words 'standing in the rain' kept going through my head. I thought 'Roxanne' was a clever way to write a song about a prostitute, but their real-life existence is this 'do a line of coke and fuck' thing. I didn't want to glorify it."