Less than a year after the death of The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, the remaining members of the iconic Canadian band are opening up about the grieving process as they embark on a new venture together.
ET Canada’s Carlos Bustamante was in Creemore, Ont. with band members Gord Sinclair, Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, who say the outpouring from fans following Downie’s death from brain cancer in October 2017 was unsurprising.
“We weren’t surprised at all to be perfectly honest,” says Sinclair of the fan support. “We felt it ourselves in a completely different way, and sort of a deeper way. We’ve been together a really long time. We’ve always approached this band as a family from the days back when we were a young band driving across the country, you get to know each other really well and that’s the great thing about being a band in Canada and that’s what breaks up is smelling each other’s stinky feet for [a] 14-hour drive to Kenora. And we kind of like each other’s stinky feet and we stayed together through the whole thing.”
Langlois says Downie was “crushed” that his inevitable death would mean the end of The Hip and lobbied for replacement vocalists to step in for him when he was gone.
“It’s still pretty fresh and it crushed Gord that The Hip wasn’t going to be,” Langlois explains. “Matter of fact, he was constantly saying we should continue, ‘What about this guy?’ or ‘What about this girl?’ And you know at a certain period he was talking that way. And it was like, ‘No way, man you got to stop.’ I think we are all still adjusting,” he adds.
For Baker, performing without Downie wasn’t an option.
“When I say The Tragically Hip doesn’t exist as a performing unit anymore because a key member is gone, I think [fans] understand that,” he says. “We wouldn’t be The Hip without Gord. We worked together musically, we’ve done various things together on musical fronts, collaborated on projects and you know these guys are my brothers and I love them dearly, but The Hip has played their last time.”
Though the band may no longer have any gigs, they are still friends and business partners who say being together is a way to honour Downie’s memory. The band announced their partnership with the federally-licensed medical marijuana grower Up Cannabis in May 2017 and collaborated with the Up North event in Creemore this week.
“Gord was a really big fan of this company and the people and working with the right people. And these guys at Up aren’t pushing to be the biggest or buying their way to the top,” Sinclair says. “Maybe it’s time to we tried something different. We think about our involvement with these guys and just when we are all together, we are honouring Gord and it’s a cool thing.”