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News Thursday, February 24, 2000

Socked by celebrity

... but McMaster & James can roll with it

By LISA WILTON
Calgary Sun

Some bands get bras and panties thrown at them on stage -- McMaster & James have to dodge socks.

 "We've had a few weird things thrown at us," says Rob James, one-half of the Winnipeg-based duo opening for Prozzak tonight at the Saddledome.

 "We did a free New Year's concert in Winnipeg and some girl threw her socks on onstage and used that as an excuse to come up on stage in the middle of the performance.

 "We were looking around going, 'Is this normal?' "

 The 22-year-old singer is slowly acclimatizing to his new-found celebrity -- brought on by the national success of Love Wins Everytime, the first single from the group's self-titled debut album -- but admits he still feels a little uncomfortable in the spotlight at times.

 "I don't think I'll ever get used to it, personally," he says during a phone interview from Red Deer.

 "I'm pretty shy and quiet ... I usually stay home and watch TV.

 "It's very, very interesting. It never ceases to amaze me that people I don't know will recognize me.

 "It's quite encouraging, though. Even if they hate you, they're noticing you."

 Not surprisingly, James' and partner Luke McMaster's trendy, clean-cut good looks and soul-based pop songs often get the duo compared to the glut of other boy bands that have saturated the airwaves for the past few years.

 What is surprising, however, is how readily James accepts the comparisons.

 While he does say that M&J are more R&B than other popular boy bands such as The Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync -- whom they opened for during the latter's Canadian tour last year -- James doesn't spend half the interview trying to justify their existence.

 "I think it comes with the territory," he says.

 "We don't mind being lumped in with those hugely successful bands simply because they are hugely successful.

 "We don't mind identifying with that particular part of it.

 "When you listen to the music, it does sound a bit different and I think anybody that listens to the music will hear those same differences."

 One thing that sets McMaster & James apart from many of the disposable pop acts these days is they actually have a hand in writing the songs they perform.

 Though it is still a collaborative effort between the two performers and their Winnipeg-based producers, James says he is happy with the freedom they have.

 "On this particular album, there's a quite a bit about our lives," he says.

 "A lot of the songs tend to focus on relationships with girlfriends or friends.

 "That's basically the experience we have to draw from.

 "We write about what we know and what we feel."

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