Sometimes being a one hit wonder is not such a bad thing. Just ask The Trevors.
The Toronto band, fronted by guitarists/vocalists Trevor Speith and Trevor (“T.J.” a/k/a “Hooker”) Phelps, was formed in 1997 and put out their eponymous self-produced and self-distributed album The Trevors in 1998. (Coincidentally, the bass player and drummer were both named Mary; the band decided against using that name.) The album—the cover of which featured a blurred photo of Phelps’ then-girlfriend Mallory Green (flamboyant accordionist for local Rolling Stones polka tribute YaYa)—sold poorly and received no airplay; after several months, the band resorted to giving out free copies at gigs.
Fortunately, one copy of the CD ended up via an enthusiastic intern at entertainment production company Germination, where a producer decided that the third track “Rectangular Love” (which Phelps had penned following a particularly shameful series of trysts during his second and final year at McGill) would be perfect as the theme song for the new project Pi Times (an adult “dramedy” that revolved around the lives—and somewhat incestuous loves—of the junior mathematics faculty at fictional Vancouver Polytechnic Institute). Germination offered to pay The Trevors $125 per airing for the right to use the song in the show, which the band thought was generous under the circumstances.
Eager for new material to engage an essential demographic, the CBC optioned Pi Times, committing to ten episodes. The show debuted in January 1999; however, only five episodes aired before the network pulled the plug. Ratings were low. The critical consensus would be summarized by the reviewer for the Star, who called Pi Times “an abominable, patently not funny and not particularly dramatic mash-up of Friends and Ally McBeal, featuring a bunch of mildly attractive but boring math nerds we don’t and shouldn’t care about.”
One good thing did arise out of the Pi Times debacle (in addition to The Trevors pocketing an unexpected $625): the theme song (which the Star critic called “the only palatable thing in the entire hour—unfortunately, it was at the beginning”) received substantial airplay on Canadian radio following viewer requests. This prompted Seattle independent label Polytone Records to sign the band in order to distribute The Trevors; based on the strength of the TV theme, the CD sold reasonably well for a mediocre album by an unknown band, and “Love” cracked the U.S. charts. The Trevors were booked on side stages at numerous North American outdoor festivals, routinely playing six or seven songs to hundreds. It was fun, if not particularly remunerative. And they never could capture the same lightning as “Love.” (Speith tried to pen a peppy song about an embarrassing typo incident during his medieval poetry seminar but got stuck.) When CD sales started to drop and tour invites dried up in 2003, the band members decided it was time to shut it down—which they did with a huge party at Spanky McDougal’s in Queen West, where they had their first gig. The band reformed only once, for the wedding of bassist Mary Geist and drummer Mary Toothe in April 2005.
But the story of The Trevors does not end there. In 2012, long after Pi Times had been forgotten by the few who had seen it, an archivist at Blitzen (successor company to Germination) found a set of the original episodes. Showing them to co-workers, something unusual happened; the group thought that the material was fresh, funny and engaging. They actually cared about these math geeks! The tapes made their way to some producers who decided the time might be right to take another crack at Pi Times. After running it by three test audiences, Germination pulled the trigger and the entire 10 episodes went into rotation on the Hallo cable network in 2013. Viewership numbers prompted Blitzen to commission scripts for a second season; several of the original cast members (now almost 15 years older) were contacted with the idea of showing what the nerds were up to in their 40s after kids, divorces, Fieldses and the like. The second season was complete in early 2015; after considering a new theme song (options from the Foo Fighters and Alicia Keys were proposed), the producers decided to stick with “Rectangular Love” for continuity. Season Two was even more of a hit than Season One. Ultimately, the show moved over to HBO (where it ran for five years). Seasons One and Two also were sold into syndication on local networks across North America. The resurrection of Pi Times resulted in literally thousands of airings over the years—for each of which The Trevors (the three surviving members plus Speith’s widow Mallory Green-Speith) were paid $125 (after they discovered what was going on and filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce their 1998 agreement with Germination). Plus, CD sales (now digital downloads) started ticking up for the first time in over a decade.
The Trevors didn’t get rich rich off of “Rectangular Love,” but they did make some bank and purchased a few cars and household appliances. Who would have known?