Feature: Tiny Danza, Toronto’s not-so-hidden stage commanders

tinydanzaWe chat with Tiny Danza about the music, what’s in store for the year and what life’s been like since their Indie Week win
By: Sheena Lyonnais
February 1, 2012

It’s dark and I’m crammed into a back corner with 2/5 members from Toronto’s Tiny Danza. The room is full of, well, seemingly everyone: photographers, pretty girls, hipster boys, sunglasses, non-participating band members. There are cupcakes on the table with the band members’ names and faces on them, a sentiment from a super fan earned after TD’s 2011 Indie Week win. They offer me one nicely and although I admit the cupcakes look delicious, I decline. Eating the faces of people I’m interviewing seems kinda weird. Plus, there’s more important things to do – like talk about Tiny Danza’s whirlwind of a life since winning a trip to Ireland to also play Indie Week there.

“You grind hard all of a sudden we’ve done more in the past six months than we have in six years,” rapper Galen Hogg says. “The dynamic within the band has even changed because we’re happy. The arguments, everything that happens when five friends make a band together, start to become easier. With success comes happiness comes friendliness.”

We’re at Tiny Danza’s Christmas party at the El Mocambo and already the night is ripe with energy. Not a busy crowd yet, but an attentive one. United we watch TALWST, a Toronto R&B performer with nice, smooth vocals known previously (at least by my iPod) for his remixes under Curtis Santiago. It’s solid, but not immediately striking, however all this changes the second he raps. TALWST is a fantastic rapper, golden even. His song “Woman” is pure love making to your ears. “We fuck, we fight, we fuck, we laugh…” It got stuck in my head and never left, telling considering I meant to post this piece a month ago. TALWST can write a mean hook.


Tiny Danza takes the stage and by now the crowd has multiplied both in numbers and inebriation. TD is an incredibly original, fantastically smooth band that is captivating to watch. Their first single “Beat Fly” landed them acclaim on CBC radio 3, across North America and the pond. It’s even available for download on Rock Band for Xbox and PS3. Comprised of Hogg and Andrew Craig on vox, Matt Russo on guitar, Andrew Santaguida on keys (and bass) and Nick Shao on drums, Tiny Danza fuses funk, R&B, soul, pop and luscious soft beats rimmed with feel-good-yet-danger-laced lyrics.

They’re a riot, a scene, sporting mostly white and mildly obnoxious sunglasses to match dapper rockstar attitudes that fly a little early, but come with the image. And on stage they bring pretty girls in sexy, slutty Santa outfits who toss glow sticks into the audience. I watch one spill on the floor and I want to write my name in glow-in-the-dark toxic paint, but obviously I don’t. Tiny Danza is very much a live band, an entertaining act that never disappoints. It’s almost theatre. If you have the chance you must go see them. Not convinced? Check out this clip of the band performing “Elvis Presley” from the show below:


Now let’s go back.

All five members of Tiny Danza went to the Etobicoke School of The Arts together in Rexdale, something Hogg credits to the band’s hip-hop influences. “Growing up in the 90’s, hip hop was the only thing that anybody listened to in Rexdale. You go to a party and there’s a freestyle circle in every room,” he says.

After high school, Hogg and Craig moved to Montreal in part for school, but also to perform hip-hop together in an act called Half Life. The rest of the band started a folk group. Santaguida studied piano at the Conservatory of Music while Russo and Shao studied jazz at the University of Toronto. But the time came for the trio to spice things up and implement some of those Rexdale influences, so they called on an old friend. “We wrote and performed a track at a show and everyone liked it so we did a couple more. We thought this is way more fun to just be crazy and rap – and the audience liked it more. It was a natural transition,” Hogg says.

Tiny Danza will be heading down to SXSW in March then back to Toronto for Canadian Music Week. In May, the band will head to Ireland to perform at that Indie Week festival followed by yet-to-be-announced dates across Europe. And on top of that, they’re working on tracks for a new album that may or may not drop this year. No promises folks, these cats are busy. In the meantime you can grab last year’s You Could Have It All album here free for a limited time.

For more info check out: www.tinydanza.com

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