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The Leslie Spit Treeo

First off, there's no one named Leslie Spit (the Leslie Spit is a topographical landmark on the harbor front of the group's hometown of Toronto, Ontario) and no, it's not spelled as in a three-person group. It's just possible that the "tree" spelling is a mildly scatological pun based on the fact that the core of the group was singer Laura Hubert, guitarist Pat Langer, and their dog, Tag (who appeared on stage with the group and was also listed as their manager and president of their record company). The Leslie Spit Treeo formed in Toronto in 1988 when Hubert, Langer, Tag, acoustic guitarist Jack Nicholsen, bassist Frank Randazzo, and drummer Graeme Kirkland coalesced from the remnants of several local rock, folk, and jazz groups. After a period spent busking on the streets, local indie filmmaker Bruce McDonald discovered the group and offered them a pivotal scene and prominent soundtrack placement in his first feature, Road Kill. The added exposure got the group an offer from EMI Music Canada, which released their first album, Don't Cry Too Hard, in 1990.

1992's Book of Rejection was a difficult album to make, thanks to record company interference, and the group spent a fair amount of time in legal limbo trying to get extricated from its EMI contract. In the meantime, Nicholsen and the rest of the band left, leaving Hubert, Langer, and Tag. The group shortened its name to the Spits (which was what most fans had called them in the first place) and spent six months on a remote Native American reservation in northern Ontario, working with McDonald on his third film, 1993's Dance Me Outside. Following that filmic sojourn, Hubert and Langer scraped together enough money to record and press their third album, Hell's Kitchen, named after their favorite restaurant in Toronto's Kensington Market. The album was released under the Spits name in 1994, but when initial sales were disappointing, the group reverted to its original name and reissued the disc in 1995.

For their next album, Hubert and Langer went all out, recording a brilliant two-disc hodgepodge of live tracks, new studio material, favorite covers, and giddy psychedelic weirdness. It was all tied together with a story line featuring McDonald's favorite actor/screenwriter, Don McKellar, as the president of Monee Records, manipulating the chipmunk-voiced group the Spitkins. A thinly disguised fable based on the group's nightmarish experiences with EMI, the storyline tied together the diffuse material into a coherent whole. To top it all off, the group called the album Chocolate Chip Cookies, after the fable's central metaphor, and packaged it in a white paper bag with a stick-on label that closely modeled the trademarks for Christie's Cookies, the Canadian division of Nabisco. Predictably, a lawsuit followed, as was a heavily publicized ceremonial burning of the remaining unsold packaging in front of Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto and the reissue of the album in more conventional packaging.

Hubert, Langer, and Tag, along with a new set of backing musicians, toured in 1997 and 1998, and announced plans to write a rock opera. Unfortunately, Hubert and Langer, a longtime couple, split up before any further projects could be undertaken. Hubert hooked up with jazz pianist Peter Hill and reinvented herself as a torch singer. Her first solo album, My Girlish Ways, was issued in 2001. ~ Stewart Mason, Rovi
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