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Upon graduating from Montreal's McGill University, Roberts concentrated on a group called Northstar. He disappeared from the music scene for a year or two following Northstar's 1998 collapse, but The Inhuman Condition, an independently issued EP from 2001 that contained a nascent version of "Don't Walk Away Eileen," garnered critical plaudits and sold well enough to capture the attention of Universal Records' Canadian division. Shortly after Flame, his debut for the imprint, chalked up its Juno victories, Lost Highway, one of Universal's U.S. branches, came calling. "We'd been talking with some other labels, but Lost Highway was the first company that really fit what we were looking for," he notes. "Although I'm sure they wouldn't mind an instant hit, they didn't expect one, and they were fine with allowing us to develop at a speed that's true to the kind of band we are -- a touring band."
Roberts is working hard to gain a foothold in America, but his thoughts are never far from Canada. The chorus of "The Canadian Dream," a track that was left off the U.S. version of Flame, contains the lines "Socialism is here to stay/Socialism is the only way," and he doesn't mean that ironically. "In Canada, we make the lives of our neighbors as important as our own," he says. "It's not just the celebration of the individual. It's the celebration of the collective."
He won't be lauding the Montreal Canadiens for a while, given that National Hockey League owners have locked out players over a labor dispute. In his view, the interruption, and possible elimination, of the NHL season "is a huge mistake, because hockey's in such a fragile state. They need every fan they can get."
When it comes to Colorado, Roberts knows the feeling.