Ivan Doroschuk of Men Without Hats has lived in Victoria for the better part of 20 years, which will be news to many.
Out of the limelight and far removed from music epicentres like New York City or Los Angeles, the singer-songwriter is relatively anonymous around these parts, despite having written a pair of enduring pop hits and starring in one of the most singular music videos in history. For someone who makes his living in the public eye, he could not have scripted it any better.
“I can go out anywhere,” Doroschuk, 64, said. “I’ve had somebody call out my name [on the street in Victoria] once or twice in almost 20 years.”
The author of The Safety Dance and Pop Goes the World, two hugely popular hits from the 1980s, kept a low profile in Victoria while he raised his son, who graduated from high school last year. Doroshcuk has now turned his full attention back to the group he founded in 1977, with brothers Colin and Stefan Doroschuk, and on Friday released a new Men Without Hats album (Again, Part 2) in stores and online.
Doroshuck reformed the Grammy-nominated synth-pop group in 2010, and celebrated its return with a comeback appearance at Victoria’s Rifflandia festival. Doroshcuk, who was the only original member in the group at the time, made the comeback official with a new recording, Love in the Age of War, in 2012.
Men Without Hats did not fully coalesce again until 2016, when Colin Doroschuk rejoined the group, with his daughter, singer Sahara Sloan, and guitarist Sho Murray in tow. That is the line-up that recorded Again, Part 1 in 2021 and Again, Part 2 last year.
The Doroshucks and Sloan all live in Victoria, with Murray bouncing between Vancouver and Victoria. The group relocated to a rented house atop the Malahat to record the new album, and spent almost a year in isolation putting the new songs to tape in a mobile studio. “I didn’t move for nine months,” Doroschuk said.
“It was an old-school way of making a record. I didn’t need any inspiration to get up and go to work.”
The band is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its debut, Rhythm of Youth — which is home to The Safety Dance — with a run of live dates. An international tour beginning in May takes the group to the United Kingdown and Germany, before a return to the U.S. for summer festival season. A North American run is scheduled for September, Doroshcuk said. A Victoria stop is liable to happen, but one has not yet been confirmed.
Doroshcuk is enjoying the road life at present, moreso than he did 10 years ago. His voice is strong, and the comraderie between Men Without Hats and other acts of its ilk — from Berlin, The Human League and Modern English to Bow Wow Wow, Devo and The B-52’s — has the vibe of “a big, huge family,” he said.
“Ourselves and the other people out there touring — the vintage acts — they are doing it because they enjoy doing it. No one is doing it to pay the rent.”
Doroschuk is expected to be doing well financially, considering he’s credited as the sole songwriter on the band’s biggest hits. Bands with popular songs and albums in the 1980s were paid via the old revenue model — record sales — and Men Without Hats sold milions of copies at one point. Now, in the streaming era, the majority of Doroshcuk’s income is generated through licensing opportunities and tour dates, of which there are no shortage.
Not every act from the ’80s is so fortunate. Doroschuk and Men Without Hats are regarded as pioneers in the synth-pop genre, which has become a dominant force in pop music today. A-list acts like The Killers are direct descendants of Men Without Hats, whose sound rarely goes out of style. The Safety Dance remains an unequivocal classic today, with a list of fans that includes rising star Angel Olsen (who covered the song on her 2021 EP, Aisles) to Noel Gallagher of Oasis (who told Doroschuk he appreciated his lyrics).
The Simpsons even referenced the song in one episode.“Weird” Al Yankovic parodied it, and Beavis and Butthead celebrated it. Need we say more?
“That’s one of the reasons we can keep doing this,” Doroshuk said. “I turn on the radio, I hear ’80s influences all over the place. A lot of people ask me if I find it hard to fit in with current trends. I don’t. The current trends fit in with me. I don’t have to fit in at all. I’m perfectly at home with what is going on.”