Pot-smoking Ottawa band goes viral after being featured on high school literacy exam

​It usually takes a lot for a band to break through, but an Ottawa-based group has been thrust into the spotlight after going viral in a very unlikely way: being featured in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT).

Dubé thrust into spotlight after students discover band’s new image

Dubé went viral after students discovered their provocative new image after an old article about them was used in a province-wide literacy exam. (Dubé/YouTube)

It usually takes a lot for a band to break through, but an Ottawa-based group has been thrust into the spotlight after going viral in a very unlikely way: being featured in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT).

This year's exam featured a 2013 Toronto Star story about the Brothers Dubé, a band of three brothers who lost their mother in 2008 and were raising money for cancer research. The story focused on the band opening for The Beach Boys at the CNE.

However, when students searched for what the band was up to now, they found it has taken on a dramatically different image. 

Gone are the days of opening for 'a 60s surf-rock band. Today, they're far more provocative —  even tearing pages of what appears to be a Bible and using it to roll and smoke a joint in the music video for their song Alien.

Going viral

The band's grittier image got students talking on Twitter and sparked a number of memes.

The band, which now simply goes by Dubé, says they were a bit surprised by their sudden surge in popularity, but they have taken it all in stride.

"We were really taken aback by the amount of positive feedback that we got from people," band member Jig Dubé said. "We got so many comments from people saying, 'Wow, you were the best part of the test. I'm pretty sure I passed because of you guys.'"

The band says since going viral they have interacted with students online. Jig says the student have been inspired by Dubé's evolution.

He adds having read the Toronto Star story makes it seem like their new fans have been with them since the beginning.

"We've always in the business of supporting young people, and to see that all these young people have come out saying, 'Wow, I actually took something and I was able to apply it in my personal life from a test,' that's something that's really special to us," Jig said.

Among the positive comments was a reference to the controversy around the pot-smoking scene from Alien.

The band says it was supposed to empower kids and needs to be taken in context with the song and the other images in the video.

Brothers Liam, Jig and Quinn Dubé were surprised by the response students had to their band. (CBC)

"It definitely wasn't a religious statement of any kind. It was more of a representation of how kids rebel and where you'll find youth culture rebelling against the establishment," Jig said.

"It's a natural thing, and that's something that we wanted to play on for this song in particular. We didn't necessarily think that it would be something that would be included in an academic test."

Article and band were vetted: EQAO

Dube's sudden change from opening for The Beach Boys to smoking up in Alien caught the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) off guard.

The EQAO oversees the OSSLT and said the reading selection went through a three-year vetting process, but after the article was last vetted in September 2017, the band radically changed its image.

"The band's website and content [were] vetted on several occasions — the last time being September 2017 — and no flags were raised in terms of offensive content," EQAO spokesperson Mark Ruban told CBC Toronto in a statement.

"Later in the fall of 2017, the band appeared to have rebranded itself and changed the image they had maintained for many years. This rebranding included a name change and the posting of a video that, had it been available at the time, would not have cleared EQAO's vetting process."

But for Dubé, they say they're happy that they've found new fans and are looking forward to their new tour, which starts on April 20, or 4/20, in their hometown.

"They want to see us go on tour, and they want to see us continue be on a band,"Jig said. "We're doing the same thing we were doing three or four days ago, but now we're doing it with all of these kids who are pushing us as much as they can to get us in front of other people."

With files from Farrah Merali