The Dirty Nil’s Smite
In the last three years, the Dirty Nil have become one of the hottest live bands in the city. Their music has captured the imagination of a disenfranchised youth and offer a music that while building on important musical touchstones is truly original sounding and authentic. With a mean age of 23, the Dirty Nil aren’t afraid to cover Iggy and the Stooges, David Bowie or the Replacements but in a style all of their own. Steeped in distortion and performing in the reds, the Dirty Nil are loud, brash, and exciting — as documented on a couple of 7–inch singles in as many years — but the Dirty Nil are not an overnight sensation having honed their craft over the last eight years. With their newest 10–inch vinyl release, Smite, the Dirty Nil offers a defining collection of songs.
“I wanted to play music that I wrote in a band and Kyle [Fisher] was the only person that would play with me because I couldn’t really play guitar, write or sing,” recalls singer/guitarist Luke Bentham on the band’s origins back in 2006. “I knew Kyle since kindergarten. Truth be told, Kyle couldn’t really play drums either so it was kind of like a learning experience for both of us. We played the same few riffs for hours and hours on end that summer and then we slowly evolved into playing proper songs with the more shows we played. We had an EP worth of material and released that. At the time we were a two-piece, [future Nil bassist] Dave [Nardi] was the only other person at Highland high school that was making music that I thought was good.
“I went away to school after we released that EP and spent a year by myself trying to formulate ideas for a follow up,” adds Bentham. “I was having a terrible time at school and we were basically going to fold the band because it seemed I was shit out of ideas. Everything I was coming up with I thought was just terrible. One of our mutual friends suggested we play with Dave and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. That day we jammed and we already had new songs. It opened up a creative spring. It was one of the happiest times of my life once we got back on track with that. Initially I had the idea of Dave on this really distorted fender Rhodes but we had this shitty bass and plugged it in really distorted and he played it like a guitar player. After that, it made sense and it felt really good.
“I was very happy to join,” smiles Nardi. “Being a kid in high school, the bands I was in weren’t real and we’d hardly play. The Nil were actually playing real shows with out of town bands and I’d go see them every chance I got and help carry amps or helping carry Luke off the stage. I was always around and they were the only band that remotely seemed like a real band. When they asked me, it was no brainer.”
While their debut CDEP showed great promise, as a trio the Dirty Nil expanded their sound and focused their intent. The Saccharine Visceral CDEP released in the spring of 2009 would only offer an inkling of what was to come. It was once they began contemplating recordings for a new release that perspectives changed, the sound developed a visceral quality and the Dirty Nil’s concept on releasing music mutated.
“We did a recording session in the winter of 2010,” explains Bentham. “We did eight or nine songs that we initially thought we would release as an album but once we’d done recording them we sat in a different place. We toyed with the mixing for a while with Mike Kiere. We sat there mixing them for way too long. At the end of it, we knew we wanted to release the song “Fuckin’ Up Young” as a single. So we decided to do vinyl and focus on that. We got a game plan to have that be the first substantial and that was our first really public release.”
The song was a battle cry for a new generation of would be slackers reveling in their own misspent youth and the Dirty Nil was leading the pack. A focus on more immediate smaller vinyl releases seemed a more effective way to keep fans appeased. So the Nil released “Little Baby Metal Fist”, the “Zombie Eyed” split 7–inch with the Northern Primitive and then a couple of online releases and the development of the Dirty Nil Record Club with special 7–inch lathe cut releases. It all helped to keep the music flowing, and keep the band as interested as the fans.
“It’s nice to know we’ve always got something going on, even if we don’t have a normal record coming out,” notes Nardi. “We all liked the aspects of vinyl and this was a great way to make the most of the music we had recorded.”
Steeped in distortion, singing near screaming at the top of his register, Bentham and the Dirty Nil offer compact and potent blasts of ragged beauty on each song on “Smite”. The music on the album and the band itself could best be described in Bentham’s reasoning for choosing such an album title. The Dirty Nil aren’t out to kill the competition or any such cliché, the Dirty Nil are simply making amazing music, a music they’ve long since wanted to make and with any luck, there will be much more where this came from.
“What we’re doing now is what we always wanted to do and what we always have been trying to do — I like violent melodies — melodies with some power behind it and some rough edges,” says Bentham. “I wasn’t listening to a lot of outside music, the songs all have a uniform sound, it’s just a product of us learning how to make music together again.”
“We like to say we’re a rock and roll band,” adds Nardi. “We don’t categorize it. It might be cliché but we play what comes natural and don’t say this song has to be more punk or melodic or whatever. Technically, we are an independent rock band since we’ve done this by ourselves without a major label but I don’t think we identify with indie rock. I think of style over substance might be more indie rock.”
“A term like indie rock is so convoluted and so diluted,” concludes Bentham. “My idea of indie rock is that we don’t have a label and we’re pressing records ourselves. We do whatever we want to do but assigning any sonic character to that… We have short songs, usually pretty strained vocals and solid melodies. We called the new record “Smite” because it’s violent and short and it’s easy to tell people and it just sounded good.”
The Dirty Nil play this Saturday March 29 at the Spice Factory (121 Hughson St N) with Nice Head, Sensei, and So Young. Doors open at 8pm and tickets are $10 in advance. Click on http://thedirtynil.bandcamp.com/
The Mackinaws are one of the newest names on the local stage but have a lifelong history of making music together. Greg Cain (guitar, vocals) and Bryce Green (drums) lived across the street from each other when they were only three years old. Cain met Michael Tokarchuk (lead guitar, vocals) in Grade 7 and began playing in middle school classic rock cover bands. Mike’s cousin, Adam Tokarchuk (bass, vocals), would join the crew during high school and by the end of high school, they’d jam out on songs by The Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, CCR, Blink 182 and more. As high school ended, they’d begin developing their own identity with their own songs and this weekend the Mackinaws offer their debut disc.
“Me and Mike have been playing guitar together since we were thirteen, and we’ve always been interested in the same type of music whether it’s rock, country, blues or folk,” offers Cain. “When all four of us started jamming together near the end of high school, we went under the name The Great Divide after the song by the band called Across the Great Divide. We started performing live in September 2012; our first show was opening up for The Zilis for their first album release. We’ve been performing live consistently ever since, slowly writing more and more original material. We changed our name because The Great Divide had already been taken by a bunch of bands. We needed something original, and we felt The Mackinaws would do the trick. It took us a while to think of something after we dropped The Great Divide name. We actually went into recording at Porcelain as The Great Divide and came out as The Mackinaws. It just sounded really unique and Canadian.”
Recorded at Porcelain Records with producer Steve Bigas and engineer Marcone, The Mackinaws debut is catchy and competent, fraught with energy immediately grab your attention with some catchy radio friendly rock numbers.
“We recorded live off the floor because we felt most comfortable that way,” reasons Cain. “I think we are all most comfortable behind our instruments. Having to sing without playing guitar at the same time is kind of awkward for us; it works best when we’re all playing together at once. Also, that’s the way that the majority of my favourite music was recorded in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and I think that being able to record that way shows a level of musicianship. It almost feels unnatural to record songs piece by piece.
“On the album there is a lot of musical diversity, just because we love so many different genres of music,” adds Cain. “We all write and sing, so whatever we write we usually want to sing ourselves but if somebody comes in with an idea they usually aren’t entirely complete and then we piece it together as a band. We also add background vocals and harmonies on each other’s songs to try and make the vocals more interesting. Our drummer Bryce also added harmonies on the recordings. We’ve always been impressed by bands like The Band, The Beatles and Kiss, who have more than one lead singer.”
With a mandate of keeping things fun, the Mackinaws are proud to officially release their debut CD this weekend with some old friends in tow.
“We’re really just four buddies who love playing music together and we’re going to keep doing that as long as it keeps being fun for us,” says Cain. “It’s difficult juggling school, work and the band, but we all love it and it keeps us busy. We’re really excited to formally release the album on Friday because it our first album as a band, and as individual musicians. We’re very proud of how it turned out, and hopefully it’s the first of many. Our CD release party should be a great night full of live rock and roll. If you like rock and roll, hopefully you’ll like us. Also, the other 3 bands are great so we want everyone to come out and support local music.”
The Mackinaws play this Friday March 28 at The Casbah with the Zilis, the Bandicoots and Fever City. Doors at 9pm. Tickets are $5 for 19 and over, $8 for all ages. Click on themackinaws.ca.
Redanda’s Reverse Tranny Club
Redanda have been building their reputation as a solid garage rock quartet over some three EPs, expanding on their garage rock sound with their Foosball release last year. But for their fourth collection of songs dubbed Reverse Tranny Club, Corey Wright (guitar, vocals), Curtis Hunter (drums) Chris Druiven (lead guitar) and Connor Wright (bass) offer a little more of the old before they hunker down for their newest album.
“Foosball was super fun, and that sort of reggae tinge is still something we explore a lot, thought lately not to that height,” offers Wright. “The five tracks we’ve just released were sort of our last stripped–down garage rock tunes we had kicking around. We feel like the five are a nice cohesive release and a good pre–cursor to what we have planned next. There wasn’t too much exploration away from what we’ve done in the past; in fact, two of the five are very old Redanda songs. We did record some of these tracks in the Foosball sessions but none of those actual recordings made it onto the new record, we just re–recorded what we had previously done. Reverse Tranny Club is a mix of old and new.
“This title is a funny thing,” adds Wright. “It just came about in the studio talking about this and that. When it comes down to it, it just sounds good, it’s a cool title. And we knew full well that anyone interested in the release would have questions or something to say about it. Some responses have been funny, one blog simply said something like “no, sorry, you can’t use that word”, and it’s like “well, we did”. We made it clear we weren’t referring to one thing or another specifically, that is why we provided four definitions of the term when sending it out to people. So really, one blog’s response is purely that blog associating the term ‘tranny’ with something negative. In all definitions of the word, we see nothing negative at all. As for its representation of the songs themselves, that’s up to the listener to decide. For me personally I like the automobile transmission definition in relation to some of the guitar sounds on the record that sound to me like a motor.”
With a new release of music for fans, Redanda continue to do what they do best and simply take to the stage to rock out, this weekend opening for some rock and roll buddies.
“We’ve recently been working on our performances; we’ve devised a pretty awesome set list of old and new Redanda,” says Wright. “We’ll be doing a couple covers too which is something we don’t do often. We love playing together and we love playing in front of people, and we want to entertain you. We’ve got some brand new material we’ll be playing that should be fun. The kids should check out the show because the world of movies, house parties and nightclubs is fun and all but there’s a whole rock and roll world that’s hidden and it’s way better. We just want to deliver the message, you know?” V
Redanda play this Friday March 28 at This Ain’t Hollywood opening for the Great Machine, City and the Sea, and Navy Skies. Doors are at 9pm and $8 gets you in. Click on www.redandamusic.bandcamp.com