WTCHS Release 'It's Not a Cross, It's a Curse!' on Sonic Unyon
Jeremy Alexander Gilbank or Jag, Matthew Junkin, David Richard Mater and Tori Tizzard came together to form WTCHS in the fall of 2011. With a common interest in gear collecting, in exploring what wild sounds they could create with that gear and in finding more people that felt the same, the band WTCHS begat a label and zine dubbed Perdu and an expanding community of kindred spirits. In less than three years, WTCHS have accomplished a lot but with their recent signing with Sonic Unyon for their new release, It’s Not a Cross, It’s a Curse, WTCHS seems destined for a lot more.
“In the beginning, it was just about finding our voice, what we liked and jamming on all the ideas we had,” remembers Jag. “We’re all friends, the best recipe for any band. We’ve been focused and driven to play as many shows and put out release as we could fit into our lives. We’ve been successful in accomplishing that. It’s something that just comes naturally though. We have the best times when we go away to play shows. These have been the stories from day one, playing shows with friends and making new ones. This is the journey we’ve had. It's about friends and loving those friends.
“I think the community has always existed, we’ve just been really focused on wanting to share it with as many people as possible,” adds Jag. “It’s about the process that we’re big on, going through our daily lives and letting those around us inspire and fuel our creativity. We’re just really big on supporting our friends and through sharing [Matthew Junkin] Junk’s art with zines/releases/posters. We’ve connected with the most amazing people and have fostered lifelong relationships. That’s success, that’s all we’ve ever wanted to do. But it’s an honour to now be a part of that history that is Sonic Unyon. It still doesn’t feel real yet. From years of watching videos in the late ‘90s on MuchMusic to now being on the roster, it’s an honour, we’re speechless. Growing up we’ve all been big fans of anything Sonic Unyon ever did, from visiting the store and finding weird vinyl to watching the fuzziest ‘90s rock shows at dirty small clubs. Hamilton is home, Sonic Unyon feels like home. We just want to continue playing live shows, meeting new people and writing new songs.”
Sonic Unyon’s history releasing bands like Tristan Psionic, Sianspheric and more seems a natural fit for WTCHS. Produced by the band and Adam Sturgeon, It’s Not a Cross, It’s a Curse is fifteen minutes of dark, cavernous, atmospheric and noisy post–punk, angular rock pressed one side of a 12–inch white vinyl record.
“Adam sturgeon presented us the opportunity to make a record that would sound and feel like our live performance, loud and intense,” offers Jag. “We recorded with the strong intention to do a lot of overdubs and just fill up the space sonically with weird, wirey guitars and layers of vocals. To have the ability to create in a new way as opposed to our standard couple mics in a room and press record was such a learning experience, it just made us more excited to get back in and start recording new material. This is a record that has been a long time coming. We originally recorded it and we had scheduled it to be released last fall but decided to take a different approach and layer sound upon sound to create and finish an album.”
With the new Sonic Unyon/Perdu release, Jag and WTCHS will remain tastemakers in underground sounds but the label signing doesn’t mean they’re rock stars. The nature of their art and community building will always be at the forefront for WTCHS.
“Not much will change,” muses Jag on the future. “We’ve always had a vision of what we’ve wanted to do and how to do it and that was to keep playing shows and releasing music. We’ve stayed true to our path and progression that fits into our lives to make this work. We’ll always continue to play weird little corners of someone’s basement when we can and large stages to explore a massive sound. We have Kazoo Fest & NXNE, a couple cool little festivals for late summer and an east coast tour in the fall on the horizons. We’re currently working on our first full–length album slated for the spring of 2015, as well.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Hamilton, to be a part of Sonic Unyon,” adds Jag. “We’re just doing what we’ve always done and that’s been supporting and promoting our friends, we’re always expanding and finding new ways to share it with everyone and we couldn’t be happier. There’s a wonderful new energy amongst the arts community and to be a part of it all and contribute is a fantastic feeling. All we want to do for our release show firstly, is to play loud, fast and hard. It’s about the moment for us. That’s what our live sets are reflective of, that feeling of being lost and submersed in shitstorm of sound swirling all around you and feeling complete happiness. Secondly, we want to be sharing this occasion with the best people we know.”
WTCHS play this Saturday April 5 at This Ain’t Hollywood with Sailboats Are White and Thoughts on Air. Music starts at 10:30pm and admission is free. Click on http://secretsound.ca/
A Heart Shaped Tribute to Nirvana
April 5 will mark the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death but a group of local musicians aren’t coming together this weekend to memorialize or martyr the rock icon. Cobain and Nirvana were champions of one of the last great movements in modern pop cultural history and some two decades later Nirvana’s influence remains strong. With an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year and the recent 20 year anniversary for the release of In Utero, the third and final studio album by Nirvana, this weekend local musicians celebrate a music that changed their lives.
“I came out a little too late,” smiles twenty-something year old singer/guitarist Alyssa Axeworthy [BDSM Bakesale, Rackula, the Jolly Cuts and Alyssa in the Apple Tree]. “I missed the prime time for Nirvana, however the first two CDs I ever bought were Soundgarden’s Superunknown and “Nirvana’s Nevermind; I listened to these albums relentlessly, I learned every lyric and tried my best to interpret them, I was no more than 10 years old at the time though, that’s the reason why I write songs the way that I do. They were one of my first examples of music, something struck me, I felt goose bumps, something about the Seattle scene has always entranced me, I think in my mind I’m always trying to recreate what happened in Seattle. I want Hamilton to have that, too, and we kind of do. Most of my inspiration for my bands has been based on my love for the Seattle scene.”
With Tyler McIntyre [White Gravy], Marc Brenzil [White Gravy], and Robert Smith [In Silent Code], Axeworthy helps form the Negative Creeps, a special supergroup that will perform their own versions of Nirvana songs with a wealth of guest vocalists. It’s a heartfelt tribute organized with a charitable beneficiary as well.
“We’ve got some close friends of the band lined up to sing and a few local music scene vets and also a couple people we have never met before,” offers Axeworthy. “To be honest we had an easier time finding drummers this year than we did finding people willing to come up and sing. We are very excited to be welcoming Hervana to share the stage with us. They are an all female Nirvana cover group from Toronto and they’re pretty awesome.
“We continue to choose a date around April 5 because that is when Marc and Tyler started doing the tribute many years ago but it’s all about celebrating the music,” adds Axeworthy. “We chose to support Neighbour 2 Neighbour with this because they provide people in need with groceries, etc. We chose them because they support the Hamilton community, the people in our city, including our local musicians.”
Nirvana remain one of the last great bands that changed the face of rock and roll and popular music and whether you want to support a worthy charity, local musicians or simply rock like it’s 1994, A Heart Shaped Tribute to Nirvana is well worth checking out.
“All four of us are true die–hard Nirvana fans have been playing these songs since we first started playing our instruments,” says Axeworthy. “The night promises to make everyone nostalgic for the early ‘90s. We will playing all of the hits, the classics and the rarities. Listen to the radio and you can still hear their influence on music today, walk out in public and you can still see young kids wearing their shirts. It’s been over twenty years since [Nirvana’s song] “Smells Like Teen Spirit” kind of changed everything but they still seem to have a pretty huge impact today. There is an energy in Nirvana’s music that really connects with people and, come on; they’re being inducted to the Rock n Roll hall of Fame this year, that's got to say something right? It’s going to be a great night celebrating some amazing music. We hope to see all the Nirvana fans.”
A Heart Shaped Tribute to Nirvana happens this Saturday April 5 at the Casbah. Doors are at 9pm and $5 gets you in.
Dave Pomfret’s Soberthday
Pop culture has long since celebrated ‘the party’ and given that most of the musical events in HMN happen in drinking establishments, it’s rather novel to discuss a celebration of sobriety but local musician Dave Pomfret offers just that this weekend.
Pomfret’s musical career began young back when he formed the Munday Nuns with drummer Gene Champagne while the two were in Grade 10 at Saltfleet Secondary.
“I never ever drank as a teenager because I didn’t want to be like my alcoholic father but one broken heart not long before my nineteenth birthday changed that,” recalls Pomfret. “Mike Trebilcock and Erkki Raid joined the Nuns. They were older; they drank, so I drank, too. I didn’t realize for quite some time that I had a problem. It all just seemed like good old rock and roll. By the time I was 21; I was drinking too much and not really writing enough songs. I left the band to focus on working and getting married, but what I really did was drink too much and got married too much. I was basically out of music, other than writing tunes for myself, for nearly 20 years. I received an inheritance in 2008 and decided to make a record. Mike Trebilcock produced No Rush for me and it was released in 2009. We drank a lot during the recording of the record and half the songs are about being a drunk. Fry Truck came into existence in late 2010 after I had sobered up. And that is where I am now.”
With Fry Truck — featuring Pomfret, Dan Medakovic, Matt Coleman, Linda Duemo, and Carrie Ashworth — Pomfret remains a mainstay on the local stage, albeit a sober anomaly in the drinking establishments he plays. With an important anniversary pressing, he decided to celebrate with sober thoughts in a local bar.
“Drinking and rock and roll do seem to go together, but addiction doesn’t go well with anything,” notes Pomfret. “There are some killer musicians locally who have been messed up by addiction, and there are some who have overcome it. Tom Wilson was a drinker, he stopped and now he is playing the Grand Ol’ Opry. Some people just can’t drink, and I am one of them. I am of a lot more use to the world as a sober dude than as a drunk or dead one. I think that does indeed deserve some attention.
“I am having the celebration/concert in a bar because that is where music lives,” adds Pomfret. “I did most of my drinking at home anyway, so a bar doesn’t mean addiction to me. I want the people who listen to my music to be able to enjoy it however, they like. If that means they get themselves all liquored up, so be it. I don’t think I tempt fate at all, and I am not laughing in the face of my former demons. I have just let all of that go. It is not who I am anymore. It is as simple as that. But I am a musician, and music lives in bars.”
This Sunday, Pomfret gathers a bunch of musical friends and celebrates a life without dependency, but fans can drink if they choose for the licensed and all ages event. In addition, attendees are encouraged to attend to celebrate and help with a special charity beneficiary as well.
“I have invited some amazing special guests to play — Duane Rutter and Frank Koren are two guys who were sober before me, and they inspired me,” explains Pomfret. “They also showed me that you can indeed be a working musician, in the bars, and be cold sober and be better. I can’t say enough how much respect I have for these two guys. I am honoured to count them among my friends and Lori Yates just might get up and sing a few too. I love this town. $10 at the door gets you all that.
“In the past, I have mostly focused on charities for the homeless, or addiction, or mental health issues,” continues Pomfret. “This year I decided to help out the MS Walk, and in particular Team Fidanza. I work at H. Williams Jewellery and Natalie Fidanza works there with me. When she mentioned to me that she was involved in this walk, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to help. One of my old drinking friends, who also got his life in order, has a mother who suffers from MS. She is a wonderful lady, and I thought I could do this with her in mind.
“So April 6 is the anniversary of me giving up the drink and I have nicknamed it my “soberthday”,” adds Pomfret. “My actual birthday is June 30, but it doesn’t mean nearly as much to me. I woke up on April 6, 2010 knowing that I was just done. I am proud of the fact that I am sober, and I really feel a whole lot better being able to use my music to do something decent in the world rather than just party.” V
Dave Pomfret’s Sobrierday happens Sunday April 6 at This Ain’t Hollywood with Fry Truck, Duane Rutter, Frank Koren and more. Doors are at 7:30 and $10 gets you in. Click on http://mssoc.convio.net/site/TR/Walk/OntarioDivision?team_id=35447&pg=team&fr_id=2847