SIANspheric’s the Owl
SIANspheric has a rich twenty plus year history fraught with tremendous accolades and as many sordid pitfalls but this weekend’s release of their new 7–inch might mark a particularly interesting new chapter for the band.
From their inception (when the singer for Gleet died tragically in a car accident, the remaining members would form Cyan and later change the name later), SIANspheric has dealt with the positive and negatives of life with aplomb. Their fuzzed out, reverb laden shoegaze/space rock/dreampop akin to Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, or Swervedriver caught the ears of critics and fans alike but with a variety of membership changes, SIANspheric remain a cult band after twenty years. Gone are Locksley Taylor, Paul Sinclair, and Steve Peruzzi but the core band remains adamant in keeping the music alive but nostalgia isn’t what SIANspheric is about. Why reminisce about past victories or disasters when you can focus on exploring new horizons.
With Sean Ramsay on guitars and vocals, Matthew Durrant on drums, Jay Patterson on bass and newest recruit Ryan Ferguson (Electroluminescent, Sensei) on additional guitars, synthesizers, SIANspheric extends their legacy with their first new music offering in seven years.
“I was in bands in high school and we ended up playing a show with Gleet back in the summer of ’92 and we became really good friends,” recalls Ferguson on his longtime association with SIANspheric. “I was actually a member of their band for about six months around 1992 or 1993. Later, I did play briefly with SIANspheric when they were working on the second album, “There’s always Some Place You’d Rather Be”. I played some guitar and synthesizers and some of it made it on the album.
“SIANspheric’s legacy probably hasn’t completely formed yet,” adds Ferguson. “There are a lot of interesting tales still to be told. But I think really the story of SIANspheric is of consistently, albeit sporadically, releasing good, high quality material that doesn’t really fit necessarily into any form of category. The band has been called a whole bunch of different things over the years; shoegazers, space rockers, whatever, but I don’t think any two of their records sound exactly the same. They’ve managed to create new sounds every few years, sometimes two years, five years, sometimes it’s seven years but there’s always quality over quantity, I guess.”
SIANspheric's first release in 7 years won’t disappoint long time fans and is a prime introduction for fans just learning of these veteran sound explorers. The band’s official release party for the new “The Owl” 7–inch this weekend may suggest a wealth of exciting new efforts for SIANspheric.
“Next year will be the twentieth anniversary of the release of the first record, Somnium,” notes Ferguson. “We’ve had a lot of discussions. We have a whole new album’s worth of material. So were hoping to mark that anniversary with a new record but that’s still in the future. If it all continues on the current path it’s on, the more celebratory side of the legacy may be something that we look at next year. We shall see. Recording time has been booked but I’ve done a few different recording sessions with the band and we end up moving on from those. The new single, the songs were recorded almost three years ago I believe. It was pretty fresh then and we’ve sort of taken a while to let them pickle and get the best out of them. We chose what we thought were the best songs — the best representations from that session. The new record sees where the band has been over the last seven years. “The Owl” is the darker more psychedelic side and “Smokin’ Richie” represents the slower more melancholy side of the band.”
“For the release party this weekend, the set features our new material fairly heavily with a couple of dips into the past,” adds Ferguson. “There are a couple of oldies mixed in for fun. It’s a good representation of where the band is now. The old songs mix with the new songs well. We acknowledge the past but the thing with SIANspheric is that we have the urge and want to keep making new music, which is why the talk of anniversaries is interesting but… Nostalgia is nice but I think the band isn’t resting on that in any way.”
SIANspheric play this Friday May 16 at the Casbah with the Monarch Project and Creative Rotting. Cover is $10 or $15 gets you in with a 7–inch. Click on sianspheric.com
The Squids’ Warning
To commemorate their ten–year anniversary as a band, the Squids offer a special CD release this weekend at an event that celebrates two–piece bands.
“I didn’t plan any of this — I didn’t say, ‘I’m going to be a caterer and then at the age of 45, I’m going to start a punk band’ — it just happened,” recalls Sam Squid on the origins of the Squids. “I played acoustic guitar for many, many years — always with my good buddy Flavio Quercia, in my basement or his basement. We made up a bunch of goofy things and just had fun. At the time, I only used a two string acoustic guitar, but then in 2004, I decided to go electric and see what that was like. It was a whole different world and changed the style of my writing. At the same time I was hanging out at Jimmy Vapid’s [now defunct] record store, Reigning Sound and he was introducing me to all of this garage stuff that I’d never heard and it just blew my mind. I’d get home and pick up this electric and just go nuts. I ended up writing seventeen songs in a week and recorded them in my basement with me on drums and guitar. I handed out two dozen of those demos out to people and that was the first Squids release.
“All along, I kept thinking I can’t do this by myself and I always had Candy [Rotten, Kryptkeeper, the Punk Rods, Spoiled Rotten] in mind,” he adds. “I saw her at a couple of shows and got up the nerve to ask her if she’d like to jam some time. I let her listen to the songs I had, she loved them and that was that. We jam every Tuesday at Len [Kramer] and Candy’s, we do about 10 to 12 shows per year — and all in Hamilton. We’ve never played outside of Hamilton. You just go with the flow and if someone calls and says, ‘you want to do this’ then yah, okay, we do it.”
From the start, the Squids were a very novel outfit that excited some audiences and bewildered others. The Squids are a two–piece guitar and drums band with a two–stringed guitarist banging out a minimalist, primal ruckus of 60's style garage and punk with hints of rockabilly and ’50s doo wop — with Squid singing some of the most off kilter lyrics possible. With songs like “I Like to Put Peanut Butter on My Lips and Talk to the Squirrels”, “Just a Lunatic” or “I Want to be a Roller Girl”, if he weren’t so adorably funny, people might be worried about Sam.
“Yah, some people come up to talk to me about the lyrics,” smiles Squid. “They ask if I’m nuts.”
Some of those eccentricities have allowed Sam to make music under a variety of guises —with Quercia, it’s the Fla Factor, with Rotten he’s part of the Squids, add Chris Houston (Evelyn Dicks, ex–Forgotten Rebels) to the duo and another band is made, with Raewyn Roberts yet another band, the Humps. Solo, he’s Cousin Paolo. This weekend, “Warning” is released — a new disc compiling music from Sam’s many personalities including songs spanning a ten–year journey and beyond.
“”Lunatic” is actually a song Flavio and I did originally but it’s nice to a version of it as the Squids,” notes Squid. “He wrote all the words for it and that’s part of the Fla Factor stuff on the CD. There’s that, some Cousin Paolo — Chris Houston even hooked up with us a couple of times and we recorded as Humans Hit Machine — say that name three times fast.
“I was finishing up work and racing to see Houston play at the Westown one night and I got there just as he was wrapping up,” adds Squid. “I said, ‘Just get back up there and do something’ and he made up a song right then and there. That’s the moments that “Warning” captures, that’s what the Fla Factor was about. If you can capture that, that’s really cool and if you can work with it afterword, that magic is what it’s about. Houston sang a song he wrote on the spot called, “What’s in the Pipes at G.P. Grumpy’s?” and that’s going to be on the CD. I’ve had the chance to hang out with Darryl Gould as well, He’s one of my favourite people and musicians — he happened to be in my basement one night, I pressed record, and he did this really beautiful song. That’s on the CD as well. I even asked Edgar Breau to do a scorching lead guitar solo on one track I had and he came down to my basement wine cellar/studio and just did it perfectly. Can you imagine? Hamilton — I love this town.”
With a new Squids CD planned for later this year as well, “Warning” is released this weekend at an event that exalts bands like the Squids at a battle of the two–piece bands.
“I’ve seen all of these bands and they’re just so good,” says Squid. “It has everything to do with the minimalism. It’s raw — it can’t be anything else but raw. The songs have to be really good, too – when you’re that naked, the song just has to work. I think anybody and everybody should check out all the bands — anybody into garage rock or punk, for sure. There’s going to be five bands with some fast and heavy stuff.”
The Squids play this Saturday May 17 at Doors Pub with Artificial Dissemination, Frankie and Jimmy, the Mogs, and the Janitors. Doors are at 9pm and $5 gets you in. Click on reverbnation.com/thesquids
With a variety of side projects and membership changes, the newest incarnation of Hey Clown — featuring Toui Manikhouth (guitars), Andrew Rous (guitars), Dave Pettigrew (bass), Cody Morris (drums), Andrew Shaw (vocals) — offers their first collection of songs since 2003.
“We want to play shows, record music and just be a band... [but] we’ve had a history of not being able to find a committed front man for more than half of the band’s life span,” explains founding member Manikhouth. “The latter half was discouraging because we were looking for something and someone with a style so specific, we didn’t know if we would ever find it. But we went from a three piece to a solid five piece in about a year and Andrew Shaw’s addition to the band is something that needed to happen.
“I went to college with Andrew Shaw, which is where I met him initially,” adds the guitarist. “After Andrew Rous joined the mix last year, we brought Shaw out to a couple of practises to jam around and right then, we all saw that he could potentially be something amazing; not just for us, but he had the talent and ability to pull off something not very many people can do. Our songs that we’ve written that are at least a decade old, that we’ve played a million times over, sound completely fresh and new with the dynamic that he brings to the table.”
Enlisting Steve Haines to produce, Hey Clown has assembled a small taste of the massive power they offer as a unit.
“We started tracking with Steve before Shaw officially joined because we were starting to write new material and we wanted to get things rolling,” notes Manikhouth. “Two of the songs — “Side Arm”, “Yellow Jacket” — are brand new songs and Gardiner was originally on our 2003 Jacob’s Helmet CDEP but we changed it up and re–recorded it for this release. It’s only a three song EP but it took us close to six months to complete.
“Steve Haines has known us for years and knows what we sound like so it wasn’t new territory for him,” adds Manikhouth. “He’s very good at keeping things gritty and not so overproduced — which is what we wanted.”
With a new collection of songs to introduce the band and their music to a worldwide heavy music audience, Hey Clown is ready to rock for a hometown release show but with thoughts of doing more well beyond this weekend.
“This release is more of a launching pad for us,” reasons Manikhouth. “We wanted to get these songs out quickly. Digital is much easier to pass around nowadays and it's worked well for us so far; the word is spreading and people are listening to it. We wanted to keep things minimal, considering the time frame we were working with and we wanted to make sure Shaw was comfortable before we jumped head first into a bigger collection. Now that things are moving at a much faster rate and we're a lot more confident with where we’re at, from here on out we’ll be taking our records a lot more seriously. We’re talking about our next release already, and it’ll be something tangible and bigger as well.
“We always aim to keep things aggressive for our live show,” adds Manikhouth on this weekend’s CD release party. “We’re fairly loud but we consciously make an effort to play as tight and as best as we can. We’ve kept our intensity throughout the years, and now it’s at a whole new plateau. We try not to appeal to just one demographic. Yes, our music is heavy and aggressive, but I think there's a time and place for all styles of music. We treat our shows as a night out for everyone and we want to make sure everybody has a good time — regardless of whatever style of music you’re into. Our hearts are in the songs that we’ve written for the band. We’ve developed a chemistry with each other and a type of confidence that I personally don’t find anywhere else when I play with these guys. I get to play with people who are brilliant at what they do individually as musicians, so I’m very lucky to be a part of something I think is special.” V
Hey Clown play this Saturday May 17 at This Ain't Hollywood with Gnarly Skull and Harder They Fall. Doors are at 9pm and $5 gets you in.
Click on heyclown.bandcamp.com