While brothers Daniel (bass) and Christopher Farr (guitar) grew up just outside of Peterborough as Daniel likes to underscore “in Neil Young’s hometown of Omemee”, the pair’s musical journey would end up bringing them to many new musical worlds via the surf rock they’d settle on recording. This weekend, Danger!! Death Ray releases their sophomore EP, Invasion and it offers a chance to learn about one of the newest names on the local stage.
“We’ve been interested in this kind of music since we were teenagers,” offers Daniel Farr. “After we did this band in the early 2000s, my brother moved to Tokyo and continued on with another band, Android Beach Party, and released a couple of albums. He came back to Canada, specifically Hamilton in 2016 and he had a whole back of new songs with him. We started to slowly work on it but we needed a drummer so we did an audition process last summer and found Ryan Fahey. He blew us away, he got the music and there was an instant connection and things have been going well since then.”
Since Daniel Farr came to Hamilton back in 2004 to study philosophy at McMaster University, he’s graduated and started a family and full time employment locally and it only made sense that Christopher re–connect with family and his former band mate.
“I had fell in love with Hamilton, I met my wife here — I got a job, a dog and an apartment here and moved in to the Westdale neighbourhood and I love it here,” says Farr. “When we first started as teenagers we were playing Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and some classic rock — we were always hungry to play music but Chris told me I was playing bass for our band but neither of us thought we had the voice to front a band. When we realized that we could have a band that was just instrumental, we found it freeing and we found we could just be ourselves.”
Even twenty–somethings would recognize they would not be able to sing along to songs from the ’60s like the Surfaris or the Ventures version of “Wipe out” but surf rock had a renaissance of sorts in the late ’80s and early ’90s with the alternative world embracing it — some with a Luchador dressing like Los Straitjackets or Toronto’s Tijuana Bibles. Any Kids in the Hall fan knows the Shadowy Men on a Shadow Planet since they did the theme song and all of the incidental music for the show. Locally, Mario Pietrangeli has been a long time proponent of surf rock recording or performing in bands like his own Blue Demons, High Tides or more recently JetScreams. But perhaps the biggest surf rock song would be for movie fans of Quentin Tarantino who popularized the godfather of surf rock in his Pulp Fiction film with Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” being a key part of the soundtrack. All of these influences helped influence the Farr brothers and they’ve found many a kindred spirit and fan for their musical style locally.
“It’s an exciting time for us — to meet like minded musicians and talk about the different approaches on this body of music, going back to its origins — it’s super exciting to meet fans of the music and have them not ask, ‘why don’t you have a singer?’,” says Farr. “Mario’s become a great friend although we haven’t had the chance to record with him as of yet — what he’s done though with his own music and bands has been instrumental to what’s happening in the Hamilton area and surf rock.”
Mixing their alternative upbringing as well as punk and other influences, Danger!! Death Ray is part of a growing scene in love with the instrumental surf realm although Farr contends his band is also expanding on the oeuvre of surf rock sometimes describing the band as Dick Dale meets Nirvana.
“There are a lot of great bands in the Great Lake Surf Rock scene in Hamilton, Toronto and around Ontario,” says Farr. “I think it’s something that people will be eternally drawn to because it’s fun rock and it takes you to another place and another time. My brother studied composition as a music major at the University of Guelph and some of his musical idols are Nirvana and Dick Dale and I think he likes them because it’s about being interesting. What speaks to us about Nirvana is that they can be heavy and still be catchy. I think he almost became a jingle writer for the radio so he always has in mind what’s the audience experiencing here? What kind of journey are we taking them on? Being the songs are short, that’s on purpose, we’re not writing a repetitive vocal chorus, the music goes fast, we play our riffs and it’s on with the show. Like Nirvana brought punk into the pop scene, we’re kind of interested in that as well with heavy tropes and riffs in a more popular context. It’d be similar to what the Pixies did to a certain extent with the loud, quiet, loud elements and more — one of my friends said after listening to our music said, ‘it sounds like the Pixies without vocals’ and that just made me smile.”
Releasing their first EP last fall a mere few months after fleshing out the trio last year, Danger!! Death Ray is very much about moving being short, fast, concise and moving on to the next thing. It’s in their music and underscored with their release schedule. For the upcoming celebration of the sophomore recordings, Danger!! Death Ray plan another exciting show but have their thoughts on what’s coming up down the road. Working with a Turkish label, Kafadan Kontak, that focuses on surf and garage rock to reach a European audience, Farr hopes the world is Danger!! Death Ray’s oyster.
“With the resurgence of vinyl and the online world, these kinds of releases are what will work best for us,” says Farr. “I think releasing a four track EP every few months is more engaging for our fans than releasing a twenty track album every year and a half. For myself, there’s something always to look forward to and it gives a band the chance to evolve so that’s where we’re coming from. The songs are short so that lends itself well to this kind of release. Now that things are picking up for us, we’re trying to grapple with what we’re going to do with that success. We love this music and we believe in it. We want to spread this as far as we can, do more recording, more travelling, in the US and in Europe. We want to connect with like minded musicians and talk instrumental music and surf rock, we want to preach the gospel of instrumental rock music.
“With the band releasing an EP opening the show — it just shows how good this show is and how much these other bands have to offer,” adds Farr. “We’re going to open up the stage and set it on fire and you’re not going to want to miss any of these bands. A lot of people might wonder what are we doing up there without a lead singer but I tell you, we are rocking out, we’re dancing to the music and my brother — half the time he’s flying through the air. Playing instrumental music allows us to relax and be ourselves and connect with the audience on a different level and nobody's ever been disappointed at one of our shows." V
Danger!! Death Ray plays this Saturday January 25 at This Ain't Hollywood with Spectacular Crash and the Enchanters. Doors open at 9 pm and $10 gets you in. Click on facebook.com/pg/DangerDeathRay3