While studying Biochemistry at the University of Manitoba, Conrad Sichler was getting a different musical education as he hung out with and played music with some of the members of The Weakerthans and Propogandhi. His studies would have him move to Montreal and then Kingston, finally landing himself in Burlington to join a medicine clinic as Dr. Conrad Sichler. But all the while, Sichler’s had another career as a singer and songwriter. His third release, and first in five years, is dubbed LaughCry, SmartStupid!!
“We were in a band together called Toothpick Hercules, we were pals, went to the same high school and played music together,” recalls Sichler on his association with John K. Samson and a nascent Winnipeg music scene of lore. “I was terrified about taking on music, thinking there was no possible way I could make it work, so I went into medicine. Since then, there were times where I’d take off a few months but the music always kept coming back for me with a funny or stupid or serious ditty that would come to my mind. It’s still uplifting for me to make music.”
As part of a Montreal performance scene called Yawp!, Sichler was inspired to take on the moniker of Riot Nrrd twenty years ago with Free of the Suburban Dream released in 1999 followed some fifteen years later with an album called Settle.
“Nerds rule the world now but back then us nerds kind of felt weak and wimpy,” says Sichler. “I write songs that are just plain dumb, sort of smart, but mostly songs that are both smart and dumb at the same time. I was a kind of a punk as a teen and I loved Dinosaur Jr, Husker Du, the Replacements and all that, although my music doesn’t really sound like any of those. I’m inspired with that spirit of messing with things and trying something different. When I first starting writing songs as a teenager, I deliberately wrote stupid songs but moved away from that as a serious teenager with ‘things to say’ and some serious songs came of that. It’s all come full circle as I now do both. I saw Weird Al Yankovic and I was like, ‘Oh my God’. I don’t do parody songs but there’s some Weird Al and maybe some They Might Be Giants because I’m wordy and I’m a smart ass but with some kind of punk spirit in a nerdy way.”
Sichler went into record his latest collection of songs at Grant Avenue Studio with Dave Gould (drums), Frank Koren (guitar), Steve Skingley (bass), and Amy King (keyboards) who are set to reprise their roles on stage with a performance that combines the serious and the silly.
“I wanted this record to sound more like I heard it in my head,” says Sichler. “And I had to present to these players that play a ton in so many different genres of music and to make it Riot Nrrd. I trusted my instincts and put more of my stamp on it. I love playing live so I want to make more time for that in the future. The matinee for the release party is good because people can bring their kids and not worry about day care. We start with some sketch comedy, some great songs from Brennagh and then me and the Tasty Faces. I also want to play Riot Nrrd bingo so people can feel awesome about their life. Cover is $20 or best offer with no reasonable offer refused. I would love to have butts in seats but the band does have to get paid.
“If I’m going to release an album called LaughCry, SmartStupid!!, why not have someone offer some more serious music and then some people goofing around and then me maybe mixing the two,” adds Sichler. “I’m trying to live up to the album name. Smartstupid makes me so happy but it also comes out of my childhood woundedness so if it comes up with some songs, why not? If I bring up some serious issues, I try to make people laugh regardless — who wants to be preached at or lectured to? To me, music should be a fun time.”
Riot Nrrd and the Tasty Faces play this Saturday June 29 at the Corktown with the Plaidiators and Brennagh Burns. Show goes from 4:00-7:00pm and cover is $20. Click on facebook.com/riotnrrdmusic