One of the best things about our brutal winters is they tend to force a lot of people to gather in large numbers indoors. This being St. John’s, there’s usually an instrument or six in any given house, so you tend to find a lot of bands emerging from the snow.
Each year we try and put together a brief introduction to some of those bands and each year it gets harder, but that’s a good thing, because each year, there are way, way more bands than the last. And this list is just a tiny glimpse of what and who is actually out there.
There are over twenty new bands in this year’s round-up, representing the exploding punk and hardcore scenes, the experimental scene spilling out of the CBTG’s Downstairs Mix-up nights, the steadily gaining electronic scene, the ever-widening folk rock scene and the piles of new bands reinterpreting traditional styles.
By Elling Lien, Bryhanna Greenough and Sarah Smellie.
You’ve probably already heard somebody talking about The Crooks. As founding member Justin Guzzwell puts it, their music is “Rock and Alternative at the core. We love making noise, which is usually a result of my cluster shag piano solos, and A.E. Bridgers’ screaming guitar.” Hence, all the attention.
The Bonavista Chain Locker
Steve Hoskins, Michael Boone, Andrew McCarthy, Chris McGee, Jill Dawe, and Mary Beth Waldram describe their band as “a big band that plays greasy klezmer-y shanty rock.” Drawing influences from gypsy jazz to pirate shanties to folk, blues, and reggae, they’ve been hauling people onto the dance floor all winter and show no signs of stopping.
“At a typical show, something gets broke, people get drunk, and I take my shirt off,” says Juicer frontman Derm. “Our sound is kind of like punk rock, with a twist. It has electronics, but it’s not an electronic band. It’s fun, fast, and danceable. No fast band in this city uses a drum machine like we do—it’s heavy and raw.”
Jake just released his spectacularly melodic synth-folk solo album Wild Machines, but performs most with the Hunter Gatherers. “The Hunter Gatherers is a band formed by my brother Billy, my sister Ilia, my friend Noah, and me,” explains Jake Nicoll. “I think of The Hunter Gatherers as an umbrella group; each member is a talented songwriter who could fare quite well on their own.”
“I like the ethos of the hardcore scene,” says guitarist Juls Mack. “Bar shows out of necessity, not about lovin’ the booze. Total DIY.” The band started in a barn in Portugal Cove, but has since moved to town. They describe their sound as “Green Day pre-Dookie era with off-key girl vocals.”
“We usually describe ourselves as a pop-punk/rock band,” says bassist Justin. “We put an emphasis on melody when we write. For a pop-punk band in the city, it seems like we’re a lot less hardcore influenced.” Short Handed is the intersection of numerous other bands that Justin, Benj, Elliot, and Josh play in.
“Vocals are the focus of our music. Everyone in the band sings, and they sing in almost every song. That, and we’re pretty sure we’re the only band in town that’s a complicated love heptagon,” says the Pre-Raphaelites. Self-described indie/pop, “driven by harmonies, synthesizers, and upbeat rhythms,” they’re releasing an EP this summer.
I Was A Skywalker
“We’re all younger. It seems like we bridge the gap between the aging bar scene and the dying all-ages scene,” explains Glen May, IWAS is a band that falls somewhere in the intersection of punk and hardcore. “We draw influences from bands like Daggermouth, Kid Dynamite, and Paint it Black… Also, Kieran likes really cool rap music.”
People say there’s something in the water in CBS, as it’s the birthplace of many legendary St. John’s bands. Like Welsh Cinema. “We spent most of our adolescent years kicking rocks into the ocean and recording crude home demos,” they explain. “We all listen to different types of music but share a love for quality rock and roll, folk, and classic country.”
Kicking The Help
Kicking the Help are decidedly unapologetic about their influences. “U2, Tori Amos, Muse, Meatloaf, Jack’s Mannequin, and shitty 80s hair metal,” reports Adam Carter. “A typical show includes off-kilter humour, Phil and Melanie forging a united front against my bad taste, and the entire band forging a united front against Rob’s bad scarves. Oh, and occasionally music is played.”
“We describe ourselves as GoreCore, but we are basically a metal band with some hardcore overtones,” explains Gore Puppy. “When deciding on a name, we turned to the Internet. After a Google search we stumbled upon a random band name generator for metal bands.” Two hours and a vote later, Gore Puppy was born.
House & the Hooligans
“We stand out because we play honest, straightforward rock that’s rooted in the best of rock and roll’s past,” says Adrian of House and the Hooligans, formerly the Connexions. “Also because we’re naked on stage.” Okay, not really, but their sound, self-described as “The Ramones meets The Beatles,” does set them aside.
The Living Daylights
The Living Daylights are a three-piece playing what they describe as “rock,” but without and electric guitar. “Electric guitars and gear confuse me,” says guitarist Tim Barnes. ”I can play guitar, write songs, and sing. That’s about it for my knowledge of music technology.”
“Brief, angst driven punk/hardcore a la Kid Dynamite,” is how Patrick Neary, aka Patty O’Lantern, describes the sound of Brutal Youth, a nod to the Elvis Costello album of the same name. Neary wrote the songs while away in B.C. last year and, upon returning to St. John’s, assembled a kickass band to play them.
“We play hardcore punk,” says lead singer Robert Young. “We probably sound more like Litany-era F$&%ed Up than we’d care to admit.” Formed in January, they’ve already released an EP. “We’re more concerned with remaining an active part of the St. John’s hardcore scene,” says Young. “We’re a part of something great and wouldn’t try to detach ourselves from it if we could.”
The Long Distance Runners
Looking for singer-songwriter Chris Picco? You’ll find him in the Long Distance Runners, alongside Matt Hender, Dicky Strickland, and Adam Cardwell. “If Brian Wilson, Nick Cave, Ray Davies and Jeff Lynne could have an illegitimate child together, it would probably look and sound like the Long Distance Runners,” laughs Picco.
“I like the term wiener-punk…”
Rising from the ashes of the Narrators and Some Houses Like To Sleep, Polina draws their influences from 90s screamo, post-punk, math rock, and noise rock. “Influence-wise, we’re unique in this scene,” they say. “We don’t fit anywhere, yet we are comfortable playing wherever. Hardcore shows, CBTG’s shows, houses, art marathons…”
Described by The Scope’s own Patrick Canning as “primal and belligerent”…
“Vicar started a little over a year ago when I decided to put out an EP as an experiment…”
St. John’s Ukulele Orchestra
Really, the name says it all…
“There aren’t too many women in punk bands here…”
The Newish Klezmer Ensemble
“In Yiddish terms, all members of this ensemble are goyim (non-Jewish people) so our name readily advertises that fact…”
“The style of banjo that I play is old time clawhammer…”