On a sunny day in June during Ottawa Explosion Weekend, I caught up with Vancouver self-proclaimed powertrash band Needles//Pins. Their new album Good Night, Tomorrow was released in July of this year, and signaled a shift in the band’s sound and production. It’s more polished, and more grandiose than anything they’ve done in the past. But the grittiness quality of songwriting is still there, and fans old and new will fall right into this record.
They’re set to play House of TARG on Friday, August 25th along with Steve Adamyk Band, Audio Visceral, and NECK. Check out this candid interview with the trio, where they talk about the new album, Ottawa roots, and throw themselves under the bus.
Interview with Needles//Pins
You guys have played Ottawa Explosion Weekend before and stopped in Ottawa many times on tour. What’s your relationship to the city?
Adam Ess: Tony and I grew up in the Ottawa Valley, so we grew up about 45 minutes outside of Ottawa. So we started coming to the city in our teens to see shows, and I was in bands since I was fifteen years old playing places like Club SAW. I’ve known OXW organizers Emmanuel (Sayer) and Luke (Martin) for fifteen years or so as a result. I know Emmanuel from when he used to live in Windsor, we played with his old band called Searching for Chin. Then he moved to Ottawa and joined Buried Inside and others.
I guess the first time we played here as a band was the first ever Ottawa Explosion, it was our first cross-Canada tour. We’ve played every year since except last year, that was the only one so far that we haven’t played.
Do you get to spend much time in Ottawa when you’re here?
Tony X: It’s pretty much in and out. Usually it’s between Toronto and Montreal so we don’t have much time to take the extra night in Ottawa, we can’t lose that prime night of playing in other cities. I kind of wish we could just be here all weekend to be honest.
Needles//Pins played with The Smugglers at OXW for the Mint Records Showcase. How did that come about?
Adam: I think one of the impetuses for doing the Smuggs thing is because of Grant Lawrence’s book. It’s all part of the presentation of the book, and with the Mint Records connection we played the Vancouver show and it kind of took off from there.
Tony: Mint probably leaned on them a bit for us to play the show, I don’t think The Smugglers were begging us to play with them haha.
Your new record Good Night, Tomorrow is a bit of a different direction for the band. What is it that you are most excited for the bands to hear?
Adam: The general sound of the record, I think. It’s just such a huge sound, and that’s what we wanted out of it.
Tony: Just like you said, people are noticing it’s different and in a positive way and that’s really great.
Adam: And for us there’s no worry about that, I mean if you liked the band before then you’re going to like the band now. It’s hands-down way better, there’s no doubt about that. They’re the best songs we’ve ever written, the production is so much better, just everything. We took almost a year and a half to write and record the album, we took our time on it and wrote it in chunks, and recording as we went.
Tony: At some point we were recording and thinking, “oh good, it’s only been a year,” and then our producer Jesse told us we started in June… we were like, “oh, fuck…”
If I remember correctly, the last time you guys played Ottawa Explosion before this year there was something that literally exploded on stage.
Macey Bee: Oh shit, I forgot about that.
Tony: Yeah an amp! That was two years ago!
Macey: I think I was also on fire.
Tony: I just remember Adam was out of tune and he blamed me for it, but it actually was him. I just want to clear that up. He blamed me, but it was him. IT WAS NOT TONY, for the record. I don’t know about the amp though.
Adam: Ok then, since we’re going on the record, I am the one that coined the nickname “12 Grain” for Macey.
Tony: Oh I guess we’re recording everything now, airing the grievances. What is this, Festivus?
Have you had any other disasters happen while on tour?
Macey: I think touring with these two is a fucking disaster in general (laughs). I mean I’ve been doing it for a while now and I guess I’ll just have to keep doing it until I die.
Adam: Or until one of us dies, at least. There haven’t been any major disasters though, really. Knock on wood!
Tony: We’ve played shitty so many times, though. The worst show we ever played was in LA, and I’ll go on the record by saying it was all my fault.
Matias: You’re really throwing yourself under the bus here.
Macey: I was going to say that I played really well that night. You fucking blew it man.
Adam: That was a doozy.
Tony: I just didn’t play the right notes. There might have been some technical issues, I don’t know.
Macey: Yeah, technically your fingers didn’t hit the right notes on the bass.
Saturday night was another home run at House of Targ, the new music venue/arcade/pierogi house that seems to know how to make their patrons happy. The occasion was another album release by another kickass local group, the Steve Adamyk Band. Having just finished recording the new album in February 2014 and coming off a Japanese tour a few months back, SAB have been busy surrounding the release of Dial Tone – their fourth full-length album in five years. With Ian Manhire (White Wires/Voicemail/ex-Sedatives) spinning vinyl before, between, and after the bands, the tone of the night was set.
Lidija of Blue Angel
The night kicked off with Blue Angel, a local mash-up of members from some pretty rad bands in town. Lidija Rozitis (Roberta Bondar), Sam Pippa (Organ Eyes), and Caylie Runciman (Boyhood) combined their powers to give all of us at Targ a hell of a show. They were an unexpected addition to the lineup, only because their style is pretty far off from both Tropical Dripps and SAB. There are a lot of other bands in town that could have easily been put on this bill by virtue of their genre or similarities in sound. But who gives a shit about genres? Blue Angel weirded up the place with their shiny masks and brooding stage presence, and quickly enchanted us all.
Starting their set with their most intense and visceral song “YOU ME”, Blue Angel charged their way through a brief but powerful set. A few new songs were played too, such as “Rat Tail,” which sounded great and also happens to be about rat tails (posterior rodent appendage/a very popular hair style in the early 1990s). This was the best set I have seen from Blue Angel so far, and the sound was right on. Lidija’s haunting and droney guitar, Sam’s fuzzy and groove-laden bass lines, and Caylie’s thunderous drums were all aspects of the performance that will garner them a lot more fans in the future. Don’t miss this band when they play Targ again with OUGHT, Fresh Snow, and Freelove Fenner during Arboretum Music Festival on August 21.
Tropical Dripps playing at House of Targ
Tropical Dripps (Bruised Tongue) were up next, and these boys delivered us all a dose of their animalistic tendencies. Dripps have a distinctive surf/garage punk sound that is the kind of thing Ottawa is becoming more and more known for. More than anything, their primary objective seems to be having the most fun possible. I’ve seen them a few times at basement shows and Ottawa Explosion, but being right up close to them at Targ definitely made me appreciate how good this band really is. Lead singer and guitarist Mikey took advantage of his time on stage to show off his skills, guiding us through the set riff after scuzzy riff. With Dripps, metronomic accuracy is not a concern, nor should it be. They fuck up on stage from time to time – it’s endearing to see a band get so into their music that they get ahead of themselves and then have to bring themselves back down to earth. Kieran’s usual hawaiian shirt/sunglasses combo never gets old, and his drumming is relentless. Bassist Kurt Rafuse, who is also in another Bruised Tongue band, The Yips, was a maniac on stage – long hair flying everywhere, body lying on the ground, screaming his lungs out, all while playing his bass like it’s part of his body. Good music doesn’t have to be technically perfect. It has to evoke emotion from those who listen, and judging by the behaviour of people in the mosh pit during Dripps’s set, I’d say the jury is out: they are pretty damn good. Don’t miss Tropical Dripps when they play Mavericks with Frog Eyes and P.S. I Love You at Arboretum Music Festival on August 20.
Steve Adamyk Band headlining the night at House of Targ
Steve Adamyk Band (Dirtnap Recs) finished off the night with a flurry of quick but robust punk rock tunes. The great thing about having relatively short songs is that SAB was able to reach into their repertoire and play a few great songs from past records, many of which were off Third such as “Nightmare” and “Katacombs,” as well as several classics off their 2010 s/t release such as “Better Off,” “Not For Long,” and “I Fought for the U.S.A.” Each song from the past had us singing along because they are all really frigging good, that’s why we all fell in love with this band in the first place.
I was lucky enough to pre-order SAB’s gold vinyl of Dial Tone, their new record released in July. Not knowing what to expect, I carefully placed the needle on the wax and let it all sink in. For all of those who haven’t heard Dial Tone yet, don’t expect to hear the catchy hooks off Third re-hashed all over again. For how good Third is (and I REALLY love Third), SAB has delivered a fuller, more complete album with the same grit as the others. The verses are more defined, the songs are thematically varied, as if the band has taken a small step outside the box to create something totally new. Dial Tone is straight up garage rock, with a noticeable easing up on the drums from Dave Forcier and the guitar from Steve and Davey less overdriven. The guitar tones on the album are noticeably more clear, although Adamyk kept the crunchy sound that we all know and love. They played some of the best songs on the album such as “Force Fed,” “Careless,” “Suicide,” and “Empty Cause.” We got to hear some new and old, and all of it together made the set one to remember. Beer and spit were being sprayed everywhere while they was playing, and a few of Adamyk’s buddies were up front helping to sing each word into the mic. I love this band because their music always speaks for itself – no matter where you see them play or what SAB record you put on, you’ll always listen and never be disappointed. Catch SA B before Constantines and Chad VanGaalen on the main state at Arboretum Music Festival on August 23rd.
The following was posted by Ottawa pop-punk band The White Wires‘ Facebook page, and it’s awesome. Notice Caylie of Boyhood filling in for Allie Hanlon on drums?! The sound is totally muffled, but the party is all there.
After 4 days, and nearly 100 bands, this year, on the Saturday night of the Ottawa Explosion, at about 2am, some of Ottawa’s finest thought it would be a really good idea to have an after party in Phil’s house…and to get the White Wires to play. Obviously, we agreed. Even though Allie couldn’t make it from California, we got Caylie to fill in on the drums.
At 3am, about 200 people showed up to Phil’s house. and Phil’s house turned out to be an apartment. We did 2 song sets to make sure we could cram it all in. Robot’s Everywhere played 1, the Mandates played 2, and then the White Wires played 1.5 songs.
I’m not kidding, it was hilarious! So much fun. This one will be with me forever. Here’s an idea of how crazy it was!!!
A couple of Ottawa’s best are releasing new albums within the next week. Hilotrons (Kelp Records) and The Steve Adamyk Band (Dirtnap Records) are offering up new material and kicking off 2013 with full force. Hilotrons’ At Least There’s Commotion contains a bit of everything, melding different themes, sounds and styles in the final product. Personally, I’ve listened to the album streamon the CBC websitea couple times over and love it. Having taken some time off Hilotrons’ releases for five years, Michael Dubue hasn’t missed a step with this album. An excerpt from a recent CBC feature explains:
Beneath its edgy, pop exterior, there’s quite a melancholy aspect to this record. It seems like a collection of love songs, or at least an album full of songs about dynamics between men and women.
“Almost,” Dubue clarifies. “Some of them might seem like it’s all between lovers but there’s a bunch that are between friends and family. The narrative of the record is from the point of view of someone who suffers borderline personality disorder and also from the perspective of their friends and family.”
The Steve Adamyk Band is also set to release a 12-track full-length appropriately titled Third. The band has made some great strides since forming in 2010, and overcame a bit of adversity with changes in the band. The album won’t disappoint anyone who likes the dirty, garagy, pop-punk with lots of drive – it is a great listen from start to finish. Even though a lot of the tracks are shorter in length, songs like “Eyes” (my fav) and “Not a Witness” will have you moving involuntarily to great tunes, one after the other. The song “Katacombs” was premiered on SPIN last month, and was referred to by them as a “White-knuckle pop-punk gem”. Let’s be honest, there isn’t a bad song on this album so take a few good listens. Having seen these dudes absolutely tear up Arboretum Music+Arts Festival last September really had me thinking, “Holy shit – there really are awesomely loud and talented bands that live in Ottawa”.