Published May 18, 2019There's enough happening in Canadian hardcore right now to make a music fan crazy trying to keep up. We spoke to three of our new favourites: Montreal's Gazm, Calgary's Mortality Rate and Niagara Falls' Wild Side.
"Hardcore means a lot of things to many people, but for me it's an angry thing."
That's Bad Bill of Gazm, a group of Montreal punks who master a balance of shredding hardcore and punk rock ethics on their debut Heavy Vibe Music.
"I think it's a matter of being honest with yourself. I don't want to be in a hardcore band that is just fun," he tells Exclaim! via phone. "I've never said no to myself about an idea… I like music that has an air of humour to it, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's funny. It's almost more menacing to have someone laughing at you than screaming at you."
Gazm formed five years ago when bassist Sienna West met Bill while the two were attending Concordia University. West knew guitarist Seb Elbourne from high school in Toronto, and Bill knew drummer JL from living in New Brunswick.
"We're a fake Quebec band, much like Mac DeMarco or Arcade Fire. No one is actually from Montreal, but it's the hub that brought us together," says Elbourne.
Weeks ago, Gazm released a promo cassette to tease the forthcoming LP. The opening track, "Deadbolt," is a ferocious bit of thrashing hardcore punk, showcasing a metallic direction and measured production. It's followed by "Space Truckin'" — Gazm's outrageous ode to country rock. The song was born from long tour drives where the group were subjected to pop and country radio for hours on end. Is it hardcore's answer to "Old Town Road"? JL thinks so.
"It was a bit mind-numbing, but passed the time," JL says. "I think after a few tours we realized we could do that ourselves."
"It is a joke song, but it comes from a very genuine place. I listen to a lot of country," Bill explains. "It's a very sincere publicity stunt."
Heavy Vibe Music is available May 31 on 11PM Records. Their release show is June 10 at Montreal's Bar Le Ritz PDB alongside Fury, Diztort, Prowl and Cell. West says to "expect lots of spin kicks."
Last month, Western Canada's own Mortality Rate released You Were the Gasoline, an effort of unwavering metallic hardcore fury that serves as an outlet for vocalist Jess Nyx's frustrations with the world at large: veganism, economics and the blight of feeble friendships.
"I've always had a high level of anger in me," Nyx tells Exclaim! from the group's hometown of Calgary. "It kind of came out when I was writing these songs.
"I was in a low point in my life and told (a friend) how I was feeling. Instead of understanding and supporting me, they basically told me that I'm not welcome in their life anymore because I was too mentally unstable," Nyx explains. "It really rocked me. I haven't been able to let it go, so I wrote about it."
Nyx was almost done writing the EP when tragedy struck.
"I had one song left to write before we released the EP, and Evan [Shaw, an affable face in Calgary's music scene who promoted and advocated for al-ages hardcore shows for several years] passed away before I was able to finish it."
She penned the song "Roses" for Shaw.
"I felt like writing 'Roses' about him was the best way to finish the record. I think about it every day. There's been so many times that I've opened my phone to text him and ask him what he thinks about the songs. Evan passing away has changed a lot for us, especially our view on hardcore and friendship. He was part of a very tight-knit group of friends and we watched him slowly pass away. Grieving for someone you love before they go is hard, but you have no idea how much it's actually going to hurt until they're gone. I think that we all hold on to our friendships and local scene a lot tighter now that we know how it feels to lose an important part of it."
You Were the Gasoline is available now independently.
A press release for Wild Side's debut, Who the Hell is Wild Side?, dubs the Niagara-based group as "real hardcore music from the last real city in North America."
"Nowhere else but in Niagara Falls can you get a billboard in the biggest tourist area for free because they think it's funny," Brandon MacFarlane explains. He is referring to the cover of his band's latest release, a picture of a Clifton Hill billboard parading the provocative title.
"They won't do that in Toronto or New York City. Anything can happen here. You can win or lose it all, get your car stolen, and always find some kind of work — legal or otherwise. It can be a strange, lovely, dangerous and exciting place."
Wild Side formed in 2014 and hit the ground running, playing "a lot of shows on seven songs." Five years later, Who the Hell… is a gratifying arrangement of rock, punk and New York hardcore. Guitarist Emmett Morris explains that Wild Side's influences extend far and beyond the scope of hardcore.
"I think it's safe to say we're '80s thrash fans. We love '90s skate punk. We like Van Halen," Morris says. "I mean… we're called Wild Side."
Morris feels Wild Side's colourful sound was instrumental in making an opening slot for Insane Clown Posse and a touring run with Power Trip digestible for their audience.
"If we sounded more abrasive, we probably wouldn't have gone over well with ICP. If we were more NYHC, I'm not sure if we would've been as welcome at those Power Trip shows," Morris says. "We're able to adapt.
"We do what we do and it's always been that way. We've never necessarily fit into a particular moment happening in hardcore. Things have come and gone. We've always just done our own thing. I think we're lucky that so many people are doing the heavy thing now, because it just makes our record stand out even more."
When faced with the very question that their LP title contemplates, MacFarlane concludes: "Wild Side is the baddest band on the planet."
Who the Hell is Wild Side? is available on Triple B Records. Their release show is in Toronto on May 25 at the Velvet Underground with Mil-Spec, Ekulu and Raze.