NU SENSAE may disagree that they’re changing Canadian music but when their compositions are caught between low-note basement alternative and an eight-year-old setting fire to a dollhouse, it’s clear that they’re truly genuine. That’s the hidden spark to the Vancouver three-piece’s new record Sundowning, which for a Suicide Squeeze debut is a corrosive piece of work. In the midst of touring, we spoke to bassist Andrea Lukic about the band’s rise on the West Coast and how noise rock is likely more popular because “people feel the need to get a bit more fucked up”.
Coming from a city that’s often overshadowed by the music scenes in Toronto and Montreal, what’s it been like to start and grow with a band in Vancouver?
I like playing in both Montreal and Toronto, but I honestly know very little about the scenes over there; I’m not even that familiar with any bands from the East Coast. As far as being in a band in Vancouver, I think its probably like being in a band anywhere, really. I mean aside from the initial difficulty of touring to the United States, jam spaces are expensive everywhere, promoters can be greasy, it rains a lot and I just like staying in my room.
With the venues, record shops and local talent, is the community a lot more vibrant than people think?
Yes and no. I like this city a lot – everything here is really accessible – but sometimes it just feels like you’re suffocating. There are people here who do a lot of cool things like running labels (Green Burrito Records), shops (Zoo Zhop, Pinhole Printing) and festivals (Distort Fest, Music Waste) and they’re facilitating some culture amongst the young people that are here in this city.
Growing up in the environment, what first exposed you to punk/alternative music?
I got into a lot of trouble when I was 12 so I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I listened to mostly contemporary R&B at the time but I convinced my parents to just let me hang out at the public library where I looked at a lot of books. I honestly read about a lot of bands before I ever heard them. I would save up change and buy a CD every few months and once I got the first Raincoats album, and although it didn’t sound punk or sound like what I read about punk, I loved it. I listened to that CD everyday. When we got Napster, my Dad used to let me download one song at a time and I remember I downloaded a song by The Runaways because they were in a lot of books and I thought Cherie Currie looked like what Jon Benét Ramsey would look like if she’d lived to be a teen. She looked very scandalous.
Has your taste in music evolved since then?
Yes and no. I have always been a fan of the crooner, like a sad lonely voice. I love Roy Orbison, Dave Dudley, Rodd Keith, Neil Young and any other sorry sounding $1 bin crooner. I like sad music because it makes me feel better.
Having started your own band, has it been difficult in terms of expanding to a three-piece?
It’s been really easy. Both Daniel and myself have played in bands with Brody and have been fans of everything he does. It came naturally. When we decided we wanted another member we weren’t just up for anyone because we specifically wanted Brody. It was Brody or nothing.
What do you think has attributed to the rise of noise rock/punk on the West Coast?
I have a hard time following those kinds of trends. I wish I knew all the new cool bands but it’s hard to keep up as things move really fast. I sort of get the gist of it every few months so I guess the reason noise rock would be popular is because people are bored and maybe need to get a bit more fucked up these days. They need to level out.
Throughout the years, bands like Black Flag, Bad Religion, Green Day and Anti-Flag have been associated with “punk” and now it seems like it’s starting to be used to categorize groups that sound like The Smiths. Do you think the term’s being used a bit more loosely than it should be?
I think the term can be so corny. Why don’t we say The Smiths sound narcissistic and lonely? Pretty much any adjective can sound corny. I think to describe something as corny and rude sounds kind of good though.
How hard is it for a band to progress in a DIY way when listeners are quick to label their music before they actually listen to it or see it performed live?
It doesn’t really affect me. I try to do what’s instinctual. I think it’s funny though when people write about us and use words like “crusty” and “doomy” when we’re neither doom nor crust. What are we? I don’t know.
In your own words, how would you describe the Canadian music scene today?
Here’s the thing about Canada – you have to have at least eight members in your band to leave some sort of major impression, e.g. Fucked Up, Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire etc. I think it’s a number thing, like the Canada Arts Council is obsessed with numerology. Maybe they’re a bunch of witches taxing people who buy burnt CDs.
With an album like Sundowning, the band is bringing a bit of life to Canadian music, so where does a three-piece – who used to blow minds at Alf House – go from here?
We’re not selling out Madison Square Garden and I still make bad decisions at the Alf House at least once a week – but it’s a house, it’s not a status thing – so I refuse to believe we are changing Canadian music. It’s an institution run by witches and I’m fine with that. I’m not really into being in front of the mirror like that – I just want to drink wine at a Super 8 and eat at Olive Garden whenever possible.