Newfoundland Scene Report #001
Who would have thunk it?
Even though national media may have recently exclaimed to the rest of the country, “Newfoundland rocks,” who are we really kidding. The rest of Canada is not paying attention to underground Newfoundland music. We’re not Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver. Probably not even Moncton.
It’s not hard to understand why our music is so under-the-underground, taking geography into account. We’re on an island very few mainland musicians make an effort to come visit. Performing in this province is an expensive proposition, what with the predominantly rural population and the lengthy drive to St. John’s once you’re off the ferry from North Sydney. Thus, there isn’t much word of mouth spreading about regarding all the great bands playing in St. John’s.
Those who do come over also tend to play shows with a small selection of groups featuring scene veterans such as Jody Richardson (Fur Packed Action, Thomas Trio and the Red Albino, Pathological Lovers) or Mark Bragg. Basically, those bands from away don’t always get to take in the local scene to its fullest.
Being an insular scene also forces trends to slowly make an impression here – more so, perhaps, than in other small cities. Case in point – the early 90s grunge craze lasted way too long in St. John’s.
One sound that has gripped the city for a long time has been the rough and angular stylings of The Jesus Lizard. Since their heyday almost two decades ago, countless acts in St. John’s have modelled themselves at least partially on the yelps of David Yow and skittery guitar sound of Duane Denison. Some have done this better than others, most prominently the long-running trio Geinus.
Colonel Craze and the Hunch are a younger band who also have a bit of a Jesus Lizard thing happening, but they didn’t get it from going to Geinus shows in the early part of the past decade (I’m forgetting that hideous phrase some people have been brandying to describe it – the nonties?).
Singer-guitarist Andrew Waterman grew up in Gander (also the place I currently call home). Attending junior and senior high, he took part in what was a fairly vibrant indie-rock community, particularly for a town of 10,000. People were forming bands all over the place and making albums in their basements. Some of those folks have continued to pursue music outside the province, most notably Matthew Thomson, Danielle Hamel, and Justin Avery in Open Fields, and Rob Rodgers, formerly of Paper Moon.
Waterman played in a variety of groups through high school, including one called Bears on Wheels. They performed shows where they could, including annual sets at the battle of the bands event for the Festival of Flight summer shindig.
(Gander, for those unaware, has an international airport, hence the obsession with all things that take flight.)
It was at one of those performances Waterman met Devon Milley from the nearby community of Lewisporte. Devon dug Andrew’s style, and once they were both in St. John’s, their musical bond tightened.
With the addition of Matt Fudge (also from Lewisporte) on drums and Milley on bass, the trio became Colonel Craze and the Hunch.
I’m not fussy about their name, but the band itself is stellar. Last month, they released their debut CD, Reptilian Lipstick. You can hear bits of Jesus Lizard sludge here and there, but they play with more rock ‘n’ roll flavour. Check the opening to this song, “Pregnancy’s a Joke”:
Aggressive stuff. They’re also lyrically confrontational, as evidenced by the band’s severely misunderstood track “Nice Day for a Rape” (it is NOT a pro-rape song):
Talking with Andrew back in the fall (they expected the album to come out then, but it got delayed in production), he expressed a fondness for Nation of Ulysses – solid inspiration says I who worships everything Ian Svenonius excretes.