It’s hard to believe that We Are Busy Bodies, Eric Warner’s stalwart indie rock-noise-post hardcore-punk imprint, has been in operation for nearly 10 years. Indeed, what began as one of Warner’s many musical projects—he’s been in bands like Neon Windbreaker, Viking Club, and Dollarama, launched the Over the Top festival, booked countless shows, and has managed internationally reknowned musicians—has quietly transformed into one of Toronto’s definitive labels, releasing LPs, impressive small-run singles clubs, and even Cancon reissues. Not bad, considering the project grew out of his parents’ Thornhill, ON basement.
More impressive still, Warner doesn’t view WABB as a city- (or world-) conquering enterprise. Even as he preps his 50th release, it’s still a way to put out music by pals. “The mandate from the get go has been to release records by friends bands from near and far and allow me to champion music I believe in.”
Good thing, then, that Warner happens to believe in excellent music: Their first release was a split between Warner’s post-hardcore outfit, Viking Club, and Brooklyn art-punk legends Japanther. Since then, he’s cut releases by Montreal electronic wunderkind Doldrums, Fucked Up guitarist Young Guv, indie mainstays the Elwins, Montreal experimenters AIDS Wolf, Japanese psych mainstays the Zoobombs, Israeli punks TV Buddhas, Toronto noise outfit Odonis Odonis and many, many more. On the eve of their 50th release—which Warner maintains is coming soon, as the label briefly slowed down after his son was born—we asked him to wade through WABB’s history to bring us the label’s definitive releases.
Limblifter — Limblifter reissue LP [WABB-040]
In Cancon circles, Limblifter’s self-titled 1996 debut is considered a cult classic. And why not? The Dahle brothers—then of Age of Electric—took the project to hone their sugary, ’60s-inspired hooks, and to this day, they’re considered one of the nation’s finest power pop bands. And Warner himself certainly took notice: His current post-hardcore band, Neon Windbreaker, covered “Tinfoil” in their early days, and he would eventually re-issue the Limblifter LP on vinyl. As Warner’s happy to report, the band’s also working on a third album.
“Limblifter are one of my favourite bands. I was having a discussion a few years ago with one of my close friends about Limblifter’s first album and how it stands the test of time and is still one of my favourite records to listen to,” says Warner. “The conversation evolved into first realizing the record was never issued on vinyl, wondering if I could re-release it, tracking down Ryan Dahle through mutual friends, and having him realize I wasn’t too crazy and him being open to the idea. Since then, the band has reformed, played some amazing concerts and I am fortunate to say I now work with the band.”
Meligrove Band — Planets Conspire LP [WABB-004]
One of Warner’s first jobs in the music industry—along with spending time with Myspace—was working A&R for V2 Records. The label initially released the Meligrove Band’s Planets Conspire on CD; Warner, for his part, handled the vinyl edition with WABB. He was, after all, a fan of the band going back to their time on Ductape Records, the label counterpart to Toronto’s Ductape Fanzine (which can still be found at the Toronto Zine Library).
“The first time I saw the Meligrove Band was when they opened for Thrush Hermit at a matinee concert at the Horseshoe Tavern when I was 14 or so. It was either right before or right after their first album came out on Ductape Records,” he adds. “My first full-time job after university was at V2 Records handling marketing and A&R. The Meligrove Band were my first signing and because the label did not issue vinyl, I was able to do so. Probably their definitive record in my opinion.”
DD/MM/YYYY — Black Square CD/LP [WABB-016]
If there’s a band we associate most closely with WABB, it’s DD/MM/YYYY. Part post-hardcore, part art-damaged noise, the label had long worked with the band—Warner also handled the Are They Masks? CD and the Blue Screen of Death 7-inch—but their apex came with the Black Square LP. The band dissolved in 2011, though members can be found in the Arts and Crafts-signed Absolutely Free, BRR, and various zine fairs.
“Black Square was DD/MM/YYYY’s definitive release,” says Warner. “It was the most focused of their full-lengths and let each member play to its strengths. This band worked so hard. They toured non-stop all over the world and made some pretty intricate and deranged music. This record was re-released by Geoff Barrow’s Invada Records after a chance meeting of his band Beak> and DD/MM/YYYY at a show in France which also resulted in a split LP.”
METZ — I 7-inch [WABB-015]
Before METZ became international stars (and heck, long before they were hailed as Toronto’s best-kept secret) the sludgy noise trio put out releases with We Are Busy Bodies. The band’s bassist, Chris Slorach, frequently booked shows with Warner—and eventually, he’d end up releasing some of METZ’s rarest material. The I 7-inch, featuring “Soft Whiteout” and “Lump Sums,” was released in five colours, and is now considered a rarity. Check the band performing “Soft Whiteout” in the now-defunct AUX basement above.
METZ — II 7-inch [WABB-018]
Next up came II, a 7-inch that featured two more METZ originals, namely “Ripped on the Fence” and “Dry Up.” Released in June 2009, the single is long sold-out, but if you monitor Discogs closely enough, you might be able to produce a copy. Warning: They’ll run you around $80.
METZ — Negative Space 7-inch [WABB-020]
The final release WABB handled for METZ was Negative Space. The band signed onto Sub Pop for their debut LP, and the rest is history. “Chris Slorach and I used to promote concerts together, which is how I ended up releasing this series of records over the course of two years,” adds Warner. “METZ are one of most intense live bands going and are made up of three of the nicest guys. I helped book a lot of shows for this band and was able to watch them evolve. These 7-inches are long gone, but if you don’t own their full-length yet, you should stop reading about WABB and pick it up.”
Julie Doiron & The Wrong Guys — Heartbeats / Swan Pond 7-inch [WABB-036]
Julie Doiron, of Wooden Stars and Eric’s Trip infamy, will forever be associated with Sackville’s music scene. Still, she’s become a key component of Toronto’s Bloor-Ossington scene—and the Wrong Guys features some of her new Hogtown friends, including Edmonton expat Eamon McGrath and Cancer Bats members Mike Peters and Jaye Schwarzer.
“Both Julie Doiron solo and Eric’s Trip are up there for me. I have had the pleasure and privilege of booking Julie Doiron a number of times and opened up a dialogue about a 7-inch with her,” says Warner. “Months went by, if not longer until one day I received an email from her manager, Peter about releasing a single by a new project featuring Julie, Eamon McGrath and members of the Cancer Bats. Probably one of the quickest turnarounds I’ve ever done on a release.”
Young Guv — The Married Man 7-inch [WABB-025]
Who hasn’t put out a Ben Cook record? The Fucked Up guitarist has put out releases on labels ranging from Dirtnap to Slumberland to Parts Unknown, and he asked WABB to release his wonderful The Married Man 7-inch. “Ben Cook is a pretty prolific songwriter with all of his projects,” adds Warner. “He contacted me about releasing a single that he thought I’d enjoy, and it became one of the quickest selling releases I’ve had to date.”
Mayor McCa — Cue Are Es Tea You CD/LP [WABB-008]
Christian Anderson Smith—a.k.a. Mayor McCa or CA Smith—is best-known as a Hamilton (and now, London England) one-man band. Cue Are Es Tea You was one of the WABB’s formative releases, displaying Smith’s penchant for lovely, nuanced folk. “[He] is, to quote him ‘one of the hardest working men in show business,'” adds Warner. “I was a fan first before I knew him personally and am fortunate to now count him as a close friend. CA writes beautiful, heartfelt songs.”
CA Smith — Someone You Love CD/LP [WABB-039]
Warner continued his relationship with Smith some 20 releases on, when, under the name CA Smith, he released Someone You Love. (Which, Warner adds, is his best work.) Here, the famed beardo continued to refine his storytelling chops, Warner also argues that he helped pave the path for like-minded DIY troubadours. “He has toured Canada like no other, and paved paths for other one-man projects like BA Johnston, in my opinion,” says Warner. “He moved to the UK a few years back and been fortunate to find some success in touring with acts like Slow Club, Foals, Nick Olivieri and others. Someone You Love is likely his definitive release at present.”