Photo: INCLINE DECLINE founders Brian Schirk and John Pritchard (a.k.a. STÜKA)
Guelph is no slouch when it comes to festivals.
Like the Michigan Wolverines, the idyllic Ontario city is known for its own Fab 5 — a series of yearly events that includes Hillside, Jazz Festival, Guelph Dance, Eden Mills Writers Festival, and the Festival of Moving Media. The cobblestoned downtown core is also taken over by Kazoo!, another annual music fest focusing on independent artists. That piping hot pot can now be considered boiled over with the addition of INCLINE DECLINE, an upstart event with an even more exploratory slant.
With the second year of the festival kicking off this week (July 15-18), founders Brian Schirk and John Pritchard (who also perform as the crushing coldwave duo STÜKA) have assembled a massively impressive pile-up of 40 acts. These include Halifax swooners Monomyth, Nap Eyes, and Special Costello, Montreal’s blues-warping Drainolith, and a grab-bag of Toronto artists we love: The devotional bangers of Tenderness, the jittery art-punk of New Fries, the sophisti-pop of Germaphobes, and far too many more to mention.
Listen to choice cuts spanning the line-up in the mix below, followed by a quick Q ‘n’ A with the festival heads. They end it with an all-caps rant that will hopefully wind up your enthusiasm to their level.
AUX: I understand INCLINE DECLINE was launched as an alternative to Guelph’s long-running Hillside Festival but it occupies similar territory to Kazoo! Fest as well. What sorts of things do you aim to do differently?
Brian Schirk and John Pritchard: As the organizers of the festival, the programming tends to reflect our personal tastes, and so our line-up usually leans toward the heavier side of the spectrum. Another thing that sets us apart is our focus on a crawl style schedule. Breaking up the shows into a crawl style format lets people see as much music as they want. Not to mention it’s a hell of a lot cheaper.
Do you feel you succeeded in those goals with your first year? How did you rejig for 2015?
ID2014 was much more spontaneous, and there was a lot less preparation going into the festival last year than this year’s. The first ID also marked our first attempt at booking more than one show at a time together. We definitely succeeded in what we set out to do with our first year and are stoked to see what will come of all of the effort we’ve put into planning the fest this year. As far as changes to the festival, we’ve decided to move the festival one weekend ahead in the calendar so as not to coincide with Hillside; it allows us to use more spaces downtown and reach a larger local audience.
You’ve stated that this year will focus on collaborations shining the spotlight on people working behind the scenes in Guelph. Who does that include?
Ray Mitchell. He bought my family business, the thrift store owned by my grandparents in the late ’90s, and turned it into Dis-A-Ray. It’s now an incubator for young bands to rehearse and play shows amidst all of his antique junk. The first Unicorns and Arcade Fire shows I ever saw were at Ray’s store.
You’ve also noted that the largest venue this year is the Jimmy Jazz bar with a 130-person capacity. Why did you decide to go with smaller shows at houses, lofts, and record stores?
As a band, John and I always prefer playing smaller, more intimate spaces. As audience members, shows in smaller, more intimate spaces are often the most memorable. House shows and in-stores make it easier for performers and audience members to interact. Also, people dance in small spaces!
It’s been great to see some recent crossovers between Guelph and Toronto since the cities are close but still feel fairly separate. Which Guelph locals are you especially excited about out of town people discovering?
Oh man… BSHC, Natural Thirst, Start Something, and BattleWülf!
Can you tell me a bit about the expansion of INCLINE DECLINE into a label and year-round show promotion? What have you done so far and what do you have coming down the pipe?
Before we put a name to it John and I had been booking shows together for other bands and our own for about a year, and releasing our own music on cassette tape. Once we started doing the festival it just made sense for us to use the platform that we had built to also involve our other projects, and to support the projects of others as well.
COME TO INCLINE DECLINE 2015 YOU CAN MEET MY PARENTS AND HAVE AN AMAZING TIME IN THEIR BACKYARD OR YOU CAN GO FOR A SWIM AT THE LAKE AND SEE JACK TOPHT RAP IN DIS-A-RAY ANTIQUES! BUY YOURSELF SOME OLD PHOTOGRAPHS OR A NICE HAT! THERE’S 40 BANDS PLAYING AND I WOULDN’T WANT ANY OF YOU TO MISS A SINGLE ONE!