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Sudbury synth-punks Mick Futures fly the dystopian freak flag

June 17, 2015

From their outlying Ontario hometown, brothers Jeff and Mitch Houle have cranked out some of the strangest and greatest punk music in the country.

Previous bands like Varge, Statues, and especially Strange Attractor are all worthy of your attention (2013’s Back to the Cruel World should go down as an all-time classic in the genre of anti-social goblin rock) and they’ve now re-emerged once again as Mick Futures.

In this guise, Mitch takes the reins with a spazzoid strain of Chrome-injected, Hardcore Devo-styled, Gary Numan-ous synth-punk. Unsettling song topics include machine guns, cold emotions, two-headed life-forms, and “walking with the prism”, whatever that means. “I draw from the things that I see or hear about,” he offers on the topic of thematic inspiration. “Sometimes it’s real, other times it’s all bullshit… Being a child of the ’80s I’m sure my brain is good at sponging it all up.” Whatever the origins may be, the Houle hive mind has delivered another set of sinister rippers for spooked summer nights.

Mick Futures’ debut LP is out now from Telephone Explosion, with the band making some of its earliest appearances at NXNE and this week’s Ottawa Explosion. Mitch fielded some questions about the project’s bedroom origins, Vulcan mind-melds, and rocking the Canadian tuxedo.

I was surprised to learn that some of the songs from this album date back to at least 2012. Were there any reasons why you were lurking on Bandcamp in secrecy?

No reason in particular. I’ve been recording and posting songs online under different names forever now. I had never planned on releasing any physical media per se. It was really the guys from Telephone Explosion who were digging my tracks and pushed me out of the shadows to get a band together, do some live shows, and ultimately release the record.

This album has some unsettling sci-fi imagery and themes of dark or scary locations. Living in an out of the way place like Sudbury, would you consider it musical escapism, or is that just where your brain goes?

It’s not hard to walk five minutes from my house and be surrounded by nature. You can walk the downtown streets past midnight on any given weekday and you won’t see a soul out there. I’m lulled to sleep by the sounds of locomotives and train cars smashing. Living in a place like this is the escape… the music comes from that, I suppose.

Do you play every instrument on the recordings like your brother does for Strange Attractor?

Yes, I wrote and performed everything. About half was recorded in my old 1 1/2 bedroom apartment. The other half was written and recorded — as well as the mix and post production — at my home studio, Piss Factory. My process for writing always differs. Sometimes I’ll start with a guitar thing, other times I’ll build a song over some old drum loops that are floating around on my hard drive from some past experiment.. Sometimes I don’t even wear pants.

What kinds of sibling rivalry drive your respective projects?

I think we get stoked on each others songs and it drives us to keep banging out the tunes!

You two have played together in a bunch of bands over the years and seem to have a Vulcan mind-meld going on. What sorts of advantages or disadvantages do you find from collaborating with a family member?

The advantage is we can improv really well, since we’ve been musical partners for the better of two decades (whoa). We have similar tastes and know what each other is looking for in the performance and music. It’s also good for scheduling gigs around family stuff. I don’t really see any disadvantages. We get along.

In another interview you said “I think there are four punk bands in Sudbury, and I’m in three of them.” What sorts of advantages or disadvantages do you see there?

I don’t see any advantage to that. I wish more people would come out and let their freak flag fly so to speak and rock the fuck out you know? It’s a bummer when you have no one to play with.

You and Jeff are pretty serious music fans too, and this project seems like it could only come from someone who’s listened to a billion different records. I can make my own comparisons — and I noticed you covered The Spits — but who would you list as your musical inspirations?

Buzzcocks, Chrome, Kraftwerk, Stooges, Wipers, Devo, etc. You know, good songs played with passion.

Telephone Explosion describes your music as “hoser Eno” and “jean jacket Devo.” Is there anything about it that you would consider unmistakably Canadian?

Haha. I have been known to sport the “Canadian tuxedo” from time to time.

Here’s a serious one to finish off: You previously described your songwriting as a dichotomy with “A harsh cold and bleak view on existence, and a hopeful optimism for the future.” Has that way of thinking continued, or are you now feeling pessimistic (“banned from the future”) about what’s to come?

Yes, life is crazy and everything is fucked up. Don’t give up the fight!

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