Photo: Heather Rappard
Toronto’s Soupcans are a scuzz-punk institution. With the release of their latest album Soft Party on the venerable Telephone Explosion Records, they continue to crash down a wave of mutilation dating back five or so years ago to a Senegalese restaurant in Kensington Market that just so happened to say yes to noisy bands asking to book shows. The terrible trio have since riled up mosh pits coast to coast and dipping down into the USA, with no signs of shifting gears any time soon.
Soft Party switches up the formula, though, with a few new tricks and tempo shifts. At times they slow down to a brutal sludge ooze to balance out their usual Cujo-style frothing at the mouth intensity. The band has also linked up with Leslie Predy a.k.a. Doom Tickler, former frontwoman of the dearly departed Induced Labour, who drops her signature black metal Gremlin growls into their gurgling cauldron.
In the midst of their album release shows on the Southern Ontario circuit, I fired off some questions to bassist Nick Gajewski. We discuss mosh pit mishaps, his former Geocities glory, and shedding traditional notions of “success.” Read on below.
AUX: It’s been three years since your last album. What have you been up to since then?
Nick Gajewski: When you put it that way it doesn’t sound like much but actually we’ve done many things! We released two EPs and two singles and toured all the provinces of this great land of ours (minus Prince Edward Island). We demo’d a whole bunch too. Then we recorded this new record and waited a long-ass time to get the vinyl. So yeah, all that plus the usual mis-adventures, fuck-ups, and shenanigans. It’s been a busy three years, really.
You guys have spent a significant amount of time on the road. I imagine the responses to your live set are pretty varied in places where people don’t know what to expect. Can you remember any significantly positive or negative reactions?
Lately they’ve all been pretty positive! In the last year or so we had a kid cut his head open with a key when we played his request. There’ve been some pretty decent mosh pits lately too. There was at least one mini circle-pit and another time a full-sized trash can crowd surfed.
How has your band changed since you went from a drummer who stands up to a drummer who sits down?
It got way louder and heavier. Jerome, our drummer, is a heavy hitter so we had go get bigger amps and more distortion pedals. I’m happy to say we are currently sitting at five distortion pedals between the guitar and the bass. Oh, yeah, and no one calls us psychobilly anymore. Win, win, win.
I understand you used to run a Killdozer fansite on Geocities. What kinds of things were on there and why that band specifically?
There was an extensive / exhaustive discography on there, interviews I’d transcribed, a poster archive and other band-geek stuff like that. I had a few people from all over the world contribute to it as well. Killdozer because they were awesome and no one cared.
Are there any current bands who could inspire that kind of devotion from you?
Well, yeah, but the times are different now. The internet has really matured and you can find an exhaustive amount of information about any band / subject in a few clicks let alone an afternoon so I’m not sure I’d do it now. Plus I got a lot of other shit to do. But having said that I really love this band New Fries from Toronto and would totally become their webmaster if they ever asked.
You’ve said your last album Good Feelings had an ironic title. Is Soft Party ironic too, or have you gotten in touch with any of your softer sides?
It’s a bit of a funny title but it’s not ironic. The Soft Party is an ambiguous idea that we’ve all embraced and although we have our own thoughts about what it means we’re not going to spoil the fun. We encourage everyone to use their imaginations and join the soft party. It’s probably going to go all night.
You recorded your last album with Don Pyle (Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Crash Kills Five, etc.) and did this one with James Tooth from Hamilton. Who is he and how did the experience differ?
James “Tooth” is actually an autocorrect accident that will forever be recorded in the shadows of the clouds of the internet. His name is actually James Toth (or Smooth Jimmy T as he likes to be called) and he came into our lives when we were looking for someone to mix some demos about a year ago. He was friends with our drummer, Jason. Those mixes turned out really great and that was that! We were stuck on Jim.
The experiences were completely different in that they were unique… as I guess as all experiences are! Good Feelings was recorded at a bike shop in a day and this one happened to take place at Boxcar Sound in Hamilton, which is an actual studio (first time!) that we basically lived in for two days. It was a great experience and James is all over this record. I’d also like to add that James is excellent to work with, lives in Toronto, and would probably like to make a kick-ass record for your band too.
I love your collaborations with Leslie Predy a.k.a. Doom Tickler. Can you talk about how that started with the Jesus Lizard cover band at Halloween, and what it’s like to work with her?
It started way before that. We’ve been fans-of and friends-with Leslie for a long time now. She was also in Indcued Labour who were an awesome band that was around when we started. And she’s a great artist and has done t-shirt and 7″ art for us. She’s very talented and hilarious and she has the voice of an angel. Having her on this record is a complete joy.
I’ve heard tales of your early days in 2011 alongside Induced Labour at a venue called Teranga. What were those shows like for someone who wasn’t there?
Fun and unique! It was a Senegalese restaurant that held noise and punk shows. Sometimes there were fog machines and lazers. I remember there was a lot of falling down. I’ll let the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks.
“Psychosomatic Rash” really jumps out on this album. It’s more like the U.S. Maple side of pigfuck. Is that even Dave singing?
Yes! That is Dave. It’s definitely one of our more unorthodox concoctions and I like that people get a kick out of it. The last half of that song is a noise collaboration that we did with James Toth that involved a bank of drum sounds we recorded and a whole lot of feedback and pedal-knob-twittling.
I have a friend who says he doesn’t like your band because all three members are too handsome. How would you respond to that criticism?
Wow! Well, first off please thank your friend for the compliment. Second, that’s very forward thinking of your friend to criticize music by how it looks. And third, that’s the craziest reason I’ve heard for someone not liking us. There are so many reasons to not like us! Most people would say it’s our music.
You once said you felt total freedom because you stopped caring about traditional notions of “success” in music. Is that still the case and can you expand on what you meant?
Totally! I mean I think everyone should give up on the traditional notions of success in music in 2015. Let’s all get freaky and unsucceed together. I also think the best art is ephemeral and amateur in nature and more people should be doing that, especially in 2015.
More of the same! We’re playing some shows this month: Brantford, Guelph, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal. Then we’re going to write a bunch more songs because it’s going to be too cold to tour. Then in the spring we’ll tour some more. Then we’ll put out another record. That record might be a t-shirt.