Thursday, March 31, 2011

Interview w/ Ripperz Drummer Travis Warkentin

Three of my favourite independent bands are bands that unless you follow the independent music scene you may not know of. Luckily the Hot Blood Bombers and the Bystanders are from Regina. However, one band you will want to see seven days from now is Winnipeg's rock n' roll specialists the Ripperz.

On August 22, 2009 I randomly walked into Regina's O'Hanlon's Irish Pub for a pint with a girl whose name escapes me at the moment. Her name is not important, what is important is that I saw one of best rocks bands western Canada has to offer. In fact, I thought they were so good that I nerded out and asked the singer to sign their record that I had just bought. He advised me that he'd love to but would prefer to sign his. Apparently we had missed the opening act Hard Feelings and the guy I bought record from was a Hard Feelings member... not the Ripperz roadie I thought he was. That's alright, that night I left with two really great records.

It will be nice to get some new and old friends out to see the Ripperz back at Ohan's this Thursday April 7th. It was a long year and a half wait but I suspect it will be worth it. Their self-titled record is flawless and their show is even better.

I have posted a couple examples of their work 'Elephant Blues' and my personal 'Baby, Let's Go Out'. Each of them are quite different so be be sure to check them both out. For more highlights like 'Fly' and 'Born Fighting' I will see you Thursday.

I am please to present to you my interview with the man behind the kit, Ripperz drummer Travis Warkentin.

Cheers Rockers.

SPUN: For someone just getting into your music how would you characterize your music, how would you describe it?
T.W: Generally, we are an indie rock band. We don't try to sound like anybody else so its hard to say what we sound like.

SPUN: Who is in the band? Who plays what?
T.W: Chris Sawatzky guitar and vocals. Mark Wiebe bass. Travis Warkentin drums.

SPUN: How long have you been a band? How did you come together to start playing?
T.W: We have been a band for around 10 years on and off, mostly on. We have been taking things seriously for about the past 4 or 5 years.

SPUN: Who has been your greatest inspiration?
T.W: For me, the band itself is an inspiration. I love watching it grow and develop. I like seeing how people react when they have never seen us play before. Getting a good reaction form a new fan is all the inspiration I need.

SPUN: Which one of your songs is your favourite?
T.W: 'Fly' is my favorite song to play. I would compare it to the same feeling you have when you are leaving work on a Friday.

SPUN: What do you want your fans to take away from your music?
T.W:I just want our fans to have a good time after a hard day at the office. I want our music to make people want to interact with someone they have never talked to before.

SPUN: I have wondered since I first heard the name, where did you come up with the name the Ripperz?
T.W: The name comes from the TV show Full House. The band on the show was Jesse and the Rippers. We had to tweak it slightly.

SPUN: Do you prefer to play at home or to play the road?
T.W: I love playing on the road most. I love catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Plus there is always a chance we might have to sleep in our astro van. We only did that once.

SPUN: There are a lot of great bands/songwriters in this country of ours. Why should I come see your band? What makes what you so special?
T.W: We have "it".

SPUN: What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
T.W: Our biggest challenge so far has been making the band into a full-time job. We are always at war with this dragon and as of yet, Bard has not brought down Smaug.

SPUN: When you aren't playing or writing, what occupies your time?
T.W: We as a band will kick anyone's ass at street hockey.

SPUN: What was the first record you ever bought and do you still own it?
T.W: I can't remember the first record I bought. But It was probably Zao, Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest. I still listen to that album all the time. It's a classic.

SPUN: Is there anything the band listens to between cities that you may be embarrassed to mention?
T.W: Dan Hill 'Sometimes When We Touch', the Boney M Christmas album, and Yakety Sax (the theme from the Benny Hill show)

SPUN: Do you have any worst show stories? Trainwrecks or funny blunders?
T.W: We haven't really had any over-the-top mishaps onstage yet but I am sure one day a tossed beer bottle while find its place with one of our foreheads before our time is up.

SPUN: How many records have you put out? Do you have plans for more?
T.W: We have one record and about another album worth of poorly released material prior to that. We are planing on hitting the studio in June and by fall we should have something new out again.

SPUN: How can fans to be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with samples songs and/or where can they get a copy of music?
T.W: Fans can gain access to our music via our website or our myspace at , or via facebook, search the ripperz friendz.

SPUN: What is coming on the horizon for the Ripperz?
T.W: The open road.

SPUN: Lastly give me two words to end this interview.
T.W: Have fun!

Photo Credit: Jordana Meilleur

Elephant Blues

Baby, Let's Go Out

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Civet: Love & War

Sisters Liza Graves and Suzi Homewrecker have had a busy year. In a year of touring, replacing members and taking time for their fans, the girls managed to release their sophomore record on Hellcat Records just a couple weeks ago. Civet are a 4 piece punk-rock 'n' roll band based out of California. I am not going to tell you what 70’s girl group or 80’s punk band they have similar sounds of 'cause quite frankly I am getting tired of hearing it as I am sure they are. Civet is a balls-to-the-wall punk-rock 'n' roll band with the furious Suzi Homwrecker on lead guitar and the ferocious Liza Graves on lead vox and rhythm guitar.

I rated this record 3.5 out of 5, which I admit doesn’t sound great, but it’s really not a bad score. Here is why. It’s a really good record but I simply prefer their debut ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ marginally. ‘Love & War’ is better than most bands in their genre. I feel that as time goes on I will reach for HHNF more. That being said, one should not be afraid to pick up this record. In fact I encourage it.

I am a fan of vinyl and the way punk rocks bands in the 70’s did it. 5 tracks on each side and a running time of 35 minutes or so. If the girls had done a 10 song record of 3:30 min songs I think it would have packed a bigger punch.

I enjoy polished records that are well produced with bands that slay live. Remember Vancouver’s monochrome punks the Black Halos or Toronto’s Robin Black? Yeah, like that. HHNF nailed that idea and the girls almost did it again here. For the most part they still do on this one. The first song ‘Can’t Go Back,’ for example, is the perfect segway between records. The thunderous bass and ferocious guitar are really intense on this track. ‘Deadbeat’ is another speedy angst-filled little ditty, ‘I’m Not The One’ explodes in true punk rock fashion and ‘Go Underground’ could have been an ‘Out Come The Wolves’ era Rancid tune… if Billy Hopeless of the Halos got his hands on it.

One dimensional Civet are not. They try their hands at an almost punk country song with ‘It’s The Truth,’ which compliments their boot-in-the-face punk rock. Love & War is a great first effort as far as producing is concerned. I commend the girls for doing it on their own. Musically and live, their chops exceed the standard ten fold. Lyrically it has a lot more grown up feel than their previous effort. This record is really raw and honest so poseurs these girls are not. My only beef is that I would say it sometimes valley’s when it should be peaking. ‘Cryin Wolf’ could be shortened; the A Capella in my opinion could be dropped and 5 minute long songs for this style of music could be 2½ - 3½ minute songs.

On this 14 track record, I really dig 10 of them a lot. I cannot wait to see these girls again live. EVERY song is rad live. I am anxious to see what’s in store for their 3rd album. If the girls in Civet continue to grow there is no doubt how great the accomplishments they will achieve in the future and the blistering records that will come out of it. If you get a chance to say hello, do so. Last fall when they were here in Regina with Nashville Pussy, the girls were super friendly and a lot of fun to chat and hang with. After meeting Liza you’ll wonder how that booming voice comes out of that little body.

Highlights: Can't Go Back, Deadbeat, Buy My Love, I'm Not The One and Go Underground

Tell Your Friends

Civet - Buy My Love (Audio Only)

Cheers Rockers,

Monday, March 14, 2011

R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

After drummer Bill Berry retired in 1997, R.E.M. released three consecutive albums of mellow, quasi-experimental albums. Up and Reveal were solid efforts but they lost their footing a little bit with the spotty at times Around The Sun. After the negative reception of Around The Sun, the boys from Athens, GA felt they had something to prove with 2008's stunning return to form Accelerate, which primarily featured short, loud bursts of punky energy. The album served it's purpose, which was to regain their mojo. Well, R.E.M. have just released their 15th studio album Collapse Into Now, and it's safe to say that the band are once again at the peak of their formidable powers. While Accelerate was an exercise in rocking out, Collapse Into Now is just R.E.M. playing to their strengths and being themselves.

This is R.E.M.'s best album since 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Like that album, Collapse Into Now is pretty diverse, featuring ballsy rockers ("All The Best" and "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter," which features Peaches on vocals and Lenny Kaye on guitar), ultra-catchy power pop ("Mine Smell Like Honey" and "That Someone is You"), psychedelic hard rock ("Discoverer") and acoustic balladry ("Oh My Heart" and "It Happened Today," which features Eddie Vedder on vocals). As well, the album features the Velvet Underground-esque "Every Day is Yours To Win" and "Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I," which is a tribute of sorts to Neil Young's "Pocahontas." Album closer "Blue," which features Patti Smith on vocals, recalls "E-Bow The Letter" (which also featured Smith) and "Country Feedback" with Michael Stipe's spoken word beat poetry over Peter Buck's acoustic guitars and feedback.

What really stands out with this album is the confidence that the band exudes. Musically, Peter Buck is a force on guitar and mandolin, Mike Mills' melodic bass and harmony vocals prove once again to be the band's secret weapon, and Michael Stipe's cryptic lyrics and distinct baritone have rarely sounded better. On album closer "Blue," Stipe declares "This is my time/ I'm thrilled to be alive." Well, the band certainly sounds alive and kicking on this album. It's a shame they're not going to tour behind this batch of tunes because there isn't a clunker in the bunch.

You can check out videos for two of the album's songs below...


"Mine Smell Like Honey"

"Oh My Heart"