13 Canadian punk bands that mix the old school with the new

by Tyler Munro

March 18, 2014






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Punk has quickly become a genre of caveats. Gone is its barebones, straight-faced interpretation; after more than 40 years, it’s as hyphen-filled as anything this side of metal. Do traditional punk rock bands have to sound like the Ramones, or the Sex Pistols? And where does skate punk fit? Ultimately, you can make the split easiest if you draw a line on either side of hardcore. It’s what affords us the luxury of calling bands like Pup or Solids punk: Traditionally, they’re not. But what the hell else would you call them?

Here, we’ve outlined some of Canada’s next wave with a list that walks between Gainesville-inspired orgcore and midwestern pop-punk; a collection of bands whose backbones, in some cases, are as comfortable beside Seattle’s grunge scene as they would be Michigan’s garage rockers. But in every case, there’s that dividing line— in short, we’re saving the heavier stuff for later.


Stuck Out Here

Photo by Yosh Photography

On “Gertrude Stein,” Stuck Out Here singer and AUX contributor Ivan Raczycki sings in harmony with the rest of the band that “a rose is a rose.” And while the hook is that they hate themselves for hating themselves, the Clinton, ON quartet seem comfortable with their place in life. Because while Getting Used to Feeling Like Shit has them hitting the familiar existential wall we all experience in our middle-20s, they’re not wallowing in it. Instead, they’ve turned these new experiences—worsening hangovers, serious relationships and high school classmates going pro—into a decisively executed brand of orgcore that’s somewhere between Gainesville and Minneapolis. We premiered their new video here, if you missed it.



Crusades have been described as a black metal band that plays pop-punk, but even that’s a stretch; while their aesthetics are right out of the Northwest’s Cascadian black metal scene, and they’ve got the philosophical slant to match, their sound is more nostalgic  for the punk rock of the early aughts. Think Art of Drowning-era AFI by four Ottawa-based poindexters. Their latest for No Idea Records is a mostly mid-paced mouthful, but hard as it is to say, Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment with Greater Fear Than I Receive It strikes a chord for anyone that wished Rise Against still wrote songs like “Torches.”


School Damage

Photo by Nathan Mills

Get Weird is Toronto’s answer to Screeching Weasel, replacing Ben Weasel’s lady-punches with School Damage’s to-the-point power-punk. The band calls themselves “Ramonescore” on their Bandcamp page, and that’s about as accurate as can be: This is the classic pop-punk sound with a modern edge. They can write a hook, but aren’t about to compromise energy to do it.



These snot-nosed Calgarians were clearly raised on a steady diet of Kid Dynamite and The Simpsons, and while their latest EP, Morning Breath, delivers on promises of a darker sound, they’re still riding high off the melodic edge of their first album, 2011’s Making Light of a Shitty Situation. The difference going forward is they seem to be striking a more serious chord, because while the songs are still fun, they’re more focused than ever.



Vocalist Glenn Barrington sounds like Dillinger Four’s Paddy Costello after a rough night out (in the best way possible), and his jarring bark adds the perfect hardcore contrast to !ATTENTION!’s sarcasm-filled pop-punk jams. As gruff and bitter as the band’s exterior might sound, the music has more than a bit of Bouncing Souls in its blood; things might not always go your way, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun shouting about it.


Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots)

Photo by Yosh Photography

Toronto party punks PkewX3 are a magnificent contradiction: Punks who sing about sports and would rather get pre-drink drunk with friends than paint the town red. Musically, it’s the same idea. Falling on influences that range from Rancid to Weezer, the middle-ground finds the quintet landing on a melody-filled sound that, whittled down, is clear as the influences on their sleeve. It’s nostalgic without being reminiscent of any one sound and that, as much as their raucous stage shows, is what makes everything come together. Full disclosure: I’m pals with these dudes, but grew into the band before I had any friends in it.


The Dirty Nil

Photo by Jonathan Ely Cass

Dundas, ON’s The Dirty Nil are punk rock as much in spirit as they are in sound, if not more. They’re cacophonous to the Nth degree, with layers of fuzz from both guitar- and bass-riding drummer Kyle Fisher’s mountainous groove. The result is somewhere between pre-Bleach Nirvana and Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade energy, all with Luke Bentham’s throat-shredding vocals pushing your speaker further toward the brink of explosion.



“Snow Line” is the de facto anthem for this brutal, never-ending Canadian winter, but if winter sticking around means bangers like this, we’re almost okay with it. Almost. As for their sound, it’s hook-heavy but uncompromising, spearheaded by beer-soaked gang vocals and a gruff exterior that’s not unlike that of an Off With Their Heads record, just, y’know… a lot less sad.



Steve Albini was a perfect fit for Slates, the Edmonton, AB based band that holds their hometown’s frozen tundra as the inspiration behind their bordering-on-post-punk sound. On Taiga, Albini captures the band’s raw energy by giving them room to expand upon it; their first for New Damage Records is filled with mood and momentum changes and, for 10 songs, the kind of climaxes that can take a great band to the next level.



Teenanger don’t seem to be running out of gas, and with their third album in three years apparently on the way, seem more destined than ever for big things. Because while Singles Don’t $ell built upon Frights, there still seems to be room to grow. They’ve fully distanced themselves from the alienating garage rock label that was oddly thrust upon them in their early days and, now no doubt a full-fledged punk band. They seem poised to be Toronto’s best.



Self-labeled power-trash band NEEDLES//PINS are anything but abrasive: Even with singer Adam Solomonian’s sometimes snarl, their full-length debut is otherwise chock full of sugary sweet pop-punk that sounds recorded straight from the garage. Imagine Masked Intruder filtered through The Stooges and you’re halfway there, but lofty comparisons don’t do the Vancouver band’s sound any justice. For that, we’ve got an embed.



Photo: Andrew Volk

Vancouver’s Weed are kind of like Japandroids filtered through the Melvins, and while their sound combines elements of some decidedly un-punk bearings, the end result is hard to summarize as anything but. Fans of Solids will be immediately familiar with the band’s soaring, at times ethereal vocals, but there’s an energy that keeps them from falling fully into a stoner coma. Unsurprisingly, they’re not the easiest band to Google, but their first full length Deserve was released through Couple Skate last summer.



Photo by Mathew Morand Photography

Greys play angular punk rock with a keen eye as much for the jarring as the driving; this is Jesus Lizard or Drive Like Jehu filtered through Toronto hardcore with just the right amount of Hydra Head heaviness. The result is at times disorienting, at others genre-less, but in all cases, pretty fucking spectacular. They’ve just signed their first record deal with Carpark and, with a record reportedly due out in June, seem poised for big things.

Tags: Music, Lists, News, Crusades, Deforesters, greys, Needles//Pins, Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots), Sabertooth, School Damage, teenanger, The Dirty Nil






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