Sonic Avenues is the kind of band that writes such good songs they can afford to not release them on their LP’s as evidenced by Sixteen Wires that was released/uploaded on bandcamp in March. They write power pop that has equal importance on both power and pop. A mix of Buzzcocks, Pointed Sticks, Powerpearls and the Cheap Rewards re-issues LP’s blended into a fine music cocktail. Currently, the band is finishing up writing their third LP and looking to play the world.
Interview by Ed Stuart
Who’s answering the questions?
Where is the band from?
Montréal, La Belle Province, Canada.
Who is in the band and what instrument do they play?
I play guitar and I do lead vocals, Seb plays lead guitar, Chance is the guy on bass and JC beats on the old pots and pans.
How did the band start?
A couple of years ago, I used to live in a house with three roommates. We used to throw EPIC parties in that place. I had a room in the basement, which had drums, and amps set up. It was perfect for not studying while bugging the shit out of my roommates and neighbours. Needless to say that my room quickly became the scene of many late night drunken trashy jams. My buddy Jamie was a regular. He’d come over with a bunch of beers a couple of nights every week and we’d just bash it out for a couple of hours. After a while, we had a couple of (pretty shitty) original songs. That’s when we decided to take the idea of starting an actual band a bit more seriously. But it’s mainly because of him that Sonic Avenues saw the light of day. I was very lazy while he was motivated and insistent about it. So, I figured we might as well give it a shot and see what happens. At that point, drunken jams progressively turned into actual rehearsals. And once we had a few presentable songs, we approached a few people to see if they wanted to be in the band. That’s when JC and Seb joined the group. That was in 2006.
What bands did you have in mind when starting this band?
We were really going after the garage 60‘s movement initially. Bands like The Kinks, The Zombies, The Who, The Litter, etc, were dominant driving influences. Basically, we were punks trying to do 60‘s; all those punk and powerpop records were never far during that time. I always loved bands like The Real Kids, Barracudas, Adverts, Buzzcocks, Pointed Sticks, etc... These were always an underlying influence no matter what we were trying to do. And eventually, they became predominant and took over the main direction of our song writing.
How is the recording the third LP coming along? Any schedule release date?
We haven’t started to record it yet. We’re still in the process of writing the last few songs. So far, we have gone through a LOT of songs that we decided not to keep. It sounded too much like the old stuff. We just want to keep things fresh and interesting; not just for the people out there who like our band, but also for us. I’m very happy with the songs we have now. It’s most definitely our strongest material to date. At least it feels that way. Variety - while remaining true to our style - is what we are trying to achieve this time around: dark, bright, long songs, shorter songs, different tempos, etc. I can’t wait to start recording it. Studio time will start this spring and if all goes well, the album should be released later this year.
Do you think music can still be a vital force in such a disposable age?
Of course! I do realize that there are thousands of records being released every year and that it has become really, really hard to keep track of it all. Lots of good stuff just keeps flying right under our noses all the time… That to me is where the downside of that situation is. These days, people go through a lot of records real fast without looking back because of the rate at which they come out. But every now and then, there’s a record that’ll just stand right out of the bunch. That one will just stick to the turntable and for a while, there will be no other ones! Those are the records that you actually come back to. Luckily, music like this is still being released these days and this is very reassuring. So yeah, most of it is disposable nowadays but there’s still great music out there that will keep coming looking for you. The search of mind-blowing tunes may prove to be harder in this era but the reward of finding them is certainly well worth the effort in the end!
It seems like Sonic Avenues and Steve Adamyk Band have toured a lot in the past and have released a split 7”. Is there any future tours planned with the two bands? How did this band friendship come about?
Initially, we were introduced to the Ottawa scene by local Ian Manhire (Going Gaga Records, Sedatives, White Wires, Voicemail) when he invited us to play a basement show a few years ago. I think it was one of the first White Wires show, too... It was awesome. It was a shock for us to see how great and ‘together’ that scene was (and still is). It was the best thing I’d seen since the Spaceshits reign over Montreal more than 10 years ago. It was the real thing; a bunch of kids hanging out, drinking beers and partying to some bands in a basement. It can’t get any better than that. So, shows after shows in Ottawa, we started to become real good friends with some of the people there. They made us feel like we belonged to their awesome, growing scene. It was a good feeling. Especially after having spent months/years in a city (Montreal) that was experiencing a bit of a lull in terms of punk scene activity, where most bands were operating essentially on their own which sucked. Luckily, that is changing I think. Anyways, Steve and his bandmates were some of the people we felt really connected to and we quickly became solid buds. Both our music goes really well together. We’re all on the same wavelength and that makes life on the road not only easy, but a lot of fun. Steve has also filled in for our bassist on a few occasions and Seb, JC and I were his backing band at SXSW last year. And now we officially share one member: Seb. About future touring plans, Steve and I were very recently talking about it and it looks like the bands are gonna hit the road together once again in the nearish future. We have no official details yet, though.
First of all the song “Sixteen Years” that was just released sounds like a power pop gem. How did this song not make the Television Youth LP? I like Television Youth, but “Sixteen Years” is a cool song.
Thanks! That’s one of the first feedback I get about that song. To be honest, I kind of regret not putting “Sixteen Years” on Television Youth. I think it would have been a good counter weight to balance the darker side of the album. The only reason why it didn’t make the cut was primarily because we were just sick of it and we collectively started to think that it wasn’t good. We also wanted a 10-song album. So, some of the material had to be cut. Two other songs found their way into the garbage bin... Maybe I’ll throw them all on a 7” one day. One of them was called Bored With Love and it was meant to be the song used for the Steve Adamyk Band/Sonic Aves tour split. That 7” was gonna be called the Bored With Love split. It would’ve been cool. But then that song suffered the same fate as Sixteen Years; we thought it sucked and preferred new material over it. So I picked Fadin’ Love instead for the 7”. I’m probably gonna remix Bored With Love eventually though… it had a pretty cool noisy surf-style part played on a classical guitar. We’ll see...
Exclaim stated when describing Television Youth “distilling old-school punk and garage rock into a joyous racket. The arrangements are more complicated, but the hooks, which are what matter most when we're talking about this kind of music, remain firmly in place.” While writing the second LP was this a conscious decision or maturation or the band’s song writing?
I’d say it was a bit of both. On TV Youth, we consciously wanted to show our darker side, which wasn’t really reflected by our first album. We tried to write songs that would take a few spins in order to fully “get”. To me, this happens when the structure of a song is a bit less familiar or intuitive. But at the same time, you don’t want to become plain weird in the end. It’s a delicate balance. But as far as conscious planning goes, that was it. The rest seems to have happened on its own. So, I guess we did maybe mature a bit as a band.
Dusted Reviews wrote “Sonic Avenues’ really excellent album Television Youth is an anachronism, not just in its musical references – The Jam, The Clash, The Only Ones and certain harder-edged elements of The Kinks – but in its way of looking at the world. It’s just not the same being a punk kid in a dead-end town anymore. No matter where you live, no matter how far away the nearest rock club or comic book store, there are kids just like you at the other end of your Wi-Fi connection.” Do you agree with that; it’s not the same being a punk kid in a dead-end town? What about that statement from Television Youth about being an anachronism? Do you still think this term is applicable today?
I think that being a punk kid has always been the same wherever, whenever, technology progress or not. It’s essentially always been about music and DIY. Being punk is about the love for an honest, unpretentious style of music. A music that beats to the rhythm of an agitated excited heart: 150-200+ beats per minute. Being a punk musician is about writing, playing, rehearsing and recording songs, organizing tours, supporting the community. All of that on top of an (often shitty) 40-hour/week job. That is what being a punk is all about.
Now, about that statement... First, I have to admit that when I first saw that review I was amazed to find out that some people actually read or thought about our lyrics! I think the subject tackled in TV Youth still absolutely applies today. More so than ever if anything. In fact, smart phones and all those modern gadgets ARE the new TV’s. TV’s on mega steroids. I mean, they’re amazing machines. I love the social and informative aspects of them. But they epitomize what TV’s have always been about to most people: easy access entertainment. I don’t think that the critic who wrote the review knew I was actually going after this very specific thing, that TV’s are just an image used to represent it all. In short, that song was written about the fact that a lot of people born with amazing creative potential seem to let it erode with time to the profit of hours (days or even years) spent in idle mode. Some people let their brains get filled with a constant influx of shitty information instead of activating their own neurones and become what they were meant to be. I know there’s waaaay more to intellectual potential being wasted than just ‘idle mode entertainment’ but that would’ve turned Television Youth into a shitty and lyrically overloaded punk opera. Another the reason why I decided to name the song “Television Youth” was also based on phonetics. It just sounded good to my ear. “Television” was a better, cooler word than many other options I was playing with at the time.
So, yeah anyways, I do love TV and I think I’m gonna go watch Point Break after this. Word.
50 years ago people used to buy music and get their water for free, now people pay for water and get their music for free. How do you think this affects music in any way?
Well, I think some people are definitely getting richer but it’s definitely not your average musicians! It’s incredibly hard to live off your art. In fact, it’s nearly impossible, especially with the genre of music we play. I think that never changed. The only difference is that now the artists’ products cover more grounds way more easily. I think artists like us don’t profit financially from it but we do benefit in some ways because of the increased exposure and easy access.
Where can people hear the band?
Online - http://sonicavenues.bandcamp.com/
Live - we don’t have a lot of shows booked for the next few months as we’re going to be busy recording. Go on our facebook page to keep track of show scheduling: https://www.facebook.com/SonicAvenues.
Recording the new album! Also, we wanna play everywhere: US, Europe, Japan, Canada, etc. So LOTS of shows are going to follow the release of the new record. We also want to do a bunch of 7”’s this year. So, as early as this summer we’ll get going with this series of singles project.