Thursday, July 9, 2015

First Base

     Toronto's First Base have been producing driving, jangly, rough around the edges power pop since 2009 with a number of releases to brag about in their ammo case. If you need any further description of their sound, the cover of the band's newest effort: You've Got A Hold of Me EP, released earlier this year on another one of our favorite labels, Hosehead Records, is a brilliant homage to the late ‘70's Irish punk/power pop band Rudi's debut single "Big Time," which came out in 1978. Much like The Undertones, Buzzcocks, the Boys and even Generation X: First Base put just as much of the pop aspect in their music as the punk. When done up right; that mixture ladies and gentlemen is the sound that I have a particular soft spot for in my hardened heart for, and First Base manage to pull it off oh so flawlessly!

Interview by J Castro

Let’s start of by telling me who’s all in the band right now and what does everyone do in it?
MIKE: There's been a few different lineups but the current line up is: Connor on drums, Nick on guitar, Fraser on lead vocals and guitar and me on bass. We generally all sing back up vocals too.

How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
FRASER: About eight years ago I was compelled to start a band for some reason. I had recently moved, and didn't really know any musicians so I just started the "band" by myself, recording songs and putting them on Myspace. Eventually, a couple of guys I worked with found out what I was doing and offered to join. So Shinnosuke joined on drums and Shota joined on second guitar and that was like the birth of First Base as a real band. Since then, Shota has moved to Japan and Shin now lives in Montreal.

MIKE: I met Fraser for the first time at the second ever First Base gig. When I saw they didn't have a bass player I offered to play with them and a few weeks later Fraser messaged me on Myspace (hee haw!) and asked if I was still interested. As for the other guys, I had known Connor since high school and had already been in a few throwaway bands with him so I already knew he'd be a good fit. All of us met Nick by seeing his band Brat Kings play a few times. Connor had switched over to drums and we needed a new guitar player so we asked Nick to play with us and he was into the idea. And that's where we are now.

Is this the sound you had in mind when you got together and started playing or did the music just kind of take on a life of its own?
MIKE: Well the music all comes from Fraser. It was his project before any of us were involved and he writes the songs. We make slight changes or add/subtract certain things to everything as a band once we start to play them together generally. It was always the kind of music I personally wanted to play and I think all four of us mesh really well together. This is probably the best the band has ever sounded in my opinion.

FRASER: I write the songs and record them all before we ever play them together as a band. I have fun recording my own version of the song, then we take that and make it suit the band so we can play it live and eventually record it together. I think we've been getting better at translating the songs that I record on my own into the band's songs and getting the band's own sound out of them.

Tell me a little about living in Toronto. What’s it like playing there and are people there supportive of what you guys are doing musically?
MIKE: Toronto's a weird city. I don't want to trash talk it because I love living here and it's a rad city but the scene for the kind of thing we're doing isn't particuarly great. Right now Toronto is really into weirdo/experimental/grungey kind of music. The hardcore scene here is really good too. There was a time when the hardcore and power pop bands played together, but that doesn't seem to happen anymore which is unfortunate. That being said, there are a handful of amazing bands from Toronto doing something similar to the kind of thing we are.

We joke that we're actually an Ottawa band because our records have been recorded there, mixed there, artwork done there (by our friend blood brother Ken from Mother's Children - Ottawa local) and the Ottawa scene just seems to be a lot more in touch with the kind of sound we have.

Can you remember as a kid who first inspired you to want to pick up an instrument and learn how to play/write music?
MIKE: The first band I was ever really into, probably like a lot of Canadian kids, was Rush. Ha, ha. I started on bass because all my friends wanted to play guitar. My first band played our grade 8 assembly a few times. We stole a riff from a Misfits song. Ha, ha. I found out about punk very young and instantly connected with the Ramones (and the Germs - oddly enough) about the same time I realized I couldn't play like Geddy Lee because it was way too hard. All down hill from there.

FRASER: Probably the Ramones for me. First Base is basically the entirety of my musical output and almost all of it stems from the Ramones somehow.

I was reading an interview with Kim Shattuck from the Muffs and she said when writing song lyrics she stays away from politics because nothing dates a song faster. What sorts of things inspire your songs and are there any subjects you try to stay away from purposefully in your lyrics?
FRASER: I just try to make "love" songs. Anything about relationships seems to be ok. Any song I've made about anything else just doesn't work for us, so I stay away from that. I don't think we'll ever do a political song, although I guess we sort of have one? I made a song about the oil refineries in my hometown for the "Bloodstains Across Ontario" compilation. You could say it's about environmental issues, but it was really just a Beach Boys parody. 

What sorts of things distract you the most when you’re playing a show? Is there something in particular that annoys you the most that someone in the crowd always seems to do?
MIKE: People in Toronto just generally stand still and cross their arms when they watch you, (with the exceptions of our friends who are always sweethearts at our shows). You can't tell if they love you or hate you. It doesn't annoy me but the first couple times you play live it can be intimidating.

FRASER: Someone up at the front with their phone out. It's kind of depressing to see while you're playing.

You guys recently played with Forgotten Rebels, how did that go? Were you fans of their music prior to your show together?
MIKE: I was and still am a huge Forgotten Rebels fan. I remember listening to Reich N Roll from the Tomorrow Belongs to Us 12" in the car with my mom on the way to grade 9 summer school. The chorus is just "I wanna be a nazi" (all tongue in cheek - not actually promoting any sort of nazi-ism) repeated over a few times. It's a miracle she put up with that kind of shit from me. The show itself was weird. Forgotten Rebels seem to attract a lot of crust punks for some reason. Oh, and we had to play in front of all the Rebels gear which gave us next to no breathing room.  I didn't feel like the crowd really enjoyed us that much but we sold a ton of merch that night so who knows.

There’s an old folk story I’ve heard about the first time Bob Dylan and John Lennon first met. Lennon was a huge Dylan fan and he asked him what he thought of The Beatles music and Dylan responded by saying “you’re good but your music doesn’t say anything.” So The Beatles started to move away from their pop music about love and girls and came out with Rubber Soul soon after. What do you think about Dylan’s response, do you feel rock n’ roll has to say something provocative to be relevant?
FRASER: I like the story of John putting down Paul with the song "How Do You Sleep," and Paul responding with "Silly Love Songs." 

MIKE: I think the best Beatles material is when they were singing about love and girls. I prefer songs without any kind of political or social message and I know saying that's going to piss a bunch of people off. I see enough of that shit in the rest of my everyday life. I don't want to have to listen to it in my music too. Obviously there are exceptions, I'm just speaking generally. Bring on more songs about chocolate and girls.

FRASER: And hot dogs.

Where are the best places to go to hear your music and buy your records?
MIKE: You can like our Facebook page @  or listen to some songs @ You can buy our newest 45 from Hosehead records @ and our LP from HoZac Records @

What does the near future hold for First Base?
MIKE: Right now we're just writing songs to record for our next LP, which might end up being more singles - but we're aiming for an LP. We've got a handful of them written. Hopefully we'll be recording late summer and have the LP out early next year but nothing is set in stone yet.

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