No meat, no drugs, and no bar shows for these Vancouver punks
Enlisting a second guitar player for a Vancouver band sounds easy enough. After all, this city's incestuous rock scene sees so much swapping, dropping, and sharing of musicians that sometimes two groups are just one member away from being the same act. But finding a bandmate willing to cut out meat, booze, and promiscuous sex for the privilege of performing all-ages shows tends to thin out the number of applicants.
That's why even though Blue Monday wanted twice the power-chord wrath, the local hardcore outfit went with one guitarist for two years before finding Dave Mitchell. For lead singer Dave Mac, the zero-tolerance clause was non-negotiable.
"If I'm gonna talk about something in my lyrics, I want the people in my band to stand right behind it so everyone can be on the same page," he says at a downtown café, where the menu selection is somewhat limited for a vegan who also abstains from caffeine.
The mere suggestion of giving up my reason to wake up in the morning activates withdrawal symptoms, and I start pumping a venti into my system at an alarming rate. Thankfully, bassist Adam Mitchell joins me in a steaming cup of God's nectar. He's only a vegetarian.
Half-ass pussy, I think to myself. Out loud I ask Mitchell how fanatical he is about the whole clean-living thing.
"I wouldn't say that any of us are over-the-top militant in the sense that none of us go around and force our beliefs on anybody else," he answers back, sensing that I'm judging him. (In fact I am, but only because my coffee has made me freakishly thirsty for beer and I know he smells it on me.) "Some people assume that since I'm straight-edge that I'm a militant Nazi. That's usually a precursor to them getting in my face about it, and if you push me, I'm gonna push you back."
Is this kid looking for a fight? I start rolling up my sleeves. Not many people know this, but I got a real mean southpaw. But before I get a chance to take him out, he softens and starts talking about growing up in Parksville, an island town where most social interaction takes place at a quaint little hick bar called the Rod & Gun.
"I came from an area with absolutely no hardcore scene or straight-edge scene," says Mitchell, whose campy sense of humour grows on me despite his occasional puritanical tone. "There wasn't much of an outlet for anything really subversive. I was straight-edge for three or four years before I had a face-to-face conversation with someone else who was."
Mac, on the other hand, had his revelation the old-fashioned way. "I used drugs from the time I was 12 to 16," he admits. "I was gonna go to juvenile jail and that wasn't somewhere I wanted to be, so it [pending imprisonment] kind of gave me a kick in the ass to do something about it."
The earnest vocalist talks about his drug addiction very matter-of-factly, but he sings about it with a justified rage in "Scars May Fade", off Blue Monday's debut album, What's Done Is Done. Personifying his dependency, Mac screams, "A step away from oblivion/I wanted to shed you and you were finally starting to fade/It is like I opened my eyes for the first time today/You've lost control of me".
Other tracks on What's Done Is Done are just as angry, but the "you" Mac refers to in most of his lyrics changes. In one of his less personal songs, "Number One", he addresses the universally hated "two-faced bottom feeders" who inhabit crappy jobs.
"Everybody knows that guy," says Mitchell, jumping in with enthusiasm. "You work with him. He's giving you a hard time even though it's not benefiting him. He's just being the corporate stoolie for no one's benefit and buying into the myth, completely negligent of the fact that he's getting screwed just as hard as you are."
Musically, the quintet follows the hardcore handbook with pissed-off bro hymns that mix the thud of heavy metal with the guttural velocity of punk. You can join Blue Monday's dry circle pit of angst on Wednesday (March 10) at Video In Studios. Don't forget to bring your juicer.
"We won't play at bars," Mac says. "I don't think punk rock should ever not be all-ages because punk rock was a genre that was created by kids for kids. The idea of it being for adults exclusively is beyond me."