Vancouver musicians get to the heart of sex, love, and rock ’n’ roll

Local musicians offer suggestions for romantic gifts and share their all-time favourite breakup songs.

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      It doesn’t matter if you’re single or in a relationship, the truth is that Valentine’s Day sucks equally for everyone. It sucks for singles because it’s a supposedly fun thing that they don’t get to participate in, which only highlights the fact that they don’t have snuggle-bunnies of their own. And it sucks for couples because it puts them under pressure to be romantic, which apparently involves parting with a lot of money they don’t really have. In fact, the only people who benefit from Valentine’s Day are the ones selling cards and flowers and all manner of Pepto-Bismol–pink teddy bears and heart-shaped landfill fodder.

      It’s not that we’re not romantics at heart, though. We are fully aware that some of the greatest songs ever written were penned in the throes of fresh infatuation. (And some even better ones have been set to the beat of a relationship’s death rattle.) Inspired by this inextricable link between music and love, we asked some of our favourite local musicians to tell us what type of Valentine’s gifts are actually worth giving and receiving. We also asked for their picks of the greatest breakup numbers of all time—because, let’s face it, love isn’t all chocolate-covered cherries and long-stemmed roses all the time.

      Vanessa Dandurand is a member of the seven-person East Van garage-soul collective known as the Ballantynes. She’ll be spending the evening of February 14 on-stage at the Biltmore with her bandmates.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “On Valentine’s Day in 1969 Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor the ‘La Peregrina’ pearl and shortly thereafter she found her dog chewing on it. That is the story I equate with grandiose romantic purchases. I think heart-shaped pizza and a bouquet of hot-sauce bottles would give me a bad case of the cartoon eyes. Maybe heart-shaped pancakes on the 15th.”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “The best breakup song of all time is the Exploding Hearts’ ‘Sleeping Aides & Razorblades’. It wallows, it points the finger, it brags about new exploits, it has it all. Self-destruction and a dance beat. Tried, tested, and truer than the love that left you.”

      Ryan Forsythe makes heavy, unadulterated stoner rock with We Hunt Buffalo. He likes distortion and overdrive and thinks you should like them too.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “Well, you just can’t beat the three Bs: buffalo burgers, beers, and blowjobs!”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “If it’s a sad breakup, then I have to say, in all its 1986 goodness, Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’. But if it’s an angry breakup, I like to turn to Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’ to really channel that breakup anger.”

      Cobra Ramone is so badass, the scuzz-blues rawk unit she fronts is named after her and her alone. She thinks that astrophysicists, semi trucks, and dinosaurs are sexy, and hopes that one day her music will be the soundtrack choice of strip clubs all over Texas.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “Two hours of silent, nonjudgmental, unopinionated listening while I talk—in detail—about every person I’ve ever slept with, and why I do or don’t regret it. Because, for some unknown reason, every boyfriend I’ve ever had doesn’t want to hear about that. Weird.”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “I enjoy aggressive hip-hop after a breakup. ‘Get Money’ by Junior M.A.F.I.A. is a current favourite. Nothing like a super-offensive gangsta rap song about cheating and pistol-whipping to cheer up a broken heart!”

      Abbi Fernandes sings for the Radii, a hook-worshipping indie-pop quartet that knows when it’s the right time for more cowbell.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “The perfect present would just be the perfect date. Like if the guy I’m seeing comes over with a meat picnic. I’m talking, like, Chris Brothers pepperoni and bacon-wrapped scallops. We’d drive to the beach and listen to Head’s No Hugging No Learning. Maybe throw in some candles and a six-pack of thick porter for good measure. Or if that’s not you, I will take a pony.”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “ ‘Black Coffee’ by Peggy Lee is my breakup song. I turn to vices like coffee and cigarettes when I break up, and I like to imagine I’m from back in the ’50s. Melancholy makes everything sexier.”

      Lee Tomaschefski fronts Falling for Scarlet when she’s not spending her days acting in films like the mega-tasty mindfuck Sucker Punch. If there’s any justice in this world, her band’s sugar-spiked alt-pop songs will be coming to a radio station near you when its debut EP, Army of One, hits the street later this month.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “I’m not a traditional Valentine’s kind of girl. In fact, I’ve told past boyfriends that we should pick our own day to be romantic and call it Our-tines. Oddly, the date chosen was always March 14, which, coincidentally, also happens to be Steak-and-Blowjob Day. That explains why there were never complaints.…As for best interesting gifts, I recently read that the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo is offering everyone, on Valentine’s, the unconventional way to say ‘I love you’ by donating money to get a Madagascar hissing cockroach named after a loved one. The purchaser receives a roach in their chosen name and a box of 100-percent solid dark-chocolate cocoa-roach. Don’t worry: it’s real chocolate, not chocolate-covered roaches.”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “Well, the obvious answer to this is ‘50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ by Paul Simon. He’s giving you how-to instructions on breakups, for goodness’ sake. Who doesn’t need that during all the emotional chaos? Between the late-night phone calls to friends or family, the countless tubs of Häagen-Dazs, and unexpected outbursts of tears while in Starbucks, Mr. Simon really breaks it down for you! I also may have been swayed by the mere fact that my name is mentioned in it—“Just drop off the key, Lee, and set yourself free”. It’s like Paul is speaking wisdom right to me.”

      Joey Blitzkrieg sings and plays guitar with the Jolts, who serve up punk-flavoured rock like it never went out of style. Rumour has it they also dabble in Satanism (but you didn’t hear that from us).

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “Since I’ve never been out of North America, it’d probably be a few weeks off the continent for me and my girl. Some place with a great rock ’n’ roll scene that lets you drink in the streets. Does that even exist?”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “The Dictators’ ‘Stay With Me’ pretty much sums up all of my breakups. They’ve always involved me getting dumped, then going out and getting messed up and pathetic at bars and parties around town. Although I’m sure glad none of my exes did stay.”

      Devon Lougheed tends to describe himself as a comedian first and foremost, even though most Vancouverites arguably know him as the singer-pianist-bassist for Beekeeper. If he’s half as good at being funny as his indie-pop band is at genre-jumping on its post-everything latest, Be Kept, it’s time for Louis CK to concede his crown.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “The best Valentine’s Day present I ever got was a package of guitar strings, a coupon for a haircut, and three pregnancy tests—one positive, two negative. I guess the gift that year was ‘triangulation’. The best Valentine’s Day present would be for that never to happen to anyone ever again.”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “Definitely ‘The Boy Is Mine’ by Monica and Brandy—hearing their pathetic little playground spat should make it easier for you to move on. If that song is filled with too many boner euphemisms to mend your newly shattered heart—uh, we know what ‘his love is all in me’ really means, Monica—then try Frightened Rabbit’s ‘Poke’. Nobody does pain and sadness like the Scots.”

      Jason Corbett has established himself as the guy your girlfriend wants to sleep with in his role of frontman with hook-heavy guitar rockers TV Heart Attack. He finds Ivana Trump’s program on the Shopping Network deeply relaxing and, in fact, almost hypnotic.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “A trip back in time to 1982. Roxy Music are playing Avalon live in its entirety at an intimate supper club. Oysters, champagne, and the promise of everlasting love. Is that too much to ask?”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “It depends on what phase of the breakup you’re in. For me it starts with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ ‘Do You Love Me?’. It’s a song you can desperately hang on to as you realize she’s never coming back. Follow these three easy steps: 1) get drunk and lie down on the living-room floor with the lights out; 2) place speakers by your head and put ‘Do You Love Me?’ on repeat; 3) let the tears flow.”

      Geoffrey Nilson and Kevin Jack make dark-night-of-the-soul electronic pop under the name Fathoms.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      Nilson: “Ever hear that Pantera song ‘5 Minutes Alone’? That’s like a theme song for anyone who has a four-year-old kid. Well, not really. My wife and I don’t get a ton of time on our own, so the best Valentine’s present ever would be if a good friend or parent would take our daughter for the night. That way, we could stuff our faces with cheese and wine at a restaurant other than White Spot, take a romantic winter walk afterwards, and fall asleep before midnight, just like normal.”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      Jack: “Mr. Bungle, ‘Pink Cigarette’. Leave it to Mike Patton to write the saddest breakup song I think I have ever heard. It’s really harsh and incredibly sad. It’s like a movie, complete with a big dramatic ending. Wait, why are we talking about breakup songs on Valentine’s Day? Optimism!”

      Evan October has, as the frontman for the Isotopes, been in a single-minded mission to mainstream the punchy punk subgenre known as “baseball rock”. He sold all his records in 2009 and has not voluntarily listened to music on any platform except YouTube since.

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “The only people that usually end up celebrating Valentine’s Day are people with Valentines. So, I mean, whether it’s, like, February 14 or August 14, ‘Babe, you wanna be my Valentine? You better warm up to the idea of a little wake-up blowjob every now and again.’ Kick a day off like that, and I mean, regardless of whatever else happens, that’s a good day right there.”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “Usually, when I break up with chicks, it’s ’cause they fall asleep while we’re watching the movie Major League, so as a result of that, I’ve broken the majority of my hearts to the soothing accompaniment of X’s rendition of ‘Wild Thing’, which is featured prominently near the end of that film.”

      Doug Naugler is a double threat, working behind the recording console with the likes of the Rebel Spell and Kyprios, and giving classics by the likes of Johnny Cash and the Ramones a big-beat injection with his solo work. His turn-ons include long, romantic walks on the beach, bacon, and the thought of you downloading his album, fuxmup, for free at

      What would be the best Valentine’s Day present ever?
      “You know the ‘love coupons’ that couples give each other? Like ‘good for one free massage or hug or blowjob’ or what have you? It would be one of those that said ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP’, so at any time in the following year, no matter what the circumstances, if they were getting out of line, you could just pull their card and have them ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP’. It’s a gift that’s thoughtful, and practical.”

      Best breakup song of all time?
      “That’s a pretty vague question because there are many variables to consider. For instance, is the song best for the dumper or the dumped? Or, is it for a male or female? And how old is this person? We must consider the fact that a freshly dumped young teenage girl is going to connect emotionally with a much different song than, say, Martin Turenne, who probably just broke up with her. The question itself encompasses such a broad spectrum of potential emotions that a massive accompanying musical palate is necessary, therefore making the question unanswerable. Or anything by Pantera.”

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      Feb 9, 2012 at 5:31pm

      I Left my Heart In a "Casino" Lady luck...
      What happens between my bets stays on the table.


      Feb 9, 2012 at 9:39pm

      The Straight missed the boat. They should have asked me this year. I would have given you some answers that would have fogged up your glasses down there, or give you the kind of barstool wisdom on heartbreak that would make you think, "you don't know the meaning of heartbreak, kid..."
      All the same. Well done.
      I must remember to bump into my friend Lee on March 14th though. There's nothing like forced synchronicity.

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