Vancouver musicians serve up sonic treats for Halloween
So, it’s Halloween—bonfires burning bright, pumpkin faces in the night—and you feel like dancing. And you feel like shining, and you feel like letting loose. It’s time for games. It’s time for fun. Not for just one, but for everyone. Oh, there are witches, goblins, Frankensteins, and zombies. And there are tramps, Cinderellas… Uh, sorry about that. We have obviously been listening to way too many Halloween songs lately. It’s just that we get so excited about this time of year. After all, what other night can you dress up like a total freak in public? In theory, you can do that whenever you want around Christmas, Easter, or St. Paddy’s Day, but in reality dressing up as an egg-laying leprechaun who’s been tacked to Santa’s cross is probably going to get your ass kicked if you pull that shit in mid-December.
You’re also asking for trouble if you dress up as a bank robber and march into your local credit union in the middle of summer. Or take up residence in the boiler room of the local high school dressed in a striped red-and-black sweater, tan hat, and gloves studded with razor-sharp knives.
Wanna stop the party mid-cocktail? Strap on a white gown, do a backward spider-walk down the stairs, puke up some blood, and then take a huge piss on the floor while announcing “You’re going to die up there” to that guy with a thing for mountain climbing. Even better, dress up as Edward Scissorhands and then refuse to acknowledge that you’ve done anything out of the ordinary when you arrive at Canada Customs for your afternoon shift. Really, the sky is the limit. Just don’t blame us when you end up tossed in the clink for a mandatory 30-day psychiatric evaluation.
And if you don’t believe us about the dangers of flying one’s freak flag all year long, you clearly had a much more pleasant high-school experience than we did. Anyhow, we’re happy to report that some of our favourite local musicians enjoy Fright Night just as much as we do. We asked them to recall their all-time best Halloween costume, and to tell us the macabre music that gets them doing the Transylvania Twist.
James Farwell howls like a man possessed as the frontman for the heavy-metal juggernaut known as Bison b.c. On its latest album, Lovelessness, the quartet displays its indisputable mastery of hand-of-doom sludge.
Killer costume: “A couple of years ago I dressed as a Downtown Eastside alley. I wore a black cloak with condoms, needles, cigarette butts, garbage, vomit, hot dogs, used bandages, and the like fastened to it. I even put fake semen in the condoms.”
Graveyard smash: “ ‘Submit to Satan’ by Carpathian Forest. ‘The heaven shall burn, all humanity dies/I sin, I sodomize, I slaughter, I sacrifice! Submit! Submit to Satan!’ ”
Hatch Benedict plays the part of human pheromone machine for synth-splattered future-wavers Sex With Strangers. Folks with a thing for mega-danceable, dark-skies pop are currently fucking like rabbits to the band’s fourth and latest album, Behaviours.
Killer costume: “This is a tough call, given the public support I’ve received over the years for my famous ‘old-school’ ghost costume (sheet, two holes). That said, I would have to go with the time I went as legendary WWF wrestler Mankind. Greeting fellow partygoers with the ‘mandible claw’ was both exhilarating and perverse. My lady friend at the time went as my manager, Paul Bearer. We were on top of the world.”
Graveyard smash: “This is a no-brainer. It would have to be Hall & Oates’ ‘Italian Girls’. First, you have John Oates on lead vocals, which is a treat in itself. Secondly, he uses the word pasta twice in the song, which is truly terrifying. Have you ever heard pasta used in a song? I’ll answer that for you: ‘No.’ People will be so angry when you drop this nugget at a Halloween party that anything you play afterward will be welcomed with relief and an urge to celebrate.”
Miso Stefanac is the snappily attired frontman for We Need Surgery, an unapologetically ’80s-indebted outfit that crafts dance-floor-friendly alt-rock aimed at anyone who has ever wondered why stellastarr* never made it big.
Killer costume: “My all-time best Halloween costume was an Ewok. My mom actually made the costume for me when I was six or seven years old. My brothers and I all went as Ewoks that year.”
Graveyard smash: “Well, ‘Monster Mash’, of course. Actually, when I was teaching in Seoul, South Korea, I use to play that song every year for my kids.”
Christine Lyon fronts Antiparty, whose shitloads-of-fun EP Part II somehow manages to reference Mr. Bungle, Ministry, Herb Alpert, 45 Grave, and the Dresden Dolls and still sound completely original.
Killer costume: “I live in quirky outfits all year around. However, one of my favourite Halloween costumes was Mother Firefly from House of 1000 Corpses. I dirtied up a pretty white dress, teased my hair, added some cobwebs, and decayed my teeth to the point of making my friends uncomfortable. Of course I also enjoyed running around screaming ‘Who’s your daddy?’ I love a powerful woman who can combine sultry with rotting, murderous anger; you don’t get to see enough of those.”
Graveyard smash: “So many options, but I would have to say ‘Spider Baby’ by Fantômas, which is a cover from the movie Spider Baby from 1968. Though Ronald Stein’s version is dark and haunting, the bizarre edge of Fantômas adds a bit more seductive evilness. It makes you want to skulk around the neighbourhood, hiding behind bushes and scaring the living bejesus out of small children. I feel like Antiparty has taken inspiration from music like this.”
Brittany Westgarth is one half of the lo-fi duo Koban. With her musical partner, Samuel Buss, Westgarth blurs the already fuzzy lines between goth, industrial, and shoegaze. The Broadway to Boundary label will release Koban’s first LP, null, in November.
Killer costume: “Last year Sam and I played a show at our house as Walt and Walt Jr. from Breaking Bad. I’ll never forget the liberating feeling of being bald. It was magical.”
Graveyard smash: “For some reason we have never done a cover as Koban—but if we did, we would do the Misfits’ ‘Halloween’. A classic. I can hear the sing-along now: ‘Dead cats hanging from poles/Little dead are out in droves/I remember Halloween.’ How spooky!”
Tobi Glover mans the mike for Those Things, a metal-glazed rock unit that notorious misanthrope Montgomery Burns would love, for no other reason than its songs include “Release the Hounds”.
Killer costume: “Uh… Goth Wonder Woman? No, wait, Santa Claus! And no, not a ‘sexy’ Santa. The real deal, the ultimate symbol of the crass, commercial nightmare Christmas has become, an obese, slave-owning (you think those elves are getting paid?) white man who busts into your house and gives you garbage you’ve been brainwashed into obsessively drooling over! On a completely unrelated note, our upcoming EP, Beasts, is absolutely what you need to bring happiness into your lives!”
Graveyard smash: “I was going to pick ‘Horror Business’ by the Misfits, but [Those Things guitarist] Jeff [Speers] would kill me if I didn’t pick ‘Phantom of the Opera’ by Iron Maiden, the live one off of Live After Death. The intro, the falsetto vocals, that insane breakdown in the middle—seven minutes of perfection: ‘You haunt me, you taunt me/You torture me back at your lair!’ Or, any Forbidden Dimension album in its entirety!”
Matea Sarenac takes care of singing and sampler duties for indie-electro trio Gang Signs, whose take on dance music is as dreamy and haunting as it is booty-moving.
Killer costume: “It would have to be my costume for this year: Sailor Moon! I ordered it online and my boyfriend is being Tuxedo Mask. That, or when I was Ghostface Killah one year. It’s a tossup.”
Graveyard smash: “Definitely anything by Gatekeeper. Especially the song ‘Giza’. Saw them play live this summer at the Waldorf and it was crazy! It was like a techno nightmare.”
Jay Brown works banks of synths and plays bass, guitar, and piano in his role of beatmaker/mastermind of industrial-dance deconstructionists Latenite Automatic. Watch for the goth-friendly project’s debut album early next year.
Killer costume: “Many moons ago I went as El Guapo, supervillain from the movie ¡Three Amigos!. I wore an old brown tux I found at Value Village, a fake beard, and leather gloves. I also duct-taped a ‘plethora of piñatas’—watch the movie, yo!—to my body, lit a cigar, and hit the streets. The piñatas were a bad idea because trick-or-treating children dressed as witches beat the hell out of me with tiny brooms all night. I was not full of candy, kids—shit maybe, but not candy. Don’t wear piñatas on Halloween. By the way, El Guapo is Spanish for “the handsome one”.
Graveyard smash: “My all-time favourite Halloween song is ‘The Exorcist’ by the Hellacopters. Technically it’s not a Halloween song, but I crank them shits on All Hallow’s Eve and I feel possessed by the demons of rock ’n’ roll. Sometimes I get so hyped listening to it I projectile vomit all over the party, Linda Blair–style. The second-best Halloween song is ‘Ghost Love’ by Latenite Automatic.”