The fuzz never did catch the Death Rider. His legendary reign of two-wheeled terror ended about a year ago, when the hog-riding outlaw with the matte-black bike and no plates or insurance led the cops on a final chase through the leafy hills of West Van, finally mounting a pedestrian overpass and disappearing forever. You can see the cops just standing there, kicking the dirt and cursing like Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane and Enos.
“He knew how to get away,” intones Lector Kurrentz, bassist for the Jolts and coauthor of “Lament for the Death Rider”. It’s one of two epic tracks that form the centrepiece of the defiantly old-school Vancouver punk quartet’s debut album, Haute Voltage.
“He’d get into these chases with the cops. I wrote the lyrics from the point of view of a teenage girl saying goodbye to her dangerous boyfriend, and I just had this vision of his girlfriend, little Laura, being like, ”˜No, Mike, you’re gonna die!’ ”
Mike is real. Otherwise known as Mikey Screwdriver, he’s the Jolts’ roadie, stage tech, soundman, and “mediator when needed”. It’s quite the portfolio of responsibilities for a band whose summer tour itinerary includes a stop at “Jason’s basement, Lethbridge”.
And Mikey is also the Death Rider, whose habit of engaging the West Vancouver Police Department in reckless chases—the band insist it’s all true—ended when, as Kurrentz says with a smirk, “he hung up his leather” last year, and “quit motor vehicles”.
Kurrentz is stuffed into a booth at Kishu Island, a Japanese restaurant at Main and Broadway, along with two pitchers of draft and three bandmates. Drummer Matt Von Dander is the acidly funny one, guitarist-vocalist Dr. Dylan Danger is thoughtful and articulate, and lead vocalist-guitarist Joey Blitzkrieg—fresh-faced and likable—seems to be the Jolts’ official goofball.
“It’s still punk rock ’n’ roll,” Blitzkrieg says, struggling to find the right pigeonhole for his band. “We’re still a bunch of guys who can’t hold steady jobs and who fucking play rock ’n’ roll. That’s what punk was, right?”
Asked why he can’t hold a job, Blitzkrieg shoots back, “Well, personally, it’s because I’m lazy and I steal. I don’t know about these guys.” Funnily enough, the garrulous frontman has actually taken an “unscheduled work break”, as he puts it, to come and drink beer and talk to the Georgia Straight. Meanwhile, somewhere on the West Side, a half-finished condo development goes unguarded.
The Jolts first convened in 2004 with original drummer G. T. Flare, quickly making their presence felt at the Cobalt and other no-nonsense, die-hard rock ’n’ roll hot spots. This wasn’t too long after Blitzkrieg had sat in his bedroom composing “The Bar Again”, an acrid slice of proto–New York punk that laments, “Where did all the good music go?”
With a look of disgust, the singer recalls, “That whole song was inspired by seeing a band called the Jet City Six, or the Jet City Fix, or something [note: it was indeed the Jet City Fix] who opened up for the Black Halos a long time ago, and just being, like, ”˜Why do girls like this band? They’re all wearing Mí¶tley Crí¼e T-shirts and they suck.’ ”
“The Bar Again” didn’t make it onto the band’s first release, a 2006 EP called Jinx, but it sits loud and proud on the new album. “We tried to put it on the EP, but it just never felt right,” says Blitzkrieg. The band members agree that things began to feel right with the arrival of former Spinoffs drummer Von Dander later that year, and not just because he had a van and a PA.
“We got a lot more serious when he joined,” Danger states. “We all had to step it up a bit.”
Eighteen months and a lot of premium opening slots later, the band descended on the Hive in Burnaby to cut Haute Voltage with Jolts fan Jesse Gander. His loving production job aside, the Jolts’ growth from the first EP is obvious in the first bars of opener “Hey, Alright!”, which sounds like Turbonegro tackling an alternate overture for Tommy before settling into a dead-eyed riff straight out of the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love”.
And while the Jolts’ talent for creating irresistibly spiky and compact numbers like “DXM” and “Bloody Eye Socket” remains, things really get interesting when the band breaks the three-minute barrier with “Lament for the Death Rider” and “Black Snake”. The latter, in particular, barrels into its climax with a force akin to beefier rock thugs like Sonic’s Rendezvous Band or the Hellacopters.
“It’s my favourite track on the record,” Kurrentz says with a proud smile. “It’s the best song. The catchiest song. I think we started to do something crazy with ”˜Black Snake’; we just chucked in a whole bunch of other stuff and it still works.”
“That one was finessed a lot out in Salmon Arm while high on mushrooms,” Blitzkrieg adds.
Psychotropic assistance aside, tracks like “Black Snake” and “Lament for the Death Rider” suggest the Jolts are ready to embrace a little musical maturity.
And while Jason’s basement might still be on the tour itinerary, there’s no reason, based on Haute Voltage, that the Jolts won’t be able to upgrade to something a little more Commodore-sized before long.
The Jolts play a CD-release party at the Cobalt on Friday (June 13).