Gotta hand it to Rickshaw proprietor Mo Tarmohamed: asking WarBaby to open for Death is an inspired choice.
The Vancouver three-piece sounds pretty much nothing like 1970’s Detroit protopunk. If anything, the band sounds like Nirvana interpreting vintage New York no wave (or, as their Facebook page puts it, “Lightning Bolt covering Nirvana covering Black Sabbath”). About the only thing they have in common with Death, besides kicking ass, is that they’re a trio.
But that didn’t stop them from saying “oh fucking hell yes!” when Tarmohamed tapped them for the slot, drummer Kirby Fisher explains.
“We are seriously, truly so honoured!“ Fisher declaims. Fisher is a big fan of Death, and has followed the band’s unlikely comeback. “They’re just an amazing punk rock band. Like many others, we’re just so grateful their music was not lost in the trenches.”
As for “whether or not we fit a certain mould for what you are meant to sound like in order to open for Death - we don't even think about shit like that, to be honest. We are just going to do what we do as best we can, then get in the crowd for Death!”
Fisher is a seasoned Rickshaw veteran, having played the theatre with WarBaby “maybe more than any other venue. Highlights from WarBaby’s time on the Rickshaw stage include playing with Dune Rats and Hockey Dad in 2017, and the semi-annual “Dead War” shows – Fisher’s favourite. “Mo and I have birthdays very close together in January and so we have done I think four or five of these Dead Soft/ WarBaby birthday party shows and they have always been so much fun. Mo is for my money the greatest guy in the Vancouver scene, cares so much about his venue, his staff and, most of all, the bands. We need an army of Mo's!”
WarBaby has been “a little inactive” over the last two years, Fisher acknowledges. “We have been working really hard on the next record, which will be out later this year.” He’s recently had a ban from entering the USA lifted – which required him to work his ass off, he explains, to make it happen – and the band is now “fully committed to bringing WarBaby down to the States.”
Since their last full-length came out – 2015’s Death Sweats – WarBaby has had a few highs, locally. “We played the Commodore twice, once with Eagles of Death Metal and once with Royal Blood. We also have shared the stage with DZ Deathrays, SNFU, and a bunch of others that my drummer brain is forgetting right now.” Add to that that the band “won Shindig in 2014. Part of the prize was studio time with the local legend Jesse Gander at Rain city Records. It took us a while to get in, but we eventually did and knocked out three tunes.”
These songs make up the Coma Kid EP, which WarBaby recently put online.
If you think the cover art for that is mortifying, you pretty much have to see the video for the song “Coma Kid,” which is horrifying and hilarious and leaves no human indignity, on the part of its poorly-aged male protagonist, unmined. It also features a pretty unflattering animated portrait of the band.
“Our mad genius bass player, Brock Allen, is responsible for the ‘Coma Kid’ and ‘Master Blaster,’ vids. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDVEkg0G9mo “He just taught himself how to animate and its insane and beautiful, We are truly blessed to have him in this band. Jon [Redditt, on guitars[ and I often feel like two admiring fans looking up to him and his brain all the time.”
The shorter, faster “Snail” also catches our attention, with its rather puzzling chorus of “I’m a snail,” but Fisher declines further explanation. “Our connection to the snail will remain our connection to the snail....you will have to find your own....What I am trying to say is, it means nothing...but also everything.”
We could speculate. Are they fans of the Melodic Energy Commission’s recently-reissued The Migration of the Snails? Is it that snails are by nature hermaphroditic, and impregnate each other, during a rather kinky sex act? Is it that misanthropic lesbian alcoholic Patricia Highsmith (author of The Talented Mr. Ripley) so liked her pet snails that she once brought them with her to a party in her handbag, to “have someone to talk to,” and wrote two stories, “The Snail Watcher” and “Quest for the Blank Claveringi” where snails kill people?
Fisher remains adamantine in his silence. So we return to Death. Does Fisher have any of his own favourite unlikely comeback stories, or bands that he would like to see come back?
“We would love to see a return of the world’s greatest band, Dog Police. And I would love to see a return of the world’s second greatest band (And Australias best) TISM” – which stands, Fisher explains, for “This Is Serious, Mum”).
He’s also enjoying the revival of British shoegaze bands like Ride, Swervedriver, Slowdive, and so forth. “And obviously the Dinosaur Jr comeback is probably one of the best,” he adds.
So why does Fisher think that American industrial towns like Detroit (or, say, Cleveland, Ohio) proved such a fertile breeding ground for proto-punk and punk bands, anyhow? Fisher gives maybe my favourite answer ever to this question: “Generally the more dull and boring the town, the chance for greatness to come out of it increases, and when you are so cut off from the world, your ability to speak your truth is much easier. No distractions, I think is the key to great music.”
WarBaby opens for Death at the Rickshaw Theatre on Wednesday (May 22).