In Jerk in the Can’s alternate, genre-bent universe, being in a band goes far beyond the standard model of writing music, recording tracks, and playing shows. The imagination that goes into the band’s elements of character, performance, and costume creates something that truly needs to be seen live to be believed.
Unapologetic and entirely unorthodox, the music created by this self-proclaimed “experimental noise pop” duo might have you scratching your head. But don’t be mistaken: it’s all part of the show.
Former members of Kill City Kids, husband and wife Marc and Jessica Blaquiere work together both on- and off-stage, perfecting the coifs of Mount Pleasant at Uptown Barber by day, and creating out-of-this-world tracks reserved for 7-inch vinyl by night. (Since their official start just one year ago, they have released two EPs, both in this medium.)
“We wanted to create music with a different sound, different instruments, and a completely new concept. We felt that it wasn’t Kill City Kids, therefore it shouldn’t be called Kill City Kids,” says Marc, a veteran of Vancouver’s music scene and a former member of Go Ghetto Tiger, about the band’s name, which is derived from the title of a song recorded by one of his previous bands.
He and Jessica have gone so far as to create an actual “jerk in the can”: a sealed tin can labelled “Mr. Braun”, containing a moulded-plastic character that looks like it’s been pulled straight out of a Tim Burton flick. Mr. Braun comes in a number of colours, but you won’t know what you’ve got until you open the can.
“These are always the first things to sell out at our shows. Even people that have never heard of us go nuts over these,” says Marc of the unusual merchandise. Similar characters make appearances in Jerk in the Can’s music videos—which are solely stop-motion, and entirely badass. Jessica, who also works part-time as a lab technician at SFU, is responsible for putting the labour-intensive videos together.
The duo transform into something of a comedic enterprise on-stage, with their songs separated only by outlandish addresses to the audience. Dressed entirely in black, with the exception of their signature red balaclavas (“All we know is that we need to wear them, it is very important,” says Marc) and matching Chuck Taylors, the members of Jerk in the Can describe themselves as “a sonic theatre, about us and for us”.
Rather than turning to crowdfunding, playing one-off shows, or releasing an oddly timed, poorly recorded single like so many local musicians, Marc and Jessica go over and above by providing fans and concertgoers with much more than just music—although their motivation isn’t conventional.
“We are very, very serious about entertaining ourselves,” says Marc. He and Jessica are joined on-stage by guitar, bass, and brass players during live performances. In less than a year, the band has toured Western Canada and the Prairies twice, and it has a third tour scheduled for the fall.
“At a show in Calgary at Tubby Dog, we told the audience that we’d be opening for Nine Inch Nails,” remembers Marc. “They went nuts, but it was all bullshit.”
Their attire, attitudes, and quick tempos speak to the old-school punk movement, but the infusion of synthesizers, saxophones, and cleverly placed samples makes their music almost unclassifiable. If Death Grips, Ben Folds, and Joy Division joined forces, the result wouldn’t even come close to Ching Ching a Ling, Jerk in the Can’s most recent EP.
“We went into the studio and we’d listen to music and we’d be like, ‘What kind of band are we making?’ ” recalls Marc. “Every song we write is all about how it will fit into the set list. Our shows are everything.”
Influenced by the sounds of Retox, Health, and the Notorious B.I.G. (they even have a video recording of a cover of “Unbelievable” on YouTube), Jerk in the Can set out to create its latest EP with producer and sound engineer Doug Fury of Fortissimo Sound. Fury, who plays guitar for Scatterheart and Bif Naked, has produced records for the likes of Los Furios, the Heck, and Marc’s former band, Go Ghetto Tiger.
“He creates magic. We lay down the tracks, he clicks a few buttons—who knows what he does?—but he makes it sound really great,” says Jessica.
The EP’s album art only reaffirms the band’s commitment to its image: Marc and Jessica dressed in their full stage costumes, standing in a No Frills supermarket, observing a shelf of Jerk in the Can cans. (Jessica is responsible for both the band’s stop-motion videos and the contrived scenes on their album covers.)
When it comes to Vancouver’s scene, Marc’s long-standing involvement has played a large part in just how Jerk in the Can has wedged itself into the local concert circuit. While Marc has nothing but positive things to say about it, his attitude remains entirely punk rock: “I am ancient. I’ve been making music now for, it feels like, 50 years in this city… Am I accepted here? Do people like me in this city? Fuck this city, I couldn’t give a shit.”
Jerk in the Can plays the Railway Club with Big Evil and Monsoon Season on Monday (July 6).