Doomsquad: The Camp Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: House music, but the house is in the woods, and the call is coming from inside the house.
File next to: Fever Ray, Liars, Balam Acab
Playing: Camp Wavelength, Saturday August 29 @ Artscape Gibraltar Point
Get your ticket here!

Doomsquad make freaky forest music that worms its way into your psyche. It is unsettling, hypnotic, and a delightful contrast from the faux-folk we’ve had rammed down our throats by bearded fellas in suspenders over the last few years. This is music of and for all folks, whether they know it or not – it taps into our reptilian brains and scrapes and scratches at universal themes and collective experiences in a way that is somehow both starkly alien and warmly familiar. In their own words, Doomsquad are “earthlings, here to breathe, reproduce, communicate and become part of eternity.” They’re co-piloted by siblings Trevor, Jaclyn, and Allie Blumas, and are currently operating out of Toronto. We caught up with them between tour dates, and they collaborated on the answers you read below.

You guys have been buuuuuusy. In the year between Kalaboogie and June’sPageantry Suite EP, there’s been a big shift in your sound — from thumping, dark shamanic dirges to more upbeat, clear music with arguably slightly more traditional voicings and instrumentation. Can you attribute this shift/progression to anything in particular? Was it by design, or circumstantial?

By design, really – and don’t expect that shift to continue on the new album. We just wanted to explore this more accessible side of dance music, strictly for the length of a single EP, which is why we conceived and packaged it as a suite, where themes like pop culture, consumerism, end-times, late-night parties, and death drives are all explored through an accessible “pop music” format. The medium is the message. Both the music and the lyrics were composed with the overriding theme of a pageantry display informing the whole process. Naturally, the EP has a very urban sound to it, as it was written, recorded and produced in the city (Toronto).

What role do computers play in the composition process for you guys? Are you computer-free or does a lot of the work happen “in the box?”

Computers are admittedly a large part of both our composition process and our live set-up. At the early stages of songwriting, we used to play folk music. So once we figured out how to create music collaboratively with a computer, it changed our whole sound. It provided a new platform for expression. Our writing process is very collaborative. Usually, one person steers the ship with a particular song, having originated with the beats or a hook or a melody and then we all build from that point.

Being in a band with friends can be a difficult exercise in managing many sets of feelings and egos. When it’s a band with your siblings, is it easier or more difficult to bare your soul creatively without wanting to throttle one another?

It’s certainly easier, as you don’t feel any restrictions when attempting to speak your heart and mind, but for that very same reason, the conflicts it sometimes creates can be more difficult. In most cases, though, it’s positive and for the better. It helps you push deeper and forward with more intensity and meaning. It means the three of us usually have to be on the same page at all times for Doomsquad to flow.

What keeps you from getting in each other’s faces while you’re on the road? Other than, of course, your basic human decency.

[laughs] Um, nothing I guess. And it happens sometimes — but no more or no less than most bands that tour a lot, I imagine. We’re all pretty pleasant and focus on staying healthy on tour. This keeps the vibes positive.

You’re just coming off a two-month stint alongside Fucked Up.

We are having so much fun touring with them. They are all such amazing people, and we’ll be a little sad when our touring stops. A bunch of random stuff has been happening before and after shows, both bad and good — a lot of getting locked into dressing rooms or random washrooms when we’re supposed to be on the stage playing. Also, it was my (Jaclyn’s) birthday when we played in Nashville at Jack White’s studio, Third Man Records. There was a surprise birthday cake waiting backstage after we finished playing the show. It was one of my favourite days this year.

There’s a trance-like repetition and a fixation on certain sounds that strikes me as, well… a bit “lysergic.” Is your work merely inspired by, or perhaps more part of a collaboration with, LSD?

Ha! Um, yes — psychedelia and its agents of enlightenment are big for us. We take them all quite seriously, I suppose. More the organic, earth-based stuff. We’ve all read Food of the Gods… many times.

It was part of how we composed our next album, which should be out early next year. We experiment, then improvise musically. We try to record these moments, and a few of the original, improvised recordings have made it on to the next album.

When it comes to the role of psychedelics in your music, do you feel that their use opens a door that, once open, never really closes and can always be returned to? Or, alternately, is somewhat continued use necessary for maintaining a fresh sense of altered/additional perspective?

You always come back, which is why it’s good to practice keeping an open mind on a regular basis. So often, people go away to workshops, read books, go to festivals, take courses, drop psychedelics, etc. with hopes to learn ways to improve their openness to all ideas. But as life moves on, deadlines approach, relationships get comfortable; it’s easy to forget all the goals and perspectives you were practicing. That’s why you have to constantly check in with that naked beauty, the humbled nakedness that’s always inside all of us. You need to find a personal method to confront all of that. You don’t need psychedelics for this, although it can be very helpful. You can check in through rhythm, dancing, singing, observing, feeling, and listening. All of these things are mind-altering.

Your music seems better suited to the forest than a dank, dark club. Is there a common appreciation of nature in the band, or is nature merely a useful narrative tool and set of symbols for the videos that accompany your music?

Nature inspires almost all our music, so the videos naturally depict elements of nature.

Speaking of which, where did you guys shoot the video for “Ovoo”? It looks like that was a pretty far-out afternoon.

Yes, it was. It was shot on the shores of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. We were driving home from HPX [Halifax Pop Explosion] and parked our camper van/home at the time along a side road for the night to sleep. When we awoke, we found ourselves among some pretty epic displays of nature. Our filmmaker friend Chris Boni, who was traveling with us, happened to have seven minutes of 16-mm film stock, and we also just happened to stumble upon this altar in the middle of the woods. Seriously. The whole video just fell into place — like Magick!

You’re playing at Camp Wavelength at one of the more scenic locales Toronto has to offer, Toronto Island. It seems a really fitting stage for your sound, perhaps more than a club or bar. What, if anything, are you planning to bring to the stage especially for this event?

Hopefully the best vibes.

Are you planning to attend any other parts of the event, camp out, etc.?

It’s such a great line-up, so we hope to see it all. The art installations should be exceptionally spectacular — there’s some awesome talent brewing up some wicked ideas for the festival. Also, our sister Allie’s dance collective Open Fortress will be performing. They are super wacky, and I love their shows.

What does the remainder of 2015 hold for you?

Some more touring in the west coast with Fucked Up and another show with Tanya Tagaq in Sudbury for Upfest, which we are also building an installation for. We’re also writing all new material and playing together with Not the Wind, Not the Flag for a special performance at Electric Eclectics festival — and of course Camp Wavelength.

– Interview by Dean Williams

Doomsquad plays Camp Wavelength Saturday, August 29 at Artscape Gibraltar Point (Toronto Island). Get your single day tickets here! Or better yet, join us for the whole weekend and get a Festival Pass!