New Horizzzons: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Scarf rock, incense and fuzzy doom glitter.
File Next To: Arrington de Dionyso, Pussy Galore, Flaming Lips, Black Sabbath, Tranz DéFoncé
Playing: WL 611 a.k.a. “Wavelength’s Endless Summer,” Saturday August 16 at the Vintage & Flea Market, 1251 Dundas St. W.

New Horizzzons are Robert Dayton (Canned Hamm, The Canadian Romantic, July Fourth Toilet), Craig Daniels (Leather Uppers, Tijuana Bibles) and Michael Comeau (LSDoubleDCup, the comic book Hellberta, etc). Their psychedelic music seeks to bridge the gap between sludgy, po-faced, street-level noise-punk and exuberant, theatrical, good-time glam-rock and — beating odds as heavy as their bass sound — succeeds!

Call it kismet, but when I should have been writing questions for this interview I was in New York watching Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and The Angry Inch. Anyway, it was a good thing too because literally during the first number — a New York Dolls-style thumper complete with high kicks, microphone nun-chucking and six-string cunnilingus — I was struck with the thought that most bands I see these days are bullshit. “Where’s the theatre? Where’s the effort? Where’s the giving 110%?” I feel like New Horizzzons understands that rock’n’roll should be performance first and art second. Am I being naive?

Robert: It is all tied in. Do we differentiate between performance and art as well as music and art? Do we need boundaries? Let all the senses blur. Some acts perform, but forget the songcraft and vice versa; some have neither. And then there are the untapped senses. We also have incense.

Craig: It was never a choice for me. Right out of the gate, I had to add lots of flair or it just didn’t feel right. I’ve tried, but it’s just doesn’t scratch that itch. It should be noted that Robert and I initially bonded over our shared love for dressing up and the fact that “scarf rock” is something to be preserved.

Michael: Pitting art and performance against one another is a false dichotomy. It’s like asking whether you like inhaling or exhaling when what you should be doing is breathing.

Agreed. Since rock’n’roll is essentially one of the “performing arts,” why do you think so many bands, especially indie bands, these days eschew performance in favour of “looking cool” or “being authentic” or whatever? What societal witchery caused this to happen?

Robert: Bands fear risk most likely because they fear embarrassment or so-called failure, as well as being ignored by the industry. And the industry greatly eschews risk, they want to play it safe pleasing no one. And by industry I don’t just mean music: watch any Canadian television lately? And I know from my experience that people actually do want to be engaged, the industry provides the means to better reach the people but….

Craig: Word.

Word, indeed. But Canadian TV? God no. Do you think Canadian artists are more fearful?

Craig: Uh, ever heard of the Canadian TV show Check It Out? Well, um, check it out!

Robert: That show was motivated by fear.

I used to watch Check It Out! The theme song was amazing. Robert mentioned incense earlier, and I have to say your download codes packaged with incense sticks is a pretty brilliant idea. So brilliant I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it first. I’m honestly pretty jealous. Anyway, will there be a more traditional release format for the EP, a tape or 12” or something, or is this what “the album” has come to in 2014?

Robert: Thank you. It is what “the album” has come to in 2015, our timing is off. Our next release is a surprise. And, speaking of surprises, sorry I forgot your birthday, happy birthday.

Craig: Albums are great and all, but that friggin’ Jack White’s got the vinyl pressing plants booked from here to kingdom come! Also, an LP doesn’t fit in an incense package.

Michael: Currently I am more into our music being delivered to ears, only tethering that wavelength (oh hai! — no-pun-intend-ed.) to an object when it may expedite that goal.

Yeah, the tragic irony is Jack White and Record Store Day have essentially destroyed DIY record labels for the next few years. But speaking music being delivered to ears. I hear a metric tonne of influences on the Trial By Fire EP — from bubblegum glam to way far-out dark psychedelia. What sorts of things have been delivered to your ears?

Robert: Contemporary stuff that I like? Oh gosh. Marker Starling, Hank, Onakabazien, Corpusse, World Provider, Bobby Conn, Destroyer, Tonetta, Still Boys, Major Entertainer Mike H, Wolfcow, New Fries, Superbean, U.S. Girls, Slim Twig, Sex Stains, Feist, Brian Ruryk, Abernethy, Quintron and Miss Pussycat are some off the top of my head. Big inspirations are Sun City Girls, Ann Magnuson, 3 Day Stubble, Zip Code Rapists, Locust Abortion-era Butthole Surfers, Royal Trux, Roxy Music, Gainsbourg, Richard Harris, Bonzo Dog Band (my favourite band), The Poppy Family, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Sparks, Bee Gees, Beach Boys, Van Halen and so much more. I just found an album by Glen Meadmore that’s pretty wild, like synth drag square dance music, an Aut’Chose album (French Canadian glam), and a full album of ‘Mah’na Mah’na’. I’ve also been digging Dean Blunt. What I mean to say is: “Oh, whatever’s on the radio.”

That’s a little over a metric tonne.

Craig: I personally have been going through a bubblegum renaissance of late and actually scored the Lancelot Link Secret Chimp LP, but the psychedelic Sonny Bono LP Inner Views has been rating highly with me as well. Old school hip-hop and easy listening are perennial influences on me as well. I’m old enough to have seen Black Flag several times in the 80’s and that comes into it as well….

You have a song called “Building Our Brand,” which I feel is somehow kind of meta. New Horizzzons is a band that seems to know the value of a brand and that you’re selling a specific lifestyle experience. What exactly is the New Horizzzons experience?

Craig: Our lifestyle experience is this: “We’re taking our own heads, screwing them on right, and no one’s gonna to tell us that they’re not.”

Michael: We recognize that branding is another branch on the fractal spectrum of any cultural endeavor. New Horizzzons is your co-passenger as we surf this perpetual present. Be it the first time you hear us or the first hundredth. FOREVER A NEW HORIZZZON.

I feel like proper junkshop glitter is about to make comeback this year or next and that maybe you might be at the vanguard of that movement. There’s certainly elements of glitter that are admittedly comical — it’s part of the fun — but do you worry New Horizzzons might be taken as a “joke” band or your oddball and kitschy elements might overshadow the more serious side of the music?

Michael: People who dismiss humour are pretty mono-dimensional. I’m guessing it’s a timbre bias of some sort. Perhaps insecure about their own subjectivity that they pawn-off as objective. Trust me when I say this, every band is a “joke band”. Nothing is genuine, authenticity is a construct, and it’s not that irony is dead, it is just too modernist in a quantum cultural era. There is idea space all around a concept not just literal and ironic interpretations. It is more about the angles and trajectories that create the connections in the quilt of meaning, the context.

Robert: I rather dislike kitsch, it usually means an inherent condescension, a patronizing laugh. I’d rather get more inside. I cannot deny that there is an element of humour, I mean, we are a rock band and saying that a rock band isn’t funny is to be in full denial. Humour is a strong part of art, film, and literature. When it comes to movies, I don’t actually see movies that are marketed as comedies, because I love to laugh. One of the funniest movies I’ve seen this year was Nymphomaniac Part One — no other movie marketed as a comedy can come close to it in terms of laugh value. Oddball? It doesn’t take much to be oddball in this modern musical world. We are thinking of wearing plaid shirts, jeans, and boots for a show: the “authentic” rock uniform! One must consider the source when such terms are lobbed and the source is often boring.

Craig: Our looks so far are pretty diverse and well-crafted, and give the music/show a new context. After all, it is called a “show”, right?

Please don’t do the plaid and jeans show. My band has that covered. Keep being more interesting than us. But yeah, to me kitsch has become the new ironic. Or it’s the old ironic, mixed with a sort of mocking nostalgia. It seems like an easy and artistically lazy route for a lot of people. I don’t think you guys are lazy, so how do stay on the right side of kitsch?

Robert: Don’t matter to me. I don’t like or care about kitsch so the question is moot. I don’t like distance. I lay myself bare. And sometimes it fucking hurts. But good… but FUN! As to irony, it is but one tool of many in the toolbox — I do tire of having to be asked about it when there are so many other things to talk about; the multitude of acts out there don’t get asked about their false, forced earnestness and/or risk-free banality.

True. They don’t get asked about it. But they should be asked about it. But going back to Michael’s idea, that every band is a joke band, surely then Joy Division has to be one of the funniest of the bunch. So, in that context, what bands tickle your funny bones?

Robert: Uh, you mean bands that make us laugh? Uhhh. Like “funny” bands? Uhhh. Where are we going with this? I feel like the more I move away from this topic, the more you want to move it back, it’s like a weird tic or something. I’d love to mention all the bands and peers that have turned me on lately (I already did so fuck it) but to reduce it as such into those terms (even though it is under the banner of “every band is funny,” which is a true statement yet also needlessly reductive, we are talking one quality here) just needlessly complicates matters (I won’t deny that I am most certainly not a stranger to funny things — sure, I’ve been in some comedy rooms and personally identify as making “interdisciplinary art” or “comedy,” whichever you prefer, and of course make music but “musical comedy”? That translates to me as “wacky idea set-up punchline set-up punchline” over some tepid music — but I do find that pretty much anything that self-identifies as Contemporary Musical Comedy is usually… lousy, I steer away, I don’t even think The Yellow River Boys — which is music made by two people in comedy — identify as such. So, my answer: no.

Craig: When the whole Jeff Healey Band got curly perms at the same time, that was pretty funny.

I got a perm around the same time. The joke was on me. But point taken about harping on the topics of kitsch and comedy. Let’s move on, then, to a far more important, and completely unrelated, question. The year is 1974. Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Gary Glitter are in a Battle Royale cage match. Who’s left standing?

Craig: Sweet Daddy Siki!

Robert: Can’t we all just get along? Flashforward. The year is 2014… 2054… 2094… can there be a throughline when time is not linear?

2054 was a good year for music. Speaking of astral projecting time-travel, the video for “Trial By Fire”— a one-minute mindbender — poses more questions than answers for the viewer. Will there be more videos from the EP that will answer those questions? Or is questioning the very sights we’re seeing on the screen (and our own sanity) part of New Horizzzons’ consciousness expanding mission?

Craig: Spoiler alert: Yes!

Robert: Yes, we are looking at directors for some of our many treatments right now. Some of these directors have not become known to us yet, so they should really contact us. As to answers, I am personally wary of anyone who claims to have all the answers.

Michael: Don’t ever listen to anyone who has answers.  All we have are better questions.

New Horizzzons play “Wavelength’s Endless Summer” on Saturday August 16 at the Vintage & Flea Market, 1251 Dundas Street West at Dovercourt.

—Interview by Jakob Rehlinger