Redefining the Term ‘Charming Hooligan’
Interview and Photos
By Aaron Binder
1) “We knew that we were going to get the shit kicked out of us if we didn’t play well.”
2) “My eye was the size of a baseball”
3) “So he has his dick out the window trying to pee”
4) All of the above
Oh, come on. You already know the answer is number four; we really don’t have to play this game. Cute and coy only gets so far, that is why the boys, nay, men of The Invasions have learned and become masters at the fine art of excess. When your band sounds like it could have come out of the 60’s garage scene while maintaining a healthy dose of blues and modern era rock, you’re bound to run into a few kerfuffles.
The Invasions are a band that somehow defy current musical convention; where many groups are attempting to become as artful and brooding as possible, I’m looking in your direction Indie music, The Invasions are making sure that what can bluntly be termed as rock and roll, stays that way. Rock and Roll is a style of music music that has crossed a vast wasteland of poor imitation and lame future generations and come out the other side ragged, hardened, but determined and wise.
The band places as much emphasis as possible into writing simple sounding yet complex songs. The more you listen to this band, the more you begin to understand the interaction between instruments and the gorgeous vocals. It takes a few listens to truly understand the dynamic to their music and why it does stand apart from second-rate imitations, but once you get it, you’re in for good.
I spoke with The Invasions before one of their shows at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern, the perfect environment for a group of scruffy rapscallions such as these. When I tell you that the interview was interesting, I don’t mean it in a ‘hey, that cat only has three legs’ kind of way, I’m telling you this in a ‘hey, that cat only has three legs and it’s juggling fucking asteroids, holy shit it can also shoot lasers from its eyes’ kind of way. Enjoy.
Aaron: This is really nerve racking having so many people in the room right now. I’m totally- I don’t care. [Laughs]. How you guys doing?
British Alex: Good.
Aaron: Alright. I’m gonna have you all introduce yourselves so I’ll know who’s talking later on.
Matt: Okay. So. I’m Matt
Alex: I’m Alex.
British Alex: I’m Alex, too. Uh, yeah.
Aaron: The British Alex.
British Alex: Yeah, the British Alex.
Aaron: Aight. I’ll just call you Alex 2.
Alex: You can make out his voice, it’s different.
British Alex: I think would make sense at the end of the day.
Aaron: It’s going to be hard to transcribe because I don’t understand the accent. In fact I have no idea what you’re saying right now.
British Alex: A lot of people don’t, but it’s something I have to live with.
Alex: It’s a problem.
Aaron: Okay. Anyway, how are you guys doing tonight? You are the Invasions and you are playing the Horseshoe on June 4th, I’m assuming it is today, 2011.
Aaron: How’s that feel?
Matt: Tonight. Pretty good. We’ve got all our friends playing with us. We’re looking super forward to it.
Alex: Should be a good night.
Aaron: First time at the shoe?
Matt: We’ve played probably 10 times.
Aaron: How do you feel about this compared to the other times?
Matt: I think this is the first bill we’ve set up by ourselves. So it’s our show and we’re
really happy with all the bands.
Aaron: That’s cool so you’re playing with a bunch of friends then of course, and-
Matt: Yep, we’ve got…
Alex: Not all… Well new friends, lots of new friends.
Matt: And old friends.
Alex: Yep new friends and old friends.
Matt: Yep. We’ve got the Archives, Young Grass,
Matt: Spectre, and the Get Nuns and Invasions.
Aaron: Cool. So what was the inspiration between- behind grabbing those bands? I mean you guys have kind of a distinct garage-rock sound. It’s very 60’s style. Are you looking for bands that are similar to that, different than that? Something that’s just gonna round out a good bill?
Alex: The ones that bridge the gaps and kind of unite different talent in Toronto. And create some sort of unified thing that people never get bored during the night and we keep it interesting.
Matt: I don’t know. I kind of just wanted to get bands that kind of sound like us.
Matt: Have a good time. Bands who like to party and have a good time.
Aaron: So that’s every band really. Every band in Toronto is on the bill.
Alex: Basically. In theory.
Matt: We’ve hired every band in Toronto.
Aaron: Well, actually I want to talk a little bit about your guys sound. I mean, I heard three songs, I can’t really define a sound on three songs but maybe you can help me do that.
Alex: Sure. Okay.
Aaron: I found those three songs that Rachel (their PR Agent from Slapback Media) sent me earlier were kind of 60’s garage rock. The bass lines were thumping, that was just a beautiful thing to hear. Really driving like that old style rock and roll, bluesy kind of stuff, you know. Where is that coming from for you guys?
Alex: We like to keep it energetic and just, you know, write music that people can have fun to and never tire of. So in the middle of a song we’re switching it up all the time and adding changes to spice things up.
Matt: Bluesy dynamic.
British Alex: I find that you’re the best bassist, so you can, you lay it down.
Matt: And we’ve got the best drummer, too.
Alex: We do have the best drummer. He far outshines all of us.
Matt: When we found our drummer on tour, when we were on tour last time and he was playing with another band and he was definitely the best part of the band. And it was like we want this guy to play drums and eventually the band broke up. First thing we were at his door getting him to play with us.
Aaron: How’d you do that?
Alex: Text messaging, all the modern things.
Matt: We wooed him, we’d bring him flowers.
Aaron: [Laughs] That’s more what I was looking for right there.
Matt: Sexting. How about that?
Alex: Sexting. We sexted.
Aaron: So how long have you guys been playing with the new guy?
Alex: About a year.
Matt: We recorded a year-
Alex: It’s been exactly a year.
Matt: Yeah exactly a year. We have our new record coming out … and Danny’s on it and that will drop in September.
Aaron: Very cool. So you guys actually, you’re a pretty young band anyway, when I hear that-
Alex: We’re all 17.
Aaron: I shouldn’t be doing talking to you right now. It’s interesting to hear that young bands are touring so much. Do you find that’s actually beneficial to your songwriting craft?
Alex: It definitely helps playing live a lot and you know hearing what the audience thinks of some songs then we go and we adapt them to what people like and how we feel on stage. What works and what doesn’t.
Matt: Yep. Well the more you play the songs, the more you find the flaws with them and you can improves the new songs.
Alex: Yep. When you write new songs.
Matt: When we’re writing new songs we think about- Our songs are all very different. I mean you wouldn’t hear one song and then the next one almost with a different feeling it’s almost a different style in a way and that’s us kind of bringing the feelings to things to make cohesive sounds that people like.
Aaron: Have you ever had anything just totally flop live?
Alex: Oh yeah. Like one song.
Matt: When we were a very new band we had one song and we stopped playing it right away. Somebody said … Yeah there was one of our friend’s girlfriends or something and she I think was drunk and said something to us- No as a new band we took offence. We can’t play that again.
Alex: We’ve played some shitty shows before.
British Alex: And every single one’s been at the Silver Dollar. Pretty much.
Alex: Oh no.
British Alex: We have a bad time most of the time.
Aaron: Let’s talk about that.
Matt: The Silver Dollar? We played Canadian Music Week and I had an eye infection. My eye was the size of a baseball. We were down a member, everything was facing against us. We still went out we fucking played as hard as we could. We gave it everything and we did a decent show but at the end of the night, Danny, our drummer destroyed the entire set. He wrecked the drum kit threw everything around, stagedived, tackled some people and after that we’re not allowed at the Silver Dollar.
Aaron: Is that a bad thing?
Matt: I don’t think we want to be friends with everybody.
Aaron: Yeah. [Laughs].
Matt: We’ll be back there.
Alex: Yeah. We’ll be back.
Aaron: So has anything just gone over super well live, to contrast?
Alex: Of course, man. I think most of our set goes over pretty well with people dancing and jumping around and-
Matt: Our- My favourite show was in Cornwall, Ontario.
Alex: We played to a bunch of bikers.
British Alex: Last stop of the tour.
Alex: We just drank like a 26er of whisky before it between the four of us and-
Matt: We played a thing called the Ringing Ear festival. It was like 100 bikers in the audience.
Alex: And their wives and biker children and they loved us.
Matt: That was awesome.
Alex: That was pretty cool yeah.
British Alex: I think we played – we played really well that night because we knew that we were going to get the shit kicked out of us if we didn’t play well. We would’ve gotten killed.
Matt: Yeah we were scared.
Alex: I think they were expecting some Stones covers but we didn’t give them that.
British Alex: And the other really good show recently was at The Garrison it was our show to release this album. Good show.
Alex: … Yeah that was fine. That was a good show.
Aaron: Without the threat of having the shit kicked out of you of course.
Aaron: So it just came naturally that time.
Alex: It’s always a possibility though.
Matt: You can’t go out in the city without expecting to you know, have a couple punches thrown at you once in a while. Just having a good time. Keeping it too conservative.
Aaron: I like that. If that’s fully true. So guys let’s talk a little bit about the 7 inch. That’s a cool sound you’ve got going on there. It’s really scratchy. I enjoyed the fuck out of that, to put it bluntly. Why don’t you do a Stone cover?
Alex: Why don’t we?
British Alex: I wanted to do a The Kinks cover.
Matt: We did a Kinks cover, Dead End Street on our new record.
Alex: I want to cover Get Off My Cloud.
Matt: That’d be good, yeah.
Alex: We definitely have a 60’s throwback sound but we try to like spice it up and you know, we look into what British music and like new music and we add that up. We’re not trying to be like a throwback band. We’re trying to you know-
Aaron: Well you know, I feel a lot of dynamic in your sound out of the three songs I heard. In the same way that the Stones were not necessarily revered as the greatest songwriters until people actually forensically looked at it, you know they wrote some phenomenal songs I mean if you look at the music you guys are putting out just from face value it sounds garage rocky it sounds like it could be 60’s but when you actually look at the dynamic of the interaction between verse-chorus-bridge sometimes it actually has a lot more depth to it then what you’d expect just on first listen.
Alex: We don’t write just like simple like verse-chorus songs. We always try to add an extra bridge or you know, some thumping bass line.
Matt: Well we’ll write like all kinds of different genres and then between the tones that we use, we buzz it up a bit it always transcends, makes you feel like-
Alex: Very massy. Massy energetic, yeah.
Aaron: So it’s like a perfect live sound?
Alex: I think so. We try to just keep people you know, best thing they saw that night.
Aaron: What’s the attraction to the live sound with you guys as opposed to perfecting a recorded sound?
Alex: The live sounds more just for the energy because it’s going out there and being kind of crazy and jumping in the audience, getting people riled up and yeah.
Matt: We don’t mind if we mess up a chord or two. We’re more into …
Alex: It’s almost like a punky sort of…
British Alex: Yeah.
Matt: We’re just kind of like a punk band when we play live, we’re thrashing around and we’re-
Alex: When we’re in the studio we got a timeline, we have to play everything-
Matt: Studio is different from- It’s two separate things. Completely. When we go in there we’re very professional we try to lay it down and really come up with like how-
British Alex: Well I think we’ve tried to deal with writing songs or arranging our songs so that they’re accessible for a lot of people too so we’ve had to strip a lot of our sound and a lot of the … that we have. And we’re learning how to write songs that we can do something with that people will-
Matt: We don’t want to be- And like the reason we’re, we don’t have honestly time too many cuts because we have so many songs. We’re always writing new songs, like in fact we have three songs going on constantly. So it’s just like we want to get our own material out there as fast as possible. We only have so much time right now.
Aaron: Yeah. So what is the songwriting process like for you guys? Does everyone come in with different ideas, different songs and then everyone just kind of builds on top of that?
Matt: Yeah. Alex, the singer Alex, usually comes up with like a verse or a couple chords or a riff. Then we’ll just lay it down.
Alex: Yeah we’ll play that a bit then go back and we each kind of add parts to that and yeah. See how it turns out.
Matt: Yeah. Sometimes he’ll write a full song and it’ll just be perfect but
Alex: Most of the time with the newer stuff we’re writing like I’ll probably come in with the verse or chorus and most of the lyrics and then these guys will work their magic and add their parts and …
British Alex: I generally have something to do with the bridge.
Alex: Yeah. And Matt’s yelling that chords wrong and that chord has to be changed and
Matt: I’m always changing everything.
Aaron: Why the bridge?
Matt: Why the bridge?
Aaron: Why the bridge?
British Alex: Cuz the song, that’s the last thing to go into the song. And I dunno. Just wanna get it done.
Aaron: You’re a closer.
British Alex: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Matt: He’s just the closing …
Aaron: Yeah I don’t really ask questions, normal ones as you’d put it but- So that’s actually a pretty cool production rate, I mean three new songs at every practice. Obviously that can’t be true.
British Alex: Who said that?
Aaron: You said that.
Matt: Base of three songs, not three new ones right away.
British Alex: Yeah but it takes like three months to get those three songs written.
Matt: It takes a while but there’s always you know five songs.
Alex: It’s more like a song a month.
Matt: A song a month, yeah. You know we’re not getting paid to do this. Because if we were getting paid and we could practice every day then all of the sudden you
know we could have thirty songs for you in two months. Yeah we don’t have that ability. I’m sure many bands don’t have money to work with. Money’s always an issue.
Aaron: Yeah. So what attracts you guys to the whole lifestyle then?
Matt: Music. Just playing music, and going out there and having fun. Playing and having a good time. We all have the best time though playing live and drinking.
Alex: All of our friends are in bands, we’re in a band. I think everyone we know is in a band. It’s just what we know. It’s what we’ve become used to.
Aaron: Did you guys all grow up separately?
Matt: Well Alex and I have been friends for 15 years and we met first year university so that was like 8 years ago so it’s been a long time family.
British Alex: Not eight years. Five years ago.
Matt: Is it?
British Alex: Yeah, five years ago.
Matt: Seems longer.
Aaron: So do you think that connection you guys have all had for more than a couple of years has really helped solidify the songwriting style?
Matt: Yeah, you know what, we can all be really honest with each other if we don’t like something we’ll say that sounds like shit.
Alex: Fix that. We’re never very blunt.
Matt: We’re all, we always are blunt.
Alex: Very critical of each other. Like if you were to step into a practice you’d be like this is awkward, downright fucking awkward.
Alex: Oh here’s Danny.
Danny: What are you guys doing?
Matt: Danny just walked in.
Matt: Why don’t you sit down? We’ll finish our interview and then.
Danny: Oh you’re doing an interview?
Aaron: Hey, I’m Aaron.
Danny: How are ya?
Aaron: Good, surrounded my madness.
Matt: Come here man. Get in on this. Our drummer, Dan. He just returned his car. We talked you up a lot.
Aaron: They did, legitimately. You can read this later and be happy with what they said. So welcome, Danny.
Danny: How’s it going?
Aaron: I’m great. Yourself?
Danny: I’m good.
Aaron: You look kind of tired.
Danny: Yeah. Maybe. …
British Alex: He probably plays for like 5 other bands. That’s why he’s tired. He never stops writing music.
Aaron: Cool. So let’s talk a little bit about touring just a touch more, guys. The Cornwall thing sounds really awesome.
Matt: We almost died on tour, in fact.
Aaron: Really? Tell me.
Matt: After Cornwall, I stayed sober but there was this massive snowstorm and these guys were all gone, just gone. And so we were-
Alex: What do you mean, gone? We were in the car. We just passed out.
Matt: Blasted. Drunk as hell. So I’m driving back and it’s like you know, this massive snow storm at 2 in the morning and we’re going 60 km on the highway because you can’t get over 80 and this guy really has to pee so he has his dick out the window trying to pee and we’re like we’re going to stop soon. Stop peeing. You can’t stop here and eventually I’m like fuck. What happened? And we run off the road into a stop sign into this gulley off the side of the highway, miraculously manage to get out of there. We pull off, we beat him up and-
Aaron: Your bits and pieces survived, yeah?
Matt: He got this massive cut on his leg and was bleeding down.
British Alex: His bits and pieces were still hanging out while we were beating him up.
Matt: He pulled down his pants to pee finally and we beat him up.
Alex: I got frostbite in my nether areas.
Matt: But we, as soon as we get back in the car and drive for like another 10 minutes and we’re going on this bridge, was the worst place to drive in a snow storm because it’s just ice and I lose control of the car left to right, left to right like massive whipping motions and all of the sudden we do a 360 on the highway coming like 2 inches from a barrier and like Brit and I are like the only ones awake at this point and we’re like holy fuck we almost died. He wakes up, vomits all over himself.
British Alex: Danny’s still passed out.
Alex: Not true.
Matt: All over his frosty …
British Alex: We cleaned it up before we got home. But he was still asleep.
Matt: That was a fun night and it took us like 9 hours to drive back basically from Ottawa. That was crazy.
Alex: That’s touring.
Aaron: That… Yeah, yeah.
Matt: No, a lot of it was pretty sane.
British Alex: Great shows. … just driving up to Montreal …
Aaron: I was about to ask you a question in the vain of what impression do you want to give your fans but you just did that perfectly right there.
Matt: We’re a bunch of crazy hooligans …
Aaron: One more question guys. What do like most about your music?
Alex: Oh boy. Playing it.
Matt: The energy. Just how it makes us feel. It revs us up.
British Alex: I like how it’s a bit of a mess and somehow turn it into something beautiful. I like the sloppy side of it.
Aaron: And Danny for one quote.
Danny: I like how it’s very diverse. There’s like punk songs and like pretty little pop songs. I like that. It’s fun. It’s all over. But it all blends together nicely.
Aaron: Cool. Awesome. Well thanks for talking today guys.
Alex: Thank you.
Danny: Thank you for having us.