Put the punk back into post-punk
After the large storm in Vancouver at the end of August that left vast swaths of the city in the dark, local post-punk band Spectres was scheduled to play a highly anticipated show. The venue was in the heart of the downtown Eastside and like the rest of the area, powerless. In true DIY punk style, a generator was found and the show went on. Undeterred by the darkness, punks came out in full force to watch the bands and buy warm beer from the bar.
First to take to the stage was Spectres and they pulled the anxious energy from the night and channelled it into an electric show. Lead singer Brian Gustavson dominated the room. As a tall man with platinum blonde hair he is hard to miss in a crowd, but on stage he is riveting.
Sonically, the band easily fits within the post-punk genre but, Spectres vigor on stage is all punk. Zach Batalden and Tyler Pilling attack their guitars while the rhythm section—Nathan Szilagyi on bass and Mitch Allen on drums—pummel out the beat.
Sitting in their van on a rainy Vancouver evening outside of their jam space, the band sucked on cigarettes and reflected on the live show they have developed. “We all come from punk backgrounds. You play a certain way and you play aggressive. You don’t have to play quick or slow to be aggressive from the stage,” says Pilling.
“Post-punk is a really open-ended term, it can mean a lot of sounds, and for us the British anarcho-punk sound was as much of a foundational influence as something like the Cure, Joy Division, or Siouxsie and the Banshees. For us, we were trying to draw on a bunch of influences. Plus, there wasn’t a post-punk scene. We were playing shows with punk, hardcore, and crust bands. Part of it was we developed a stage show that fit playing those sort of shows,” explains Batalden.
Spectres have built on a modest start and have been a music project for a decade. “I started the band with me and one of my friends on the island in 2005, maybe 2004,” recounts Gustavson. “It was just me and him and we recorded a few songs and made demos in a barn.”
“I guess it was eight years ago that we played our first show,” Batalden says about Spectres becoming a live act. “I don’t know, we’ve been together as a fully functioning band for eight years, almost nine years.”
As the band persevered in playing the brand of music they set out to play, a post-punk scene grew within Vancouver.
“There were so many shows where people would look at us and be like, ‘what are these guys doing?’” mused Szilagyi.
“We were the smoke break band. It’s kinda nice not to be that,” laughs Batalden.
Spectres is now about to release its third LP, titled Utopia, in both North America and Europe. Finished up around March, it has been in limbo in pressing plants which has been a frustration for the band. They hope it will be out soon so keep your ears keen and your eyes peeled for news of its release!
“We have definitely done some different stuff with the sounds on this record. I think we have pushed the envelope creatively in terms of making some pretty weird sounds on the record and doing some more pop oriented stuff. Hopefully people will be receptive to that. There are definitely some dance hits on it. I hope people dance,” says Batalden about the album.
Spectres perform December 11. Ask a punk for location.
By Alex Molten