In a city like Vancouver, the love of good music is perhaps matched by our passion for hockey.
With the playoffs on the horizon this month, we thought it only made sense to intersect music and hockey. JPNSGRLS were kind enough to take some time to catch up with us to chat not only about the Vancouver Canucks, but also what they’ve been up to. Their debut album Circulation saw its UK release earlier this week, and the band will be heading on tour in Europe later this month.
asapmusicblog.ca: What is your favourite memory of the Vancouver Canucks?
Graham Serl: It’s gotta be the Alex Burrows game seven winner over Chicago – slaying the dragon. I don’t know if I’d ever been happier in my entire life. That was a great game. I have mixed feelings about game seven, mostly negative – that’s game seven against Boston, anyways. It was pretty cool just waking up that day and thinking, “We’re going to win the Stanley Cup!”
Charlie Kerr: It could happen.
Graham: It could happen. You know what, actually, conference finals against San Jose… we were playing The Media Club where we’re sitting right now when Kevin Bieksa scored that goal and we went on stage right after. We were all waiting because everyone was watching TV, and well, we’re not going to play in overtime of the conference finals.
A: Do you have a favourite piece of Canucks apparel or memorabilia?
Graham: I got an old, vintage, black skate Bure jersey.
Charlie: I’ve got the white skate, I think it’s my brother Sam’s old one. I have a Donald Brashear jersey with a big ketchup stain on it, because I was eight years old when I got it.
Oliver Mann: I have very few Canucks paraphernalia, but I do have one signed hockey card by the previous captain.
Graham: Trevor Linden?
A: Markus Naslund?
Oliver: Yeah! Markus Naslund.
Graham: Markus Naslund came to Douglas Park with his family one day. It’s the park that I grew up across the street from. We were playing ball hockey at the park, and he came over and he was kind of messing around with us, and we’re like, “Ah, Markus Naslund, it’s gonna be great! You gotta shoot on my buddy Daniel Usher!” – he’s a goalie, and he’s a really good goalie. Markus Naslund sets up at center ice, Daniel gets ready, Markus Naslund takes kind of like a shoot-out style penalty shot, comes in, tries to take the top corner, Daniel Usher stacks the pads and stones him. It was the greatest moment.
Charlie: It’s such a great moment for Usher too. I bowled with the Sedins once, they were one over from me.
Graham: Who was the better bowler? Did they have the exact same score in bowling?
Charlie: I can’t remember. So… let’s say that Chris has a playoff towel.
Graham: Yeah, that he found on the street…
Charlie: Wait, but Chris’ Canucks moment is fucking saving somebody’s life! Chris saved some guy’s life.
Graham: Some guy in the riots got pepper sprayed and was getting beat up by a bunch of guys.
Oliver: They were breaking The Bay windows.
A: Oh my god. So he was actually there in the action…
Charlie: And that’s what “Tennis Shoes” is about, that’s why the second verse is ‘my city burnt its pretty lights / my city burnt but the warmth is nice / and suddenly I’m at your mercy / and you did your best to make my nose bleed’.
Oliver: There’s a pretty cool video on YouTube, actually, where the guy gets mobbed by ten people and they all start kicking him and Chris just comes in and bulldozes everyone out of the way.
A: I feel like I’ve seen that video, but I had no idea that it was Chris.
Graham: There were a couple of news articles, too. There’s this beautiful photograph of Chris and this other dude that helped this guy, and they’re like dragging him away. It’s like, they’re crystal clear, Chris’ hair is perfectly combed over, not a hair out of place. He’s looking so calm, cool, collected and the guy is covered in blood.
Charlie: When he gets here, he’ll tell the story.
Chris McClelland: During the 2011 playoff run when we almost took the cup, I was downtown partying – stopped watching the game after I realized it was total blowout. Long story short, a riot started and I just ended up being, I guess, one of the people protecting the city. There just so happened to be a professional photographer in the vicinity and somebody was filming it. Some guy ended up getting attacked by a mob of people and getting pepper sprayed and bear maced on the ground, getting kicked in.
Without skipping a beat, I ran in and pushed people off of him, lifted him up and brought him to safety and really didn’t think much of it. In the days following the riot, it was like the feel good story of the riot and I actually ended up getting the highest award a civilian can get from the VPD for my actions. Just making a drunk split second decision to help someone instead of watching, like everybody else.
It’s one of those life-defining moments where you can tell if you’re a good person, or if you’re just going to stand by and watch bad happen.
Charlie: What’s your other [memory]? Hanging out at the Loose Moose?
Chris: And I’ve definitely been out at the bar partying with a couple of Canucks, once or twice. I may have lied and told some people that I played for the Minnesota Wild, because I was bigger than all of the Canucks at the bar, and it kind of worked for a bit there.
Charlie: So those are his two moments. Saving someone’s life, and lying.
A: If you guys could choose the playlist for a hockey game, what songs would you choose?
Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows
Tame Impala – Elephant
Phoenix – Rome
JPNSGRLS – Smalls
Rage Against The Machine – Bulls On Parade
Death From Above 1979 – Trainwreck
A: What would you choose as the Vancouver Canucks goal song?
A: So the first time that I interviewed you guys, we talked about what your first concert was. What was the first song in your memory that inspired you to pursue music?
Chris: The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show album. 100%. I got it for Christmas in the seventh grade and it was one thing to listen to music – you know, Napster and Kazaa, some songs that I thought were cool. But to get this album and listen to it cover to cover, I remember I skipped… I listened to it so much that ‘Windy Clear’ on that record would not play on my discman anymore. That was my favourite song from that record because it has a sick bass breakdown. I don’t know if I scratched it… that was the album – because it was a live album, I could tell how much fun these guys were having on stage and how the audience was reacting to it. That’s when I was like, okay, I need to do that.
Charlie: I think the first big inspiration of songwriting, like writing down my lyrics was… it’s a two-parter, because on the guitar I was 10 years old and I heard Nirvana Nevermind and I wanted my teacher to teach me ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, but my hands were too small so I had to learn the power chords version rather than the bar chords. That was really massive for me – I think that was huge, huge inspiration. Just in terms of thinking of lyrics and telling stories through words, I listened to The Eminem Show a ton as a little kid, which you know has the parental advisory.
Graham: Which is the inspiration for every song Charlie has ever written.
Oliver: For me, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. That was the song that made me want to play guitar.
Graham: I was already tinkering with drums at the time, but I was really into Tool when I was learning drums and played along to all the Tool albums. Danny Carey was my hero growing up. So I guess I’ll say ‘Lateralus’ by Tool, even though that’s not the coolest answer.
A: Also since the last time we talked, you guys dropped the vowels in your name, you guys have played in Spain and Singapore, toured the US, and more recently, you guys just came back from SXSW. What were some of the highlights of that experience?
Graham: Oh man, it was made of highlights. The last year has been made of highlights for us – it’s been incredible.
Oliver: I think our official showcase was most definitely a highlight, without a doubt. I showed up before the rest of the guys and when I got into the club, basically, it was a really small place and there was this other band kind of going on stage. As soon as I come in, I ask the manager, ‘Oh, where am I supposed to put my stuff?’ and he’s just like, ‘You’re here now? You gotta get out of here’, and just kicked me out of the club. That was a pretty bad taste in my mouth for a first experience. Just waiting outside in the rain, and their manager comes and gives me a spiel, you know, ‘Man, I’m sorry but we’re busy’.
Eventually when we go in, we finally see it, and it’s not the biggest place but it was amazing. It was like a balcony, it was kind of like a pit, basically.
Graham: It was kind of like you were in a tree house.
Charlie: It was one of my favourite venues that we’ve ever played in.
Graham: It was like a small, covered, but open-air wooden stage with minimal room, like maybe three rows of people around the stage and then a large wooden staircase with a big wood handrail right in front of the stage, and another balcony on top with another three rows of people. Basically, there’s people looking at you from everywhere, they’re all around you and above you. It was such a cool feeling. Charlie was climbing on the stairs and extended the mic stand as far as it would go and held it up to the people on the balcony to sing. It was wicked – people kept coming in off the street and trying to force their way in even though it was so packed and couldn’t get in.
Oliver: And they would just listen to whatever Charlie told them to do.
Charlie: It was unforgettable. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever played.
Chris: There was only maybe about four people in the audience that we actually knew personally – everyone else was a brand new fan. The other awesome thing about it is that we played an earlier show that day and a good chunk of the audience were people that had seen our earlier show, and then brought their friends with them to see our later show. We’re at a festival where there’s 1000 bands playing a day, and these people saw us twice.
Charlie: That was really cool gratitude thing for me, like it’s really not guaranteed that people are going to come to your show. You can play to a semi-circle of three really easily at SXSW, I think. You have the option sometimes of, oh, I can see Raekown or this band that I’ve never heard of from Vancouver and some people decided we were worth it, and that’s fucking awesome.
A: I saw that one of the pictures that you guys posted from SXSW was meeting Nardwuar, which makes me incredibly jealous. The caption was that he remembered you guys from a show you played in 2009?
Chris: So unfortunately, well fortunately but unfortunately, I was getting lunch with these guys – Oli was back at the hotel and I was trying to convince them to stay out with me and experience Austin. It was the Saturday, our last party day, and these guys were like, ‘No, we’re tired, I’m going to go back to the hotel’. So I was like okay fine, fuck you guys, I’m going to go be by myself and experience Austin. Maybe a minute after I met them, I walk around the corner and I see Nardwuar and strike up a conversation with him.
Before Graham was in the band even, we used to be called The Beauties in 2009 when we were all in high school. We played some charity show that Nardwuar hosted and put on. There’s a photo of me and Charlie holding Nardwuar, who’s wearing one of our old band t-shirts and we’re lifting him up in the air. We talked to him a bunch that night and said we were big fans, like who from Canada that plays music is not a fan of Nardwuar, said some things to him and that was it. Have not seen him since and there’s been no connection with him since, really.
Charlie: Oh yeah, he followed us on Twitter during the Mounties tour.
Chris: So then when I saw him at SXSW, I wasn’t trying to be too presumptuous but I took the photo with him and I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you remember this, but my band used to be called The Beauties and we actually played a show for you at West Point Grey Academy in 2009, it was a charity show that you put on’ and he was like, ‘I totally remember that show! You guys have changed your band name though, I think I’m following you on Twitter! What are you guys called?’ I was like, ‘Yeah! We’re JPNSGRLS now!’ and he’s like, ‘Totally! You guys are on Light Organ, you’re from Vancouver! – the guy knew exactly who we were.
Graham: The guy has a wealth of knowledge. Nothing leaves that little brain of his.
Charlie: He’s so fucking rad.
A: Circulation is going to be released in the UK on April 6th and you guys are heading to Europe. The first date that has been posted is for The Great Escape Festival. What do you guys have lined up for the European dates?
Chris: We’re also doing the Hit The Deck Festival, which is a two-day, two-city festival in Nottingham and Bristol.
Charlie: Sound City in Liverpool.
Graham: We’ve got a Paris show and an Amsterdam show.
Oliver: And a bunch of German dates. Actually, our album is also coming out in Germany on April 10th.
Graham: A bunch of stuff is pending right now.
Oliver: I mean that’s how tours are. Every tour that we’ve been on, we’ll be on the road and we’ll find out how we’re playing a show in a couple of days. But it’s sweet – everybody’s really excited for it.
Graham: Dream come true.
Charlie: Yeah, this is not one that I thought would come about.
Graham: Yeah, Light Organ keeps stepping it up for us, they’re giving us every chance to succeed. Everybody that has our back, totally 100% believe in us. They’re not holding back monetarily, they’re really giving us every chance that we need to succeed. The best move that we’ve ever made was signing to Light Organ, couldn’t be more thankful to those guys.
Chris: You hear stories of people that are jaded, they’re like, ‘I got signed and then my record label didn’t do anything for me, they just owned my copyright!’ Before we signed, I talked to a family friend who’s a musician and he was like, ‘Oh, you know, that could be the biggest mistake you ever make, signing with record label this early. Maybe you guys should just strike out on your own first and do your own thing’. I don’t even know where we would be if we didn’t sign with Light Organ, if we waited. It took awhile to get the ball rolling, but…
Graham: We would have never recorded Circulation, never tour with July Talk, never tour with Mounties, never gone anywhere.. maybe we would have driven to like Saskatoon.
Chris: We would be doing a lot more van sleeping.
Graham: I’m down for van sleeping, for the record. It’s fun.
A: You guys have a pretty busy first half of 2015 with all the tour dates coming up, what else can we expect from JPNSGRLS this year?
Charlie: I think we’re going to try and put out new music.
Chris: We’re definitely playing some Alberta shows in July, maybe do a Canadian tour while we’re at it.
Graham: We’re coming through at least Western Canada again, and we’ve got a greater portion of our next album written, along with a couple of songs that we feel would be strong singles. I think our plan is to lay down a couple of those with Steve Bays and maybe release them leading to the release of our full album.
Chris: That might not even be 2015, though. We really gotta see how after we go to Europe this time around, now that Circulation is just getting released there and all of the positive press that we’ve already received from it. We might be marinating on Circulation for a little bit longer. It’s already been eight months since it’s been released in Canada, and we’ve already done so much with it. We might do just as much, if not more with it being released in Europe.
Graham: That being said, if we started recording an album today, it wouldn’t be out for eight or ten months. There’s milking to be done still of that album, even if we get our act together and get this next album going.
Oliver: Hopefully a bunch more festivals will line up, and Europe is going to be awesome, it’s our first time there. We just got signed to X-Ray Booking, which is a huge booker over there, they have Pixies, Queens of the Stone Age I think on there. It’s really exciting and hopefully that just means more Europe dates.
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For more information on JPNSGRLS, head over to http://jpnsgrls.com.