Invasives are a trio from Vancouver BC formed in 2001 and consisting of 2 brothers Byron and Adam Slack (Vocals/Guitar/Bass) and Hans Anus (Drums). I was first exposed to their sound recently when I saw them supporting the Hanson Brothers, who of course are the hockey-obsessed alter ego band of NoMeansNo. Their stripped down, angular, bass driven sound, stop-start riffs, complicated time signatures and eccentric lyrics suggest influences from bands as diverse as Wire, the Ramones, as well as newer bands like Battles.
From their first album, ‘The World’s Gotta Go Round’, released in 2003, up to their latest 7 inch release, they have created an original body of work that obviously takes in many influences, and their unique sound is refreshing in an increasingly formulaic genre. Although befuddled by generous quantities of German beer, I realised this during their live set at the Hansons show, and it became clear to me that further investigation was warranted. This resulted in me acquiring their last LP, ‘Desk Job at Castle Dracula’, the 7″ EP, and a mission to track down an interview the band. Once they had returned to Canada at the end of their tour and recovered sufficiently, I asked Byron, the vocalist/guitarist, to explain a bit about the history of the band.
My brother Adam and I played in an array of bands together through our teenage years, we met Hans while trying out lead guitar players for a new band we were putting together. It didn’t take long for us to decide that Hans was the man for us, and we then promptly fired the lead guitar player.
We independently released our first album “The World’s Gotta Go Round” in 2003 and started touring Canada under the wing of Wrong records recording artists Removal.
And the rest is history, as they say. I asked Byron about his homeland, because Canada’s somewhere I’d love to go one day, but like many Brits I’m sad to say I know little about it from a musical point of view, my main discoveries from back in the day being the mighty DOA, SNFU and of course the Wright brothers and Tom Holliston on their many forms. I’m not going to mention Rush….So I asked Byron, what was the kind of music that got you playing in a band? You seem to have taken a refreshingly angular approach to the punk sound, which is a welcome contrast to the masses of bands who seem to want to re create the 1980s all over again!
I only listened to The Beatles and The Monkees and Kiss as a kid, as cliche as it sounds when I was 12 I saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and my musical universe changed almost immediately. Suddenly I was aware of all this great music and peers of mine were introducing me to all kinds of new sounds. To name a few Canadian bands The Smalls from Edmonton, Kittens from Winnipeg, and of course Nomeansno were all big influences.
It’s a location with more than its fair share of notable bands. Because I saw you play with the Hansons, the similarities between your two bands were kind of pronounced to me – Canadian, two brothers, three piece, and so on. That’s clearly a lazy interpretation, but the siblings in the band thing has been covered many times with NomeansNo – what kind of plusses and minuses do you feel it produces, I would imagine creatively it would be good to work with somebody you know well, but at the same time, I guess that there may be the potential for disagreements and even rivalries?
I love playing music with my brother, no one understands the direction we pursue greater than he. I don’t often feel the need to explain myself musically, and if I have to I know there is a good reason. I couldn’t imagine trying to play the music we create with some other musicians ….I love what Adam and Hans do. We do get hot headed every now and then but what do you expect, we are family.
The other unique I feel is that when listening to your lyrics, I find that they are unusual and original, which I see as a great thing after all these years listening to hardcore and punk bands [runs fingers through greying, thinning hair….]. What kind of thing inspires your songwriting?
Anything inspires my song writing, books, movies, music, visual art, stupid jokes, anything. Simply talking to an inspiring person can spark the want to write in me. I’m not always hot to trot but when I start it’s hard for me to stop. I find very little in life as satisfying, it’s kinda like completing a riddle or puzzle.
Ok. Following on from that, an often asked question – how much of a role does humour have in punk?
Punk is what ever you want it to be, as serious or ridiculous. I enjoy both, especially together. Punk is more human to me than a lot of rock music, full of ugliness and errors, within this there is beauty to be found totally unrefined, so I guess humour plays as big a roll as anything else.
That’s clear from the output from the band. In particular, I’ve been enjoying the videos from the tour so far, which have been posted, diary – style on Youtube. The schedule you’ve undertaken with the Hansons is truly massive. Looking at your list of previous dates, it seems that you could be described, Spinal Tap style, as a ‘hard working rock band’! Does touring nourish the soul, in your opinion? How do you all get on in this bizzare, away from home, always in each others company, always on the move kind of situation?
We all enjoy touring, settling into our roles and jobs, dividing the work fairly. We like to travel and we love to play shows. It’s really a great situation for us when we are on the road. Very little drama and lots of work to keep us all busy. The videos are something that I putter away at on my lap top while waiting to do sound check or winding down after a gig.
So you’ve been trawling around Europe for some time now, and in the light of my second question in which I admit to a general lack of knowledge about your country [though I have heard some speak of bears rooting in trash cans!] – what opinions have you formed about us Europeans [and us Brits of course!] – do we fit the stereotypes, and are there many differences to the Americans and Canadians – I guess we all live in small, densely populated countries, which undoubtedly affects our outlook on life!
Tell me about Billy Goat Heaven – and what role this band fulfils? I have heard John Wright say that the Hansons are like a pressure valve for NomeansNo, and that they kind of need that release from the more serious stuff. Do you find that BGH fulfils the same role for you? Or are we likely to see you donning hockey shirts soon?
Adam and I started “The Linesmen” (Formerly Billy Goat Heaven) so we could complete the last week of the Hanson Brothers Sudden Debt Tour. Hans had to go home a week early due to personal issues, so Adam and I presented the possibility of preforming as a duo. We wrote the 35 min set the month before we went on tour. It was a tad nerve racking but very fun in the end. The Linesmen acted more like a crutch than a blow off valve.
What are the future plans for the Invasives, assuming that ‘a long rest’ is the most immediate one in a few weeks time?
Invasives are playing some western Canadian shows in May/June and then we are recording a new album this summer. We will also be back touring in Europe this coming fall/winter! We hope that we can return to the UK!
Many thanks to Hans and Byron for arranging the interview, and please check out the Invasives’ output, either at their Bandcamp page, or Manic Pogo Records. Let’s try and encourage them to come back to The UK soon!