By Nicole VilleneuveAfter spending years in bands playing the much more serious underground punk circuit, Halifax, NS's Cold Warps found pop. The four-piece (with one member, guitarist Dominique Taylor, currently contributing long-distance from Ottawa), made up of former members of Halifax hardcore and post-punk bands, including Prisoners, XenvisionX and A History Of (via hometown heroes the Plan), made an immediate impression with their new Ramones-infused power-pop project. Having quickly sold out of two independent cassettes of short, bright bursts of double-time AM radio hooks filtered through house show sweat and garage fuzz, the group gave the tracks a new home on the Endless Bummer LP. The ten tracks were remastered by fellow scene stalwart and Halifax noise-pop anchor Seth Smith (Dog Day), and gems like the Nerves-y "I Got Opinions, Dude," the brash "Let's Just Fun" and the wonderfully nerdy "Science Fiction" demonstrate why these songs deserve this second go-round.
You mentioned earlier that you guys were surprised how much this music got around considering you didn't push it too much. Vocalist Paul Hammond: When we played our first show, we scrambled to get a cassette together for it. I think we made 50 of them and within a week we didn't have any left. We did another run of them and then made a Bandcamp site, and that's about as far as we went with it for a while. Then people started talking about it, which was nice. When we did the second tape, we didn't do a whole lot more than that and suddenly we were getting reviews on blogs in Australia and orders for the tapes from France, Germany and Australia. I don't know, I guess we've just been really lucky at the Internet [laughs].
Is that different from what you've experienced in previous bands? For me, yeah. Lance [Purcell, drums] played in the Plan and they did a fair amount of stuff. I have a feeling that they worked pretty hard to get what they did. Ryan and Dom have played in a lot of bands, but I don't think they've done a lot of touring or anything. The only band that I toured with was Sharp Like Knives, and we worked pretty hard, but we were younger and that tour was what kind of killed us. So this is pretty different, for us. One: we all just decided to make music that was fun and not worry about all of the boring parts of being a band. Like, we'll do it if we want to or have time, but luckily, people responded quickly enough to the songs that we didn't have to worry about it.
Based on what I'm familiar with, in terms of your previous acts, this is a really different sound for all of you. I had just started getting a lot more interested in pop music in general, going back and listening to a lot older garage and rock bands and getting into bands like the Nerves or the Paul Collins Beat. Dom and I had started to become better friends and were both interested in the same things and trading records and stuff, and decided we should try playing some music together. Basically the idea was to do something as fun as possible; we wanted to play something not too heavy, not too thought out, but something pop-based. The other thing was that we wanted to challenge ourselves. We'd played in more punk and hardcore bands, so we thought it'd be fun to see if we could write actual catchy pop songs.
Do you find a difference playing shows in this band, as opposed to the hardcore shows you used to play? It is kind of nice to play shows where you don't have to worry about quite as much testosterone being thrown around. Other than that, it's still fairly similar; we still fit within that punk community. We're lucky enough, again, that we managed to find a formula that punk kids in Halifax seemed to like us just as much as people who are more into indie rock, which is nice, because we got to play with a lot of bands we liked, in a lot of different genres.
How is the punk community in Halifax these days? That's a good question. The straight, thrash-y punk scene is still there and has remained stable and unchanged in a way that I think is nice. And there seems to be a lot of bands right now doing what I think Halifax has always been kind of good at, which is taking sounds that are somewhat popular, but kind of filtering them through that Halifax sound. You get a lot of bands taking the garage-y punk sound and then doing something like, say, what Long Long Long were doing. Taking that garage-y pop sound and doing it the way a bunch of weird East coast people who love math rock would do it: making it more complicated than it needs to be and stuff like that, which I think is really cool. We don't really do that because I don't know if we could, even if we wanted to [laughs]. Our goal was to do be as lowbrow as possible.
How does it work with Dom living in Ottawa? For playing, it makes it pretty hard; I guess it makes everything a little harder, but it hasn't been too bad. We're still clinging to the hope that Dom will move back; he wants to, it's just a job situation. We only lived in the same city as a band for six months and then he moved to PEI, so we got used to the idea of slightly long distance. Then he moved from PEI to Ottawa and it was like, whatever, we've already been doing it this long. Dom is the primary songwriter, he and I together. He writes the songs and records them pretty basically on Garageband on a drum machine, sends me an MP3 and I keep a stockpile of the songs he's writing and pick my way through. I'll write stuff to go with it and record vocals, send it back to him and he'll do some back-up vocals. The thing we've been working really hard on is doing harmonies, which is very new for us. Basically, we wanted to rip off the Beatles without sounding like the Beatles, which is easy, because we're never going to sound like the Beatles. We send tracks back and forth ― really lo-fi recordings with drum tracks. Once they basically sound like a song, we send them to everyone else and say, "next time we're in the same city, this is what we're going to learn!" It works. Usually by the time he's back in Halifax, we'll have somewhere between three to four new songs or more and spend a couple of days learning them and then try to play them live [laughs]. The final recording often ends up sounding a lot different because, you know, it'll actually have real drums.