Class of 2020: Hamilton's Basement Revolver Are Making Shoegaze Personal Again

Class of 2020: Hamilton's Basement Revolver Are Making Shoegaze Personal Again
Photo: Kyle Fisher
In the nearly five years since Hamilton shoegaze outfit Basement Revolver began playing and writing music together, the four-piece have become more than pals — they're effectively their own support system. "They are my family," frontwoman Chrisy Hurn tells Exclaim! "They're my ride or die people."
 
Formed in 2015 (originally as a three-piece), Nimal Agalawatte, Brandon Munro and Hurn released a handful of EPs before their first full-length, Heavy Eyes, which arrived via Sonic Unyon in 2018 — all while living and going to school in Hamilton.
 
Agalawatte and Munro originally met as students in Mohawk College's jazz program, while Hurn and Agalawatte go back to their church-going days in York Region — a friendship they credit as the catalyst for the band.
 
"Nimal and I grew up together," says Hurn. "We actually grew up in church together and we both ended up in Hamilton for school. And then Nimal met Brandon at school. [That's when] we kind of started Basement Revolver, and then just this past year we added Jon [Malström of Grey \\ Water]," who they also met at Mohawk.
 
In October of this year, the band dropped their followup to Heavy Eyes, the Wax and Digital EP. Recorded locally at the Hammer's Tape Studio, it's built on the foundations of shoegaze and dream pop, which are underscored by Hurn's wistful and deeply personal lyrics. And in a lot of ways, growing closer with the band has allowed Hurn to write lyrics with more focus on aspects of her personal life. "It's pretty much always autobiographical," she says.
 
"Lots has happened in the last year," she continues. "I got married — and had a couple of concussions, so it's been just a little crazy. A lot of the music we're writing now is kind of about that transition. And we've all been through our fair share of mental health things and it's been cool to support each other through that. On a friendship level, we've all gotten a lot closer and that is reflected in some of the stuff that we're working on."
 
While Basement Revolver have yet to confirm plans for a new record, the creative juices certainly have been flowing, in part from personal growth, and in another way due to their immense aptitude for collaboration, patience and their dedication to having a good time.
 
"Moving forward, we're gonna keep trying to spend more time with things," Hurn says. "This summer, we got to go to a cottage and start writing for an album. We spent the week just writing new music. It was really fun, so I'm hoping we get to do that again."
 
This unnamed album will again draw on Hurn and the band's personal experiences, apparently taking "a bigger dive back into self-image issues." In the cottage sessions, they managed to nail down approximately half of the new record — their first with the addition of Malström, who Hurn says helped stir up "some fresh air and a new sense of enjoying the project and feeling creative again."
 
This newfound groove has merged their dynamic stage performances as well. "Jon is very crazy and interesting to watch. And Brandon is very chilled-out on the drums. Nim's kind of like a mix of both," says Hurn, who herself gleans inspiration from her talented roster of local pals and international contemporaries alike — everything from MewithoutYou's tight live performances to the work of fellow Hamiltonian pals Ellevator.
 
"I've also been getting a lot of inspiration from friends who've been killing it right now," says Hurn. For example, "Linnea [Sigglekow] and [her band] Ellis have such a good stage presence and I've been so inspired by that. I have been feeling really inspired by Palehound and the music that [Ellen Kempner] has been writing. I just love how honest that whole album is."
 
Despite their allegiance to their adopted hometown, the band earned their stripes and much of their accolades touring in the States with legends like the Go! Team and Pack A.D., as well as opening for indie darling Snail Mail — all back in 2018 while in support of Heavy Eyes. "Some of those friendships we've maintained, which is really cool. It's one of those things where you meet people who really have inspired you or people that you idolize — and realize that they're just people too."
 
Going forward, Hurn and her bandmates want to take Basement Revolver on the road more, having caught the touring bug after their massive run in 2018. "I think we'd like to get to the point where we're touring pretty frequently," says Hurn. "If we can eventually, like, live off of it or quit our day jobs, that would be nice." Keeping in mind the successes their last record afforded them, the band are likely to get their wish one day or another.
 
But above all, keeping what's really important in focus is the band's primary goal. Their closeness is their strength — and they recognize that in this world, good company is the best thing you can hope for.
 
"More than anything," says Hurn, "I'm just thankful that I get to make music with my best friends."
 
Basement Revolver play the Casbah in Hamilton on January 3 and Monarch Tavern in Toronto on January 18 as part of Exclaim!'s 2020 concert series, co-presented by Collective Arts.