Published Sep 13, 2011If you're not already familiar with Ottawa, ON's Crusades from their promising first demo/seven-inch, you most likely know one or more of the handful of other bands the members inhabit(ed). Separately, they're responsible for some of the city's best bands (Year Zero, the Creeps, the Sedatives, Buried Inside) and together they've formed a whole new beast that takes pieces of the vast influences and fierce delivery of their other outfits. Ostensibly a heavier pop-punk band, but with darker thematic intentions and occasional metal inclinations (see "Remedy"), Crusades also dabble in some dark Jesus and Mary Chain-type pop on "Serpentine," and even touch upon Who territory with a moody acoustic finish on closer "Termites." They please lots of palates and do so in an incredibly smart, seasoned way. On its surface, this debut is brash and deeply melodic; underneath, it's a narrative of a "spiritual voyage" exploring religion and atheism. You can listen to it one way or the other or both and find it a charged and satisfying full experience.
Religious exploration is a big part of Crusades, thematically. Was this one of the points of forming the band or did the narrative emerge and sort of get adopted after forming and writing?
Vocalist/guitarist Dave Williams: The subject matter Crusades tackle was decided on from the get-go. Really, my individual desire to write and sing about these topics not only had a lot to do with the motivation to start Crusades, but also fed into the dissolution of other projects I was involved in at the time. Lyrical content has always been of the utmost importance to me, as far as punk rock goes. While my previous bands weren't particularly light-hearted, I needed to do something more serious, more cathartic, something that addressed the specific impact of religion on my life, as well as the lives of friends and loved ones, while incorporating the ideas, imagery, sound and aesthetic of the authors, musicians, artists and filmmakers that I adore, many of whom tend to take decidedly atheistic, even anti-Christian approaches to their output. And while discussing and exposing the horrors and hypocrisy of Christianity isn't exactly a novel idea, it's also not the most prevalent issue in the melodic/pop punk community either. We thought the combination of a somewhat accessible sound coupled with rather sensitive topics, played with a ton of intensity and from a very personal and, hopefully, universal perspective would be an ideal way to get these thoughts across.
There are many musical influences buried in your sound. Is songwriting collaborative?
Songwriting is entirely shared, and I think the collaborative nature of this band is what makes it interesting. While we've all been playing in bands under the massive punk rock umbrella for over a decade, we all come from distinctively different subgenres. Emmanuel [Sayer, vocals/guitar] and I, for instance, were very much involved in the '90s and early '00s DIY hardcore scene. Our playing styles, our melodic sense, our politics, all of these were heavily influenced by the music and lifestyle of that era. And so when either of us brings a part to the table, there are at least remnants of that. Skottie [Lobotomy, vocals/bass] and Jordan [Bell, drums/vocals], on the other hand, both came up through the Lookout Records heyday pop punk scene, and are also both very influenced by the melancholy '80s pop sounds of the Cure, the Smiths, etc. Essentially, one side brings the dark, metal-tinged portion and the other brings the moody, anthemic hooks. I've also always been a huge fan of dark, blasphemous heavy metal, namely European black metal, and so we try and have at least a few nods to that world as well.
What's the creative dynamic like in the studio?
The studio dynamic is equally mutual. Jordan and I both work as full-time audio engineers, so we're both sticklers for sounds and tones. Skottie and I are also both very vocal-focused, so we spend a lot of time working on harmonies, melodies, etc. Emmanuel is amazing at coming up with counter-melodies to my guitar lines and is the only one who can really bring the heavy vocals. It's a bunch of strong-willed cooks in a tiny, foul-smelling kitchen, but we're more than happy with the results.
We've chatted a bit about this before in relation to Year Zero, but it seems that Ottawa is really good at sharing band members and community scene involvement.
Well, I'm going to try and say this without coming across as some kind of punker-than-thou snob, but it's safe to say that the lack of serious-minded punk rock within our circle of bands, particularly in the wake of Buried Inside's demise, was a big motivator for Crusades. There was a specific form of urgency and passion that Buried Inside brought to the stage and to their records, and if Crusades can capture and put forth even an iota of that, then I'm satisfied. That's not to say that I don't love a lot of local bands or less "topical" music, by any means. Only that, to me, there's got to be at least some of that feeling there.
How does the city itself influence your music, in terms of motivation, sound, etc.?
As for Ottawa, certainly the city itself, with its older, conservative, white-upper-middle-class majority, archaic outskirts and predominance of Catholic schools and churches, has had an immeasurable impact on at least my lyrical and musical motivations. But, historically, it's typically these sterile, stagnant conditions that give birth to the best punk rock scenes, and to any restless, "rebellious" music, for that matter. And no doubt that Ottawa has a big, sharing, caring, incestuous music scene. I mean, five Ottawa bands made up of only 12 different people just returned from playing Awesome Fest in San Diego, and it was an incredible time. And Yogi's Meatlocker [studio] has been the dank, wooden womb from which almost every one of those bands' records has been pushed forth into the world, not to mention heaps of other great recordings.
What's next for Crusades?
It's hard to say exactly, certainly another LP and a trip overseas. The European version of The Sun is Down and The Night is Riding In is coming out on two German labels: Hardware and Sabotage. But with my first kid on the way in November, Emmanuel's new career as the program director at the University of Ottawa's CHUO radio station, Jordan's first home and upcoming wedding, and Skottie recording a new LP with the Visitors, the tour won't be until Fall 2012 and I imagine the next LP will see the light of day around that time as well. (It's Alive)