The Jolts

The Jolts
D.I.Y. That term — Do It Yourself — used to hold great weight in the world of music, particularly punk rock. Yet as CD sales continued to turn a profit despite the advent of digital downloading and once-underground scenes bounced to the forefront of the general conscious, even bands perfectly capable of autonomy still aspired for the brass ring of signing with a major label (looking in Dropkick Murphys’ direction). With saleable music in its financial death throes though, many bands, artists and even labels large or small are scrambling about struggling to reinvent, downsize and understand how they will be able to survive.

It’s under these circumstances that a band such as Vancouver’s the Jolts shine. Staunchly independent since the release of their debut Jinx EP a mere two years ago, the Jolts (vocalist/guitarist Joey Blitzkrieg, bassist Lector Kurrentz, guitarist Dr. Dylan Danger and drummer Matt Von Dander) have been the apple of many a label’s eye thanks to their raucous live shows, workhorse mentality and suave aesthetics.

Despite the courting and ass-kissing however, the band have opted to release debut full-length Haute Voltage on their own Haute Voltage Records. It allows them to play their brand of punk rock’n’roll on their own terms. Loud and energised while still inherently catchy and wily, the band’s Ramones-meets-Social Distortion frenzy might not exactly be progressive but it’s bold, inspired and all their own.

How did The Jolts form?
Kurrentz: Before we knew each other, we all had the same vivid dream of meeting a man down near the old shipyards in False Creek. His name was Dwight Lightning and he was dressed in black denim. In the dream, he instructed each of us to wait until the next thunderstorm and return to the same spot in order to join forces and create the most electrifying rock band the city would ever know. It was extremely important, he cautioned each of us, that we only return during the next thunderstorm, so as to harness the powers of Zeus at our inception. In Joey’s dream, Dwight Lightning informed him that he would further be granted the powers of Dionysus and that it would be his honour to reign as Lord of the Jolts.

How did you come to develop your sound?
Dr. Danger: We all have different tastes in music but share a love for bands like the Ramones, Turbonegro and Hellacopters to name a few. We never really planned on sounding a certain way necessarily; we just play the way we know how.

How has the band developed/progressed since your inception in 2004?
Dr. Danger: The early songs we wrote for the band were fairly straight up punk rock but as we progress, the songs have been getting longer and more dynamic. I think we're playing our instruments a lot better.
Kurrentz: I’ve even been tuning the smallest string on my bass lately.

Comment on the current state of Canadian punk rock'n'roll?
Dr. Danger: We've met some good bands on past tours as well and the tour this summer (booked independently, naturally) will introduce us to a lot of new Canadian music I'm sure. I don't think "punk rock’n’roll" is as big as it was a few years back so there aren't as many bands doing it.
Kurrentz: Teenagers don’t care about punk rock anymore. I haven’t seen any good young punk bands emerge in Vancouver in the last five years. I don’t think there are too many kids sitting around their parents’ house listening to Angry Samoans and trying to start a band or put on a show. These kids don’t know it’s even possible to get out there like that and I bet you in five more years there is going to be a major drought when it comes to fresh blood in the punk rock underground. We are pretty much the youngest people in this scene if you wanna call it that…and we’re in our early-to-mid-20s.

What would you want people to walk away from a Jolts show feeling/thinking?
Kurrentz: We want them walking away feeling a copy of our new record in their hands and thinking they got a bargain on it.
Dr. Danger: I'd like them to feel like they saw a band that was playing their hearts out. We work hard at what we do. A lot of bands can play fast and loud but they're missing something.

How was production of Haute Voltage?
Kurrentz: We recorded out at the Hive in Burnaby, BC with expert punk rock engineer, Jesse Gander. It took about 15 days of studio time and we were there until 2:00 a.m. a lot. The best part was watching Matt track the drum breakdowns on "Hey, Alright!” He had forgotten to purchase an adequate mallet to hit the marching-band-style bass drum with so he unlaced his shoes and peeled of these filthy mismatched socks and wrapped them around a drumstick, recording the part in his bare feet.

What were you looking to accomplish?
Kurrentz: Production-wise, we wanted it to sound ten times better than the Jinx EP. And it does. With regards to the music, we kept the goal of making an album in mind, instead of just writing songs. We tried to do a lot of new things and expand the musical boundaries of the band too. We’re a punk rock band and that’s how we play our instruments but we didn’t want that to limit the songwriting on this record as much as it did on Jinx. There are still a number of two-and-a-half-minute Ramones-style punk songs on the record – those are what come first-nature to us — but we weren’t shy about breaking the four and five-minute barriers on a few tunes either. Those are the ones that we’re most proud of now. We figured that if we could write a five-minute rock epic that people would still be able to sing along to, that we ought to do it.

What steps are you taking to conquer music as an independent band?
Kurrentz: We started our own label Haute Voltage Records and we’re doing everything that we’d expect a label to do for us as well as everything a label would expect us to do for them. We paid for the recording and manufacturing of our new record and we got distro through Scratch Distribution and IODA so that the album is available everywhere from iTunes to HMV to your favourite little record shop. The reality is that in 2008 there isn’t a hell of a lot that a record label can do for a band that the band can’t do for itself. If you wanna be in a band and sell records, it’s going to take a lot of money and touring regardless of who releases your record. For us it became a choice between doing it our way or doing it someone else’s way. We didn’t wanna owe anybody else any money and we didn’t wanna be obligated to do anything we didn’t want to do – it’s a marriage of do-it-yourself punk rock values and razor-sharp business acumen.