Published Oct 06, 2015In June, Winnipeg punks Propagandhi issued a job posting for a new touring guitarist, announcing that Dave "Beave" Guillas, who joined the band in 2006, will be leaving the ranks to pursue a teaching career. Well, the Florida-based Sulynn Hago got the gig, and her enthusiasm shines through loud and clear about this turn of events, even if she has the experience to pull off the gig, which she does.
"It's a band I've been listening to since I was 13," she tells Exclaim! "On one hand, it feels surreal, and these things don't seem to ever happen to people, to have this opportunity to be able to play in one of your favourite bands. It really does feel pretty crazy. But on the other hand, I've been playing in bands for years and they've progressively done more and gotten better."
As Propagandhi guitarist/vocalist Chris Hannah explains, the band had over 400 people apply for the position but Hago definitely stood out to them.
"Sulynn really piqued our interest quite a bit," Hannah tells us, "for some reasons that are obvious and some that are maybe more abstract, more intangible."
After the band had decided on Hago, they flew her up to Winnipeg to practice and hang out for a week. She says it felt natural and easy to play with Propagandhi.
"I think it's just nice to have a group of people where there's almost nothing to explain; you just do your thing," Hago says. "There were moments where I'd forget what I was doing, I'd forget it was Propagandhi in front of me. That was the weirdest thing; I was surprised at how natural it was. If we were playing a song that really touched me, like 'Dear Coach's Corner,' that's when it would hit me, if I really paid attention to it."
Adds Hannah, "She's really cool and didn't think we were idiots. Or, at least she didn't say that to us."
Hago, whose last band was Career, graduated as a creative writing major and says that it means a lot to her that Propagandhi's lyrics are such an integral part of the band's music. And she also says it's important to her that the band share the same excitement for playing tunes that she does.
"[Bassist/vocalist] Todd [Kowalski], I feel like he and I both have the same little-kid excitement for playing music," she says. "We just love it so much, like the way you felt when you're young and heard something for the first time that moved you, I really enjoy that him and I share that. I stayed at each members' house for two days, so it was nice to get the one-on-one time. They're good people, and I hope I am... I think I am [laughs]. It was kinda easy, just being yourself, and I felt like I could be myself around them. Funnily enough, my band experiences haven't always been that way. So it was cool."
Moving ahead, the future is a bit uncertain: the original plan was to have Guillas continue to record with the band, whose last release was 2012's Failed States, although Hannah says his teaching job is so far taking up much more time than anyone anticipated, so they're taking everything one day at a time. For now Hago is just a live guitarist, and the band are in the midst of booking their first shows with her. Meanwhile, Hannah says it's "immediately urgent" for him to begin recording. Then they'll need to deal with the realities of being in a band with members spread so far apart.
"Yeah, the logistical part of it sucks," he admits. "For both of us. But we just didn't want to do something that was... we never do anything the easy way. We do it the ridiculous way. But we wanted to shake things up, for ourselves, for the audience, just see what something totally different is like. Try to in some way shake up the little boy's club that Propagandhi has always been."
Hannah also says that he hopes having a female in the band for the first time changes the dynamics of Propagandhi.
"I hope so, just so we don't become just an old bunch of guys who are too comfortable with however it is we operate in the world already," he says. "But, to be honest, we didn't really notice too much of a difference than if Sulynn had shown up and been just another white fella; it still would have been a new person we would have been awkward around for a bit. But I think it will change the dynamic in having to witness first-hand how members of our audience might perceive or treat a female, or the industry or the people at the clubs. We get to see it first hand."
Hago, however, sees some aspects of all this as business as usual.
"It could add more of a range of sounds vocally," she says about her joining the band. "It's funny because for them this is a new experience, having a woman in the band, but for me, it's not. I've only been in bands with guys. I've never been in a band with another female. For me, it's a piece of cake. I guess the exciting part is to see what will happen with audiences."
You can watch Sulynn's audition video with the band below.