Published Mar 29, 2011Canada has long been a hotbed for blue collar rock'n'roll, and the latest act in this lineage is Vancouver's Sun Wizard, who today (March 29) released their debut full-length, Positively 4th Avenue via Light Organ Records.
Discussing the band's back-to-basics sound, singer/guitarist James Younger says that he's simply playing what he knows. "It's only because we don't know what else to do," he tells Exclaim! "It's because we're not cool, y'know? If we tried to sound any more experimental it just wouldn't work. It wouldn't sound right. It would still sound the same."
The style of Sun Wizard, which also includes Malcolm Jack (guitar/vocals), Frank Lyon (bass) and Ben Frey (drums), is all about honesty, Younger says. "There's some integrity to it," he observes, as Jack adds, "Musically we're doing something that's sort of mainstream, but we're not doing that 'get tons of merch before we've ever written a song' thing."
With big choruses going toe-to-toe with muscular guitars and pounding rhythms, the band have managed to translate a radio-ready sound into some serious indie cred in Vancouver's musical community. Sun Wizard have played festivals like Music Waste and Olio, and they have been a fixture at the city's bars and clubs for the past two years.
Younger says that the group have met little resistance to their easily accessible sound, even from the most jaded of indie snobs. "If there's a stigma attached to making pop music," he notes, "then only 30 people in this city dictate that. We played with Smith Westerns -- their album is the poppiest record I've heard in a long time. And it was packed and everyone was into it."
Amid the loud guitars and snarling vocals, Positively 4th Avenue has no shortage of pop hooks. "Middle of My Heart" is an upbeat blend of major chords and optimistic romanticism, while "Safe and Sound" cheerfully declares, "I'm sick of hating everyone."
Co-frontman Jack explains the record isn't intended to be gloomy, saying, "As lyric-writers, [Younger and I] try to make bold statements into light-hearted rock songs that you can listen to. The underlying sentiment to most of our songs is somewhat serious, but we try not to make it sound too serious."
You can hear evidence of this approach on the soaring lead single "World's Got a Handle," as Younger growls "Whatever happened to your plans? / Whatever made you cut your hair so short?" over a fuzzy roots rock gallop.
Speaking of the song's lyrics, Younger says, "The world around you can just get a real grip on you sometimes, and you lose perspective on things that don't have to matter much. It's like when people reach 30 and cut their hair and decide to give up on being an astronaut."
To coincide with the album release, Sun Wizard have released a new video for "World's Got a Handle," which you can watch below. It shows the musicians playing their instruments in the back of a speeding pickup truck before ending up at a diner and eventually having an encounter with a deer on the highway.
"We had harnesses so we didn't fly out [of the truck], and Malcolm almost did at one point," says Frey of the nerve-wracking shoot.
Jack confirms, "I had a pretty near-death experience."
Luckily, everyone survived, and the band will play a handful of Vancouver shows in the coming weeks. See the schedule below, and keep scrolling down for the "World's Got a Handle" video.
4/2 Vancouver, BC - InterUrban Gallery ^
4/28 Vancouver, BC - Biltmore Cabaret ~
5/7 Vancouver, BC - Red Room *
^ with A Pale Blue
~ with Slam Dunk and the High Drops
* with Yukon Blonde