You Say Party! We Say Die! Dance Punk Grows Up

You Say Party! We Say Die! Dance Punk Grows Up
Photo: Dani Vachon
You Say Party! We Say Die! vocalist Becky Ninkovic has gone from singing in the back of a suburban pizza shop to belting it out from coast to coast and across the ocean.

Since the release of their 2005 debut Hit the Floor, YSP! have been caught up in a whirlwind of unexpected success. Recorded in only two and a half weeks, Hit the Floor’s crunchy, charged up dance punk anthems, full of Casio symphonies and spastic clap-alongs, immediately caught on at home and on international soil. In under two years this Abbottsford, BC band accomplished what others strive for in a lifetime. They’ve toured across Canada, the UK, and Germany, and there’s currently talk of hitting Japan later this year, where YSP! are one of the top 50 bands in rotation on a Japanese MuchMusic equivalent. While their career hasn’t been snag-free — some sticky legalities have seen YSP! banned from the U.S. until 2011 — Ninkovic and bassist Stephen O’Shea quickly admit that this is has all gone far beyond what they ever expected.

"When I joined this band I had no idea we would leave the suburbs of Abbottsford,” Ninkovic says. "When we got to play Vancouver it was like, ‘Oh my god,’ and when we got to do our first tour it was incredible, and when we got to go to Europe it was more than I could ever dream. It just kept going like that.”

It’s every suburban punk’s dream come true, but like Ninkovic, the rest of YSP! never set out with any Warholian visions of getting their 15 minutes. Not that they want it to come to an end soon. In fact, O’Shea says they hope that with the release of their sophomore effort, Lose All Time, out March 20 on Paper Bag, will garner the band a new level of respect and have them seen as serious songwriters, something that he thinks was lost in translation on Hit the Floor.

"The first [album] was definitely a dance party and definitely out there to make you shake your ass,” O’Shea says. "This one is slightly subdued in that we’re looking to craft more emotion and more feeling. There’s definitely something in us that has come about that is more than just always rah-rah-rah all the time. We want to show another side of ourselves. I think my biggest disappointment was reading reviews of Hit the Floor and people were accusing ‘Love in the New Millennium’ of just being a novelty track with faux emotion.”

Lose All Time, named for a lyric in its opening track "Five Year Plan,” couldn’t be a more appropriate title to sum up YSP!’s drastic transition from being a band rehearsing in Ninkovic’s parents’ basement to becoming international indie darlings. Ninkovic uses the phrase to describe the state of being on the road so much that times blurs to the point where it doesn’t even matter anymore.

But for all of the scattered states of mind YSP! have found themselves in, the rigorous touring had a tremendous effect on improving their musicianship by getting them on stage night after night.

The tight riffs and intricate tricks they’ve learned through all this constant playing are a strong focus on Lose All Time. Where Hit the Floor was recorded with no solid plan other than capturing the band’s arresting live sound, YSP!’s sophomore aims to elevate the band from the dance punk genre. Lose All Time shows what the band can do with bigger production values, a bigger budget, more time in the studio, and a whole lot of fresh experience.

"I think it shows us as a mature group of artists, a group of artists that have grown up,” Ninkovic says. "I think with Hit the Floor we were a bunch of suburban kids. We didn’t really have a clear idea as to who You Say Party! really were at that point. I know I didn’t know who I was as a lead singer of a band. That was such a new experience for me, and for all of us I think. It was such a new thing and now we’ve grown into our skin.”

O’Shea says that Ninkovic is one member who has especially grown within YSP! since the band’s inception. When they met, she was his supervisor at a West coast pizza chain where he’d catch her singing while they worked. He was in the midst of getting YSP! started and in need of a lead singer when he invited her on board.

"I would liken [her] to coal and diamonds,” he says. "Having never been in a band prior she was definitely a piece of coal but quickly she became a diamond. She’s grown into the role amazingly. I think her learning curve in being in a band is tougher than most people’s. She knows how to control her voice and command an audience all within a few short years, which takes a lot of really good lead singers a lot of time slugging it out.”

Ninkovic admits to feeling more of a struggle in fitting into her role as a front-woman than perhaps was obvious to the rest of the band. "I think there were definite moments in my childhood where I knew I wanted to do this,” she says. "My mom always recalls them to me now, where she would catch me singing into a skipping rope while standing on my toy box while making up songs about being made out of candy and stuff like that. I definitely loved to ham it up for my family as a kid. I loved being in acting in high school and I was in choir, but at that point I had absolutely no confidence in my singing abilities. I never really believed that I could, and I really didn’t believe that I could even a year ago.”

Now, though, Ninkovic says she’s finally ready to keep being heard. "I think singing is something that I’ve really kind of grown into and it’s only because of this band,” she continues. "I think it’s kind of cheesy but I feel like that’s something that I can tell people… who come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky you can do this, I wish I could do what you’re doing.’ And I’m always saying, ‘But you can. You totally can.’”