Published Oct 12, 2011Toronto, ON's !Attention! have been a live favourite for a few years now, playing their aggressively regressive brand of super-adrenalized, fast, furious and familiar pop-punk to rooms of fellow Lifetime and Blink 182 revellers. Having forgone full-lengths so far, the band are on their third EP-length release (first came 2009's Demo and 2010's Four or Five Ways to Play These Chords), and it's brimming, as always, with blistering, catchy chords ("When Life Hands You Lemmings"), big vocals and lyrics that continue to astutely explore the grey area of learning to be an adult in the adolescent stomping grounds of pop-punk/band life. With three quarters of the band having been friends and in groups since their isolated, small-town Nova Scotia days, they hit in all the right places to make it work: self-aware and self-deprecating humour that's driven by sincerity instead of exhaustive irony. There's no better group of guys to do it.
Tell me about when and where you guys did this new EP.
Vocalist Glenn Barrington: We recorded this in the wintertime, starting around the end of January, with our friend Adam Labadie. We recorded with him after-hours at Technicolor, which is that post-production company that does post sound for movies and TV and stuff. They let him record bands after hours as a way to let him learn more; we were basically one of those projects. We'd go in on the weekend when there wasn't anyone there and we recorded the four songs over the span of two weekends.
And how were the previous ones done? This one sounds cleaner.
That's the thing about this record: we always record everything ourselves at our practice space. This time we decided that we wanted to take a more relaxed approach and try not to rush. And not be doing it in the same place that us and other bands practice where there's a lot of clutter, everybody else's stuff and people trying to use the space. This was our attempt at isolating ourselves at a place that isn't where we spend half our week otherwise and focus on making it that way.
You've released the other ones on various labels. How'd this one come to be on Square Up?
Dan Forcier does Square Up and he asked us if we wanted to do this with him. We basically agreed to it while hanging out at Scott's [Pasko, drummer] place a few weeks before we started doing it. We've only ever worked with friends. No, like, big label has ever offered to work with us [laughs].
Do you feel that you guys could benefit from that based on the nature of distribution and stuff now, especially in the smaller punk world?
I don't know. The way that things are kind of done now ― it's weird. Unless you're signed to a label that has the whole package to go with it, like booking and PR and everything, if you're putting out records on the level that we put them out, no offence to anyone who's helped us so far, we could do these things ourselves. But it's nice to have one less thing to worry about and work with your friends in the community. I don't know if there is any label in particular we'd want to be on; we've set our expectations pretty low [laughs]. We have goals, but the idea of anybody legit actually helping us out is kind of a joke, to us. We always coin ourselves as the band with the worst luck in history.
Oh no. Okay, well, we got denied at the border and had to cancel a whole U.S. tour.
Basically what we thought was a really solid plan, a really solid lie, really quickly unravelled into a really not solid plan right before our eyes. It took, like, months of planning and working out details with people in the States for who was going to lie for us and who was going to say what and who was going to get phone calls, where we were going and what we were doing that wasn't being on tour as a band. And then in the span of, like, ten minutes, they knew that we were lying and then we lied to them for ― well, I lied to them for about four hours before I told the truth, and then they threatened to arrest me.
That's really ballsy. The border is intimidating.
We kind of got hysterical; we were laughing a lot and they were getting so mad. But I tried to explain to them that we didn't think they were a joke or lying was a joke, just the situation was funny. When you're an adult getting yelled at by another adult and it's a serious thing, it's a weird thing to experience. So that was one thing. We kind of take ourselves as a bunch of idiots [laughs].
You did say that you have goals as a band. What are they?
Well for this record, we're going to try to play as much as we can. Because of our incident last year at the border, we did everything proper, so we have all our Visas. Right now we're trying to play in the U.S. as much as we can and we're working on writing an LP.
How come you guys have so far put out only shorter releases?
We have this thing where we're trying to always have reasons for people to talk about our band. We don't want to be the band that's always trying to push ourselves on people for no reason. For a while, we were talking about constantly putting out seven-inches so we'd constantly be releasing stuff and could validate pestering people to check out our band [laughs]. We put out our demo, then the two seven-inches, so we decided to attempt to try to put out an LP. But I don't even know when or with whom or how we'll do it. But writing is our goal right now. We've all played in bands together for the last probably 15 years, except for Scott, who we met a few years ago. That whole time we've kind of been writing the kind of music that we could play in this band but never used it, because we've never played in a band of this style. But now that we've kind of decided to play in a band that sounds like all the stuff we've listened to since we were 15, we have all these scraps of songs and half songs and parts. It's exciting because we're digging out stuff we wrote and re-working it and writing it along with new stuff. It's cool.
Tell me about the roots of the band in this configuration.
We were playing in Horses a lot, but we kind of fizzled out. We're not broken-up, but our guitar player lives in Halifax. Jono [Hunter, guitar] and Scott started !Attention! as a two-piece. They were going to be a two-piece punk band with a baritone guitar and drums. They started practicing together in December 2008. They started this band because Jono wanted to play in a band not with us, pretty much. At that point, we were probably playing in five bands that were the same five guys playing different songs, just switching instruments. Then after hearing the songs they were writing, we wormed our way into the band [laughs]. Nathan [Richards, guitar/bass] wasn't living here yet, but was staying here for a bit, and practiced with them so Jono could hear what it sounded like with two guitars. He was looking for a singer and I jokingly said I would try because I'd never sang in a band before. I ended up in the band and our old bass player, Jim [Scarth], who was our roommate at the time, didn't think it was fair that the rest of us got to be in the band that none of us were supposed to be in so he joined too.
You guys will never escape each other, basically.
I don't think so. It's weird; it's hard to find people that you really get along with, and playing in a band is kind of like dating a bunch of dudes. I always have to take them into consideration with everything I do. Once you find those guys, it's kind of hard to go outside of that circle. (Square Up)