Carpenter and the Cougar

BY Sam SutherlandPublished May 15, 2008

"Mid-’90s hardcore is the music that changed our lives,” says Daniel Sioui, guitarist and vocalist for Vancouver’s Carpenter. "So I remember talking to friends when this band started and telling them that John Cougar was my biggest influence at the time, and they would stare at me in disbelief. Or they’d outright tell me it was going to be terrible.” A veteran of bands like the under-appreciated All State Champion ("Super angular, no repeated parts”), Sioui returned from a 2005 tour with Sparta to find his current band broken and bloody. Then he found Mellencamp’s American Fool, booked some studio time, and decided to make a new band. "I purposely wanted to write these pop-rock songs that were more straightforward,” he says. "Listening to Bob Mould’s stuff with Sugar, and John Cougar, those songs are timeless.”

By bringing together former members of West coast punk and hardcore heavyweights like By a Thread and Daggermouth, Sioui's vision wasn’t likely to end up being American Fool 2.0. "I wanted to be able to take that, and translate it into a different version,” says Sioui. "We play John Cougar before we go on at every one of our shows. At our last show, some promoter friends of ours bought us this huge backdrop with ‘John Cougar is God’ on it and a huge picture of his face. It’s crazy, dude! It's ten by ten!” Carpenter’s outrageously earnest enthusiasm for a guy that’s low on the cool-to-name-check list (as opposed to Springsteen, punk’s dude de jour) is matched by an equal dedication to the roots of’90s post-hardcore and early emo. As much Avail as Mellencamp crops up in the band’s anthemic, driving tunes, and Sioui's upper-range holler connects as clearly to Piebald as Tom Petty. But Carpenter has taken more from Mellencamp than just his backdrop likeness. His dedication to supporting struggling small farms has rubbed off on Sioui in a big way.

"In terms of the punk and hardcore community, I don't know how many bands are down with farming,” Sioui says. "Agriculture is fundamental to everyone and yet no one talks about it. There’s a lot of information on our CD, and we’ve been working with some different groups in town to help promote their work and their message. I want to be a farmer — that's what I want to do with my life.” That themes of agricultural struggle run through the band's debut full-length is no surprise. Law of the Land, recorded with no label, management, or support to speak of, is a huge, bombastic statement that straddles genre lines without flaunting its uniqueness. And people are taking notice.

"It just seems like finally we're getting some help,” says Sioui, whose band now boasts the support of Smallman Records and Underground Operations Booking Agency. "Everyone in the band, in my mind, has paid their dues. These guys have slugged it out for years, done a lot of really hard tours. I think we’re just really appreciative of what's happening to us right now. It’s one thing to have word of mouth in your town, but to get emails from all over is surprising. We hoped we would get some help, but we were planning to do this all ourselves. We just really believe in this so much, and I think that comes across.”

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