Meet Exclaim!'s Class of 2022: Bike Thiefs, Your Hunni, Shitbats, CJ Wiley
Whether you choose rock at the Horseshoe or pop at Lee's, you're in for a good time
Published Mar 10, 2022On Saturday, March 12, Toronto music fans will find themselves at a crossroads: do they venture to the Horseshoe Tavern for a night of rock music, or head to the poppier pastures of Lee's Palace? No matter the answer, both of that night's Class of 2022 concert series shows will feature some of the best of what the city's emerging musicians have to offer.
Before the shows, get to know this week's performers, and give them a spin on the Class of 2022 Spotify playlist.
Fans of storied Montreal ska label Stomp Records may have been surprised when Toronto post-punk trio Bike Thiefs joined the roster, but none more so than the band themselves. "We were very lucky to be signed by Stomp Records early in the pandemic, which, admittedly, is a bit of an odd pairing," says vocalist/guitarist Marko Woloshyn, "but you go where you're wanted, not accepted. And they've been great to us." Through Stomp, Bike Thiefs released their debut LP, Leaking, a collection of tightly wound tracks driven by Woloshyn's shouted vocals, which melded Parquet Courts' wry observations with the urgency of early Fontaines DC. The band's predicted 2022 activity includes, according to Woloshyn, "touring through Europe and possibly North America, slowly working on another record and sopping up all the talent and advice we can get from our friends."
Straight out of the self-styled "seventh hell" of London, ON, Shitbats came together and released their debut project Guano in 2020. The surf-rock quartet is led by fearless folk singer-songwriter Cat Clyde — who took time out of woodworking to carve out Blue Blue Blue, a collaborative album with Jeremie Albino, in 2021. Sonically, Shitbats are self-described as "a moment of bliss, a lifetime of regret in hell"; Clyde's vocal acrobatics don't sacrifice clarity when tearing through questions of morality atop rambunctious guitar shredding. They're looking forward to dancing and feeling "the collective energy" of live shows again, as cited in the feedback-infused barnburner "Seaweed Sway."
One of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic are rock quintet Paste, initially formed by BLANKS' Dylan Taylor and Horse Champion's Will Agnew. Says Taylor, "Will and I were sharing a rehearsal space at the now-closed Richmond Rehearsal Factory, and since we both lived alone at the time, we decided to form a bubble and start a recording project. We ended up being really keen on the stuff we made, so we formed a band with some of our very talented friends so that we could put together a great live show." Expect '90s alt-rock grit and Wolf Parade-style duality between Taylor and Agnew, as heard on 2021 debut EP It's Gonna Be Fine.
Fittingly enough for a band who called their debut album Sertraline Dream, Pretty just want listeners to feel better. The psych-rockers' 2020 LP is filled with lengthy, rollicking jams teeming with lush instrumentation and good vibes. But don't mistake their sun-streaked songs for complacency: their Class of 2022 set is just the beginning of what's set to be a busy year for Pretty, which — according to guitarist Eliot Rossi — includes "recording a new EP at the end of March, releasing at least one new music video in collaboration with local animator Eric Daniels, and playing both inside and outside of Toronto as much as possible."
For more information on the Horseshoe Tavern show, check out the Facebook event and Showclix ticket purchase link.
Your Hunni is ready to let go in 2022. The indie pop artist will get an archive of songs off their chest with the release of their debut EP later this year, which serves as a coming-of-age conversation with their younger self — confronting trauma and reckoning with sexuality and gender identity. "Playing the same night as non-binary cowboy CJ Wiley is going to be dreamy and emotional for me," says Your Hunni, ironically reflecting the willowy, string-kissed mood of their latest single "Pillow Valley." However, previous sensual bops "Stereotypes" and "Need Some" assure that you'll be dancing your tears into oblivion during their set at Lee's Palace.
Though they've yet to release their first single, CJ Wiley knows exactly who they are as an artist: they embrace the golden fields and garage band-practices of the time-honoured "A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock 'n' Roll" tradition. Evoking Courtney Barnett meets Shania Twain on their forthcoming debut EP, which boasts contributions from Dani Nash and Skye Wallace, the Prancer vocalist tackles topics like finding humour in heartbreak and the rejection of gender performance. "With the return of live shows, I am looking to have a hootin' tootin' time and revelling in the re-emergence of other non-binary and trans artists," says Wiley, noting their excitement to share a bill with fellow non-binary singer-songwriter Your Hunni.
Dumb Stupid Liars
True to their name, this queer, synth-wielding trio make "avant-garde pop music for people with high IQs." Over the course of the pandemic, they channeled their existential dread into two glittering, disco-inflected singles: "Wait" and "Last Brain Cell." Members of the band kept busy by launching solo projects and completing degrees, as well as moving cities and working at noodle factories, respectively — but the three-piece are gearing up to release their debut EP Trauma Porn in 2022. "This will be our first show in two years — we are beyond stoked to get back on stage," says bandleader Anakonda. "Live performance is such a big part of what we do, so it feels like a new beginning."
From (extremely) online, the enigmatic 8485 — Eighty for short — is re-coding the script of underground pop stardom. Her 2021 EP plague town melds hyperpop-driven experimentalism with nostalgia for the "Tumblr glory days," when the pastel-grunge aesthetics of Art Angels-era Grimes and Marina and the Diamonds circa Electra Heart ruled cyberspace. Ahead of Eighty's first US tour this summer with fish narc and blackwinterwells, she's both excited and curious to see what bringing her digitally-born "hermetic, emotionally volatile and cybernetically enhanced pop" project "into fleshspace" looks like at Lee's Palace, especially alongside her best friends in Dumb Stupid Liars.
For more information on the Lee's Palace show, check out the Facebook event and Showclix ticket purchase link.
The Class of 2022 concert series will conclude on April 23 at the Horseshoe Tavern with Breeze, Crasher, Only God Forgives and Bliss Fields.