Thursday, July 18, 2019
A Ripple Conversation With Dylan Evanik Of Crooked Spies
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Hitting us right in the nostalgia feels to kick the interview off. I can dig. There have definitely been quite a few moments over the years where you kind of get tipped upside down and everything you thought you new about music changes. In our household we were fortunate enough to have parents that abided by the rule that music needs to be played loud. Stemming from that was a endlessly available catalogue centred around classic rock and blues.
I can honestly say that my earliest memory of the impact of music came when I was four years old. I was riding shotgun with my dad cruising in an old truck through the winding roads of Salt Spring Island. I remember the wind ripping through my hair and The Tragically Hips “Little Bones” blaring. It was the first feeling I ever had of music creating an atmosphere, complimenting your environment and making you feel a certain way. In that moment I was the baddest 4 year old around.
In terms of putting us on the path we are on now my brother Steven is to blame for that. In our formative teenage years we were dedicated to punk and pop-punk having departed a bit from the classics. Steve was an avid collector of epitaph artists and of course the Punk o Rama compilations. Punk o Rama 8 was the tipping point. Thickfreakness by The Black Keys was on that album. That was an absolute mind fuck. This savagely dirty blues rock song in the midst of a dedicated punk compilation series. It kind of opened our eyes to being able to explore all aspects of rock and blues shaping them into whatever context you see fit. It seems so obvious now that you can write any type of song you want but at the time we were young and following the pop-punk trend. Thickfreakness definitely threw a wrench in that.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
O man. It varies wildly. In general I’ll have a riff first but occasionally a melody or a line will weasle its way into my brain and I can’t stop humming or singing it until its documented in some way, shape or form. Usual via a voice memo. Often times these lines become the hook or the chorus of a song. I have a deep catalogue of random one liners that I can use in times of lyrical trouble.
In many cases I’ll have the majority of a song put together (riff wise). Try to lock down lyrics for a chorus. From here I try to figure out what it is I’m actually trying to say and then write the verses. Most of the time bridge parts are a communal effort when we start going through and putting the song together as a band.
Who has influenced you the most?
This is a tough question. I mean so many bands over the years have influenced each of us in different ways. I like to think all of it finds its way into our songs one way or another. In terms of Crooked Spies it really is all over the map. We definitely are influenced by all that rock music has to offer. The Black Keys, The Raconteurs, Queens of the Stone Age, Attack in Black, Hot Water music, Zeppelin.
I asked the boys for one band each. One band each that really speaks to their soul. One band each that really encompasses the sound and mind of Crooked Spies. I guess we are the product of these four bands and these four bands only.
Lou Bega -Dylan Evanik
Prozzak - Steven Evanik
Vengaboys -Aaron Samson
Savage Garden - Mark Lawlor
Can you hear it?
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Lately I’ve been obsessed with finding new bands via KEXP and programs like audiotree via the YouTube. Seeing all the amazing new music flowing out of independent bands with ever diminishing budgets and the “decline” of rock music is definitely a motivator for us.
I think another thing that keeps driving us is the community we are apart of and how gosh darn inspiring and motivating the wealth of local talent is that we are fortunate enough to see perform here on a nightly basis. In Canada it’s always about the bigger markets like Toronto or Vancouver, but man, the bands Calgary currently has to offer include some of the rawest talent around. I don’t know if it is an underdog mentality or that commercial aspirations aren’t as prevalent or obtainable here but it’s a good time to be into live music in Calgary. It definitely makes you want to keep improving and pushing you forward.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
Sick segway alert. Calgary, AB, Canada. Such a beautiful city located in the foothills just east of the Canadian rockies. Alberta is known for Cowboys and country pumpkins but we have an absolutely stellar indie music scene and art community. It is a pretty tight knit group but it is an extremely welcoming bunch. A huge part of the success we’ve had to date is from this open arms policy that seems to exist throughout the scene. The emphasis was never on genre here. Everyone has always been super welcoming of all types of music. When we first started psych rock and folk seemed to be prominent throughout the scene. I think we’ve been influenced by some of this to a degree.
We are super fortunate to have some local staples in terms of venues that have somehow persisted through constantly changing economic situations and the social relevance of live music in the city. The Palomino, Broken City, The Ship & Anchor, etc. all have really been the backbone of our music community over the years and I think contribute greatly to the success of every band trying to cut their teeth here. Each of these venues has the best staff in the world and give artists the opportunity keep growing even when the business itself might be hurting. These spots value live music and without them we wouldn’t be where we are now. I think this also permeates through into our music in ways.
Where'd the band name come from?
No good story here. We smashed words together for a couple weeks until someone thought Crooked Spies sounded reasonably cool.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Man I don’t know. Lets say something with Bradley Cooper in it? A high grossing movie so we get paid yo!
Wait, wait ,wait. I think I actually figured it out. Bill and Ted’s upcoming blockbuster Face the Music. We could help the Wyld Stallyns out with some modern rock vibes. Do a little tappin’ if we need to. Most Excellent indeed.
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
Shit man. Is this high school or Uni all over again? I thought we were done with essays. I did take a history of Led Zeppelin course. I did write an essay in it. So let's go with Since I’ve Been Loving You from Zeppelin III.
This songs dynamics and its ability to utilize tonal shifts and volume expression to create suspense is something all bands strive for. It’s an emotional song. Every member absolutely crushes it. Plants vocals are haunting. Pages guitar is so damn silky. The solo is savage. It takes their blues influence to a new place. The song is 7 minutes in heaven.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Well our original drummer Luke died in a bizarre gardening accident so I guess that is the closest thing.
One of the most badass moments we’ve had as a band was last summer at a music festival called FrogFest. It was this super dope outdoor stage with about 300 people around a massive bonfire. Near the end of our set we brought up a bunch of good friends to jam out on a Raconteurs song called Level. Legal and illegal substances were passed around the entire jam. It felt pretty darn good to solo with a rollie hanging off my lip and some great friends all around. 10/10 would do again.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
I mean this is why we do it. Nothing touches playing live music with your friends. For me it’s the ultimate release after a hard week of work. I can’t be certain but for our fans I think it’s similar. I think it’s a release for them as well. Our approach to playing live is very natural. It’s a raw, unrehearsed and honest show we put on. We never stop. It’s full on for however long we get. I think that our fans appreciate the energy and the honesty that comes with our live experience.
What makes a great song?
Three chords and the truth. Duh.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
Man I honestly can’t remember the first song I wrote.
It definitely wasn’t a bruting pop-punk song about trying to get girls.
It almost certainly wasn’t embarrassing or a terribly written piece of burning garbage.
It definitely didn't have a lame name like Mystery or something.
One of the lines definitely wasn’t “ You’re hiding behind a mysterious mask”.
If only I could remember.
I can speak for everyone and say we are proud of everything that we have put out. It’s pretty cool to go back to our first album, which was more so a spattering of songs written by Steve and I in the infancy of the band and compare it to what we are currently writing. It’s rad to see the evolution we have all gone through as artists and songwriters. Tastes change. Styles change. But it all fits in the context of Crooked Spies. The songs we are currently writing are a bit more cohesive, but just like the previous albums each has its own voice and distinct sound. It definitely changes daily what songs I think are good and what songs I’m a bit over. If I had choose right now I would say beginnings/wandering is a tune we are particularly fond of. It really encompasses all aspects of our sound and is a beast of a tune. On the album it is two songs but it was originally written as one song. Everyone shines in parts of this song. Steven’s solo at the end of wandering is my favourite thing he has ever done.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
The War on Drugs. Nothing better on a road trip. Crazy tones.
PUP is on another level. Lyrics range from hilarious to insightful. Damn can Stefan string a sentence. Best gang vocals ever.
Idles is a band I’ve been obsessing over lately. Colossus is colossus.
The Dirty Nil. Savage Canadian Rock.
Cloud Nothings. Dope.
Queens of the Stone age. Nuff said.
The Raconteurs. Just the best rock band in the past decade. So pumped for this new album. Definitely something rock could use right meow.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Vinyl at home. Digital almost everywhere else. CD’s in my suv...no aux port and the radio frequency adaptor sounds like garbage.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
It doesn’t make me spew…
Well at least not as immediate.
Sidestory: I think I am subconsciously deterred from drinking whisky. I was 16 years old at a party. Some fine young thugs decided to rob the house in which the party was at. Loaded on Jack, I may of had a few choice words for these upstanding citizens and that put me on the receiving end of a pretty vicious beating via batons. Turns out Jack Daniels is hella good at suppressing pain. I honestly didn’t feel anything until the morning after and my biggest concern was losing my hat. Since that day though I just can’t keep the whisky down. Sorry Jamesons. Sorry JD.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
Calgary, AB, Canada!
Sloth Records is super rad. Recordland is a blast from the past. Heritage Posters and music is super cool.
What's next for the band?
The same thing we do every year pinky. Try to take over the world.
We are releasing a new single ‘Chasing Light’, March 29th, 2019. It’s definitely more reflective of our pop-punk influence.
This summer we have some super fun shows booked and we our getting the opportunity to play some bigger stages.
We are beginning to put together our next full length. Hopefully she will be wrapped up this fall.
Western Canadian tours are in the midst of being booked for late September and October.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Thanks for reading. Thanks to Ripple Music for showing interest in indie music. Check out some tunes.
Keep it steezy, keep it breezy, have fun and this shit will be easy.