Interview: DoomSquad

The UK has a touch of jet-lag on being up-to-date with Canadian trip-merchants DoomSquad, having to scrabble around for an import copy (or digital download) of the imminent release of ‘DoomSquad EP’ on Hand Drawn Dracula Records (with the DoomSquad LP releasing in September in the UK, through No Pain in Pop). Featuring swirling tribal beats, echo-laden guitars, ghostly vocals, and the deepest reworking of The Doors’ classic ‘Riders on The Storm’ you’ll ever hear (think The XX and Mezzanine-era Massive Attack forming a supergroup), it’s worth checking out. We caught up with the sister-brother-sister trio in Toronto recently to chat about how it all came together.

‘It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek’ explains Trevor Blumas ‘we had the name Doom Squad, but we were playing these Carter Family-style happy folk songs’. Instruments, however, were a diverse collection: anything from sandpaper and cheesegraters would accompany the more familiar ukulele. Initiated when they made a visit to former stomping grounds in Vancouver, sister Allie explains that they were booking gigs ‘before we even had any songs’. As they travelled back east, the project followed them across the country, picking up some weird twists and turns along the way.

A purely collaborative approach has resulted in an organic, orgasmic, psychedelic sound, with a ‘tribal skeleton’ of trance and drum’n’bass influenced beats fleshed out with the more accessible elements of garage rock and post-punk. Jaclyn explains ‘the beat came from trying to fuse folk music into dance music. We call it Shaman Beat.’ Either way, it’s a pretty spiritual experience, with elements of club-dub lifted into the ether by ritualistic chants.

So what happened to the folk? Allie says that the inspiration for the music they make comes from the same headspace as folk, being ‘very place-oriented’. With much of their writing and recording occurring in Canadian cottage country, the trio were inspired to find new ways to describe the Canadian landscape through their music. Rather than trying to sound like their Canuck roots heroes, Neil Young and The Tragically Hip, they took field microphones out to record the landscape, and began to work that into the electronic and tribal music they were soaking up.

‘Also, we grew up in  a new-agey household, so there was lots of that kind of music around, as well of lots of Canadian indigenous aboriginal music’ says Trevor, ‘We didn’t necessarily want to appropriate that, but it seems to have worked it’s way in there somehow.’

The past three years have seen them working together in the basement-cum-studio of the house that Jaclyn and Trevor share in downtown Toronto, developing the recordings that provide the foundation of their upcoming LP, and the home studio aspect allows much more freedom in their use of time. They can record as they jam, birthing a recording style pioneered by Krautrock legends Can, whereby 30-40 minute jams are condensed into shorter format for listening via studio magic. Translating the experience to stage continually raises challenges, especially now the trio are separated between Toronto and Montreal: Allie studies contemporary dance in the francophone part of Canada, whilst Trevor’s acting background found him in Toronto, and works together with Jaclyn as part of the visual arts collective Heretical Objects. Experience in different disciplines of performing arts has given them an edge in this regard, and live shows can often manifest themselves into something both captivating and haunting.

Such a live show caught the eyes and ears of Toronto luminary Owen Pallett, who chanced on a show last year after his first choice gig was cancelled (Radiohead’s stage collapsed in tragedy at Downsview Park). He immediately got in touch to connect them with Polaris-prize winning producer Leon Taheny, and they’ve spent the last year condensing three years of maddening melodies into a record they could unleash on the public. Check out Riders on The Storm below, and check here for the EP release.

Words: Jen Hunter

Image: Stephanie Coffey Photography