Dysfunctional Roots

How P&M overcame bad thrashing

by James Brotheridge

Portage & Main

Portage and Main

Artesian on 13th

Thursday 28

A lot of faces grace the stage as Portage and Main — some regulars, some guests — but the band’s core is John Sponarski and Harold Donnelly. The Vancouver alt-country acts’ frontmen started playing together while studying jazz at music college.

Spornarski first met his co-songwriter/singer/guitarist in high school. His memories aren’t positive.

“Harold was playing in this thrashy, screamy band called Dysfunctional,”saysSpornarski.One time we threw this show at a community hall. Harold’s band came in and they thrashed so hard they destroyed all of our gear. They just had a crazy mosh pit that destroyed a bunch of our mics and stuff. It turned into this big feud.”

How was that resolved? “Time heals all wounds,” says Sponarski.

(I’m writing “Dysfunctional” the conventional way. But with a thrashy, screamy band, there were probably some Z’s and K’s in there.)

In college, the pair played in the Joint Chiefs of Math, which Sponarski calls a “weirdo, indie progressive band.” At some point Sponarski invited Donnelly over to see a guitar pedal. They played some songs and found an easy chemistry.

If you listen to their 2011 self-titled debut, you’ll hear it straight off. The opening track, “Nothing (Take What You Need)”, shows off two voices you wouldn’t guess would work together. But they mesh perfectly.

That extends to the easy-going, alt-country style of the album, too. The style came easily to Sponarski.

“This is the music my parents listened to, the music I was brought up on, really,” says Sponarski. “This is the music you never would’ve told anyone you loved when you were a kid because it wasn’t cool. But as you mature and get a little bit older, this stuff comes out really naturally. It’s like, ‘Well, do I fight it?’”