You’re inviting a bit of trouble when you name your band the Escorts.
“The Facebook group keeps getting torn down because they think we’re an actual escort group. We’ve had to put it back up a few times,” says Strychnine Buzz, guitarist for the Calgary rock group. I’d encountered similar problems before our phone interview. Searching for “calgary escorts” online doesn’t net me much beyond a questionable Google history.
Strychnine, known in real life as Sebastian Buzzalino, recognizes all that.
“I was joking with my girlfriend the other day was going to be ‘Whatever’. Just un-Googleable.”
The band aren’t the types to let internet problems get in the way of the music. After leaving his old band, the Blackouts, Buzzalino started the Escorts in February 2012. They’ve just released a self-titled EP on the Winnipeg label Transistor 66.
The Escorts are playing tonight, Saturday, March 30 at the German Club, along with the Thrashers.
Look after the jump for more of our interview.
How did the Escorts start?
Tom the bassist and I had been playing in the Blackouts since 2010, and I just wanted to play some 70s-style punk-and-roll. The Blackouts went for a while and fizzled out towards the end. But I really wanted to keep playing songs and we moved on to playing in the Escorts.
I just wanted to play those Johnny Thunder-inspired songs — loud, fast, drunk.
So you started with a pretty clear idea of what you wanted to do.
Yeah. Not to say it hasn’t evolved, but I’ve always been drawn to the New York 70s punk scene. A lot of it came out of 60s girl groups in Britain, but when it crossed the ocean in the 70s, the New York Dolls picked it up. And of course, the Dolls formed a foundation with the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. I’ve always been super drawn to that.
How well does that sound fit into Calgary’s rock scene?
When I first started, I naively thought, “Yeah! We’re going to be Calgary’s most rocking band and it’s going to be awesome!” The scene tends towards angrier punk. Calgary loves hardcore. I wanted something a little more melodic and dancier to play.
But then when we started playing, I found a lot of bands that we feel a kinship with. Not necessarily the same bands that we worship but the same kind of feeling of “Turn up your amps as far as they’ll go, rip a couple guitar solos, have a good rhythm section and have a good time”.
How soon after starting the band did you write the song “The Escorts”?
That came pretty early on. Our ex-drummer Travis brought the main riff and we thought it was cool. Then, for some reason I can’t remember, we decided to make it our theme song. Someone else said it and I immediately gravitated towards the idea, because the Ramones had Lemmy write a theme song for them, and then the Ramones cover it. I loved it.
“The Escorts” was one of the very first songs we wrote. It helped identify us and it’s the first song we play in the live set, so it’s kind of like a calling card. It’s a goofy little thing, but it works.
How did you hook up with Transistor 66?
We played a show in September and a friend saw us play and he said, “Oh my God, I have to record you guys. I have a basement recording studio I’m trying to get off the ground. I’ll record you guys.” We did that in September and we got it mastered, which took a while.
I’d always respected Transistor 66 as a label and they’d put out a lot of my favourite bands of the last five or six years, including Battle Snakes. I sent our EP to the label originally just to get feedback. I respect their opinion on all things rock ‘n’ roll. And they said, “Yeah. You guys want to jump on board?”
That’s pretty much exactly how you want this to go.
In the back of my mind, it was always a possibility, but you never really consider it.
Before you were approached to come into a studio, how much thought had you been putting into recording?
We’d tried to do some home recording, and it was a disaster. We could not figure out the whole self-recording thing. It sounded like shit.
We’d always hoped to be a recording and touring band. Ideally, we’d like to do two EPs a year instead of saving all our songs for an LP.
What kind of equipment were you working with the first time around when you tried to record yourselves?
We were recording through a small Firepod. It only had two inputs, so we couldn’t play live off the floor, and it went into GarageBand on my laptop. It did not go very well. Functional at least at first to hear ourselves, but we never showed them to anyone, ever. I think I deleted them.
Especially the kind of band you are, you really need to do a live-off-the-floor recording to do it correctly.
Definitely. When we met with Eric who recorded us, he asked what we wanted and I said, “As live off the floor as possible.” Of course, we overdubbed a few things here and there and we did vocals overdubbed because we couldn’t get them right otherwise. But in the songs, you can hear the places where we stumble, where we kind of fall out of tempo. That’s OK. It’s our first EP and we’re supposed to sound a little rough and tumble.
When Eric first approached us to record us, he said, “I really like how it feels like you’re always going to fall off but then pull it together.” I like that we found that little edge.
This interview has been edited and condensed.