It Happened to Me

“Unfinished Business” Week, Part 2

Another installment of stuff I was going to blog earlier, but didn’t.

Kingston’s Loudest Band

My sister recently found an old newspaper clipping I’d sent her from my university days almost ten years ago. It was an article written for an old Kingston paper called INQ (short for Independent News of Queen’s; it vanished after it was discovered that it was funded with money stolen from a charity organization) reviewing our band, Volume.

For the most part, we received good reviews. We were pretty good musicians, and I think at least two of us – namely Andrew and me – are still actively gigging; Andrew’s the drummer for a Vancouver band called Feisty, and I’m ready-at-a-moment’s notice accordion backup for whomever needs it (inlcuding Lindi, whose CD release party is this Thursday).

The article was written by Elan Mastai, who’s gone on to work on scripts for the big screen.

Mike, Chris, George and Andrew, this one’s for you.

Discovering the Length, Width and Depth of Volume

Elan Mastai
INQ Newspaper
Wednesday, April 7, 1993

My regular Thursday ritual of staring transfixed at the television screen absorbed in the intricacies of Seinfeld was abruptly disturbed on April 1st. The distraction came in the form of an invitation to check out Volume at the Carribbean Club. Fortunately for my friend, I was very impressed by Volume’s three-set performance.

Volume definitely has the “grunge” look down pat. All the musicians involved were repsectably clad in multiple layers of flannel, beer ads and rock band T-shirts. They primarily played covers of current Seattle-scene alternative rock.

Volume’s music is of a fairly loud variety, and their sound packs a solid punch.

Bar bands often seem to rely on the ability of their guitarist to carry the tunes, leaving drums and bass to establish the background rhythm (particularly in this age of pre-fabricated techno music). Volume’s drummer, Andrew Pirie, has an established stage presence. His thundering beat had much of the crowd bobbing their heads in synchronicity. Fortunately, George Scriban’s bass stood out as sound completely separate from Chris Walmsley’s guitars. Although the guitars were great, Walmsley wasn’t really allowed to cut loose on any solos until the third set.

Keyboardist Joey deVilla filled out the instrumental section of Volume. deVilla apologized early for his real keyboard having been repossessed. Regardless, I’ve never seen anyone actually play the keyboard with their forehead and still maintain the tune. I was suitably impressed.

They keyboards provided nice additional melody, although it was a real battle to hear them over Walmsley’s guitar.

Vocalist Mike List has a great edge to his voice. When he’s allowed to cut loose with one of his primal yowls, you can feel your brain quiver. List’s vocals on tunes like Alice in Chains’ Would? and Soundgarden’s Outshined are along the lines of what Janis Joplin would have sounded like, had she been a werewolf (and male).

However, Volume would do well to play to List’s strengths and stay away from his weaknesses. Volume has a tight sound, but they should steer clear of more melodic vocal material – ground upon which List is obviously uncomfortable. The only real disappointments of the night were covers of Epic and Nearly Lost You. (I know, I know, Faith No More and Screaming Trees are not generally considered melodic, but it’s all relative.)

However, this criticism is not meant to detract from the band’s overall appeal. They are simply better on the heavier material. Highlights of the night included bang-on covers of Pearl Jam’s Alive and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Suck My Kiss. On another of the more memorable covers, List borrowed from U2’s Bono stating “this is a song Black Francis stole from the Beatles, now we’re stealing it back”. The band then promptly broke into a killer version of Honey Pie.

Practically worth the three-dollar admission charge itself, was the hilarious rendition of Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy. List surrendered vocals to deVilla for the cover, giving himself an opportunity for a quick rest. deVilla went way over the top, yelping like a post-punk daemon of disaffected suburban youth and paying particular attention to the more socially stigmatized anatomical protrusions of the human body.

Another of the highlights of the show was Volume’s only original of the night, an incredible tune called No Wonder. If No Wonder is an indication of the original songs Volume is producing, I only wish they would include more originals in future sets. It is so difficult for independent bands to land jobs that often it is necessary to play covers. However, I think that Volume will find that original songs allow the band to evolve more fully and create their own sound. Originals also allow the band to play to their own strengths, particularly on the part of the vocalist.

The band actually played No Wonder twice, the second rendition as the last song of the final set. It was requested by two fairly large individuals who took it upon themselves to create a two person mosh pit on the Caribbean’s chessboard dance floor.

I spoke to deVilla during the break between the first and second sets. He tells me that currently the band is mostly working on gaining exposure around town and refining their original material. Volume will be playing semi-regularly over the course of the summer at the Caribbean with their next show scheduled for Thursday, April 8th.

While Volume hardly transcends the idiom of popular culture or any pretentious music-critic distinction like that, they are well worth seeing. Those of you who do not gauge their musical tastes by its obscurity (just because it sells a million compact discs doesn’t mean it’s not excellent music) and are into the sonic barrage that Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains have cashed in on should like Volume.

Volume is a band that is not only interesting to listen to, but between the hyperkinetic flopping of List and deVilla and the musical skill of Pirie, Scriban and Walmsley, Volume is a band that is also entertaining to watch. All in all a great show. Check them out.

Elan pounded his head against his computer keyboard in the deVilla style while writing this article.

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