How awesome can punk get? ALIEN BOYS Speak!
Interview and photos by Milton Stile
Formed a few short years ago, Vancouver’s Alien Boys quickly made a name for themselves with their punk rock ethic and DIY approach, as well as their penchant for all ages and house shows. On the occasion of the release of their debut full-length album, Night Danger – unleashed this week via Desolate records – we thought we’d ask them a few questions.
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Alex: Alien Boys started with Lindsay and I practicing together. We were both in other bands at the time, and I think we both were looking for some more playing time. Then, Megan started playing with us and it morphed into a band. Once we had a few songs written, Sarah came and checked us out and joined. Then, at a party, Lindsay and Erin got to talking which resulted in Erin coming and checking us out and she decided to join. We’ve been together ever since!
Megan: Yea, Lindsay and Alex were just jamming together at first, me and Lindsay were already good friends, I didn’t really know Alex well at the time, but I thought she was really cool so when Lindsay said they were looking for someone to play bass I jumped at it.
Lindsay: I wanted to get better at drums, and hang with pals, and it worked. We got this cool thing out of it!
Who’s in the band, and who does what?
Lindsay: I play drums
Alex: Rhythm guitar.
Megan: I play bass
Sarah: I sing and write the lyrics
(Editor’s note: Erin plays lead guitar. Due to regrettable logistics, she wasn’t able to participate in this interview.)
What do you care to share with us about what led you to your latest effort, Night Danger? As a band that has members deeply entrenched in harm reduction, you’re cognizant of being a positive force, and still acknowledging that vulnerability exists. Any specific experiences that strike you as being significantly impactful on this record’s creation?
Megan: I mean, Sarah writes all the lyrics, but definitely almost all of us have pretty intense involvement with the realm of harm reduction – both for work and in our personal lives. I think for most people who are, or knows anyone who uses drugs it’s a hard topic to ignore right now. People are dropping like flies and it’s horrible. We’ve lost a lot of friends, family members, colleagues. It’s on my mind a lot for sure, and I appreciate Sarah’s perspective a lot. I’m glad they wrote explicitly about it for this record.
Sarah: Yeah, Megan nailed it. The Fentanyl crisis is annihilating whole communities of drug users. It stands as a figure that retraumatizes an already trauma heavy population. Most of us have been living/working/existing in or around it since long before it hit. We’ve lost so many people… so many. But this album isn’t just for or about drug users. It is also about those who are marginalized by society – the othered and the outliers. It’s just the drug user’s lens is my own, so it’s at the foreground.
I’m sure this is the question you’re sick and tired of answering, but is there any particular significance to the band name?
Lindsay: I made a giant bullshit list of name ideas, and Megan pulled this one out as one she liked. There were some really bad ones on that list! I think we all liked the smugness of using boys in a band with no men.
By default, it’s your job as a punk band to provoke. If not thought itself, then at least a reaction of some kind. Sarah’s lyrics are incredibly insightful, and I’m curious as to how they’re received by your varying audiences.
Sarah: I think this is the most powerful part of having a platform through your art. The whole band experiences, or has experienced, how close the lyrics are to me as an individual – and, for the most part, that’s totally respected and backed. I deal with a lot of my own internal baggage – I won’t speak for anyone else. Every single day is a struggle for me, but since my mental health and my history of addiction have been easier to talk about in recent years, it has made all the difference. It doesn’t happen as often here in Vancouver, but when we go on tour, there are so many people who just want to talk about their own experiences after the show. People who don’t generally get the opportunity to touch on those aspects of their lives. That makes me proud as hell. It’s my favourite part about writing and performing music: it creates community.
Any time someone approaches me to tell me their story, I am honoured. And I hope that I honour them too by continuing to write lyrics that speak to them. Folks who struggle with these things are so isolated. But everything is much less scary when it isn’t shrouded in darkness. Silence is violence, and these issues are the lenses through which a lot more of us than we think see the world.
Punk rock is a vehicle propelling ideas through words as much as it is abrasive instruments delivering dissonance. It’s one thing to be in a punk band playing a punk show, but I’d love to hear about your experiences of playing to a different crowd.
Lindsay: I’d usually rather just play to punks, haha! We played with some metal bands relatively recently and we were still received pretty well, though. I really love all ages shows. And playing the burbs and small towns is always a treat.
Megan: I like playing to punks too mostly! But once in a while, we’ve gone and played to more metal crowds or more rock’n’roll or indie rock type crowds and usually we’ve been pretty well received. Sometimes it’s kind of weird, but we’ve got pretty diverse influences so we can fit in with a few different styles of music well enough.
Sarah: I mean, I like playing to anyone who wants to listen. I don’t care what your musical tastes are – if you are there because you want to be, we will give you something to listen to. My favourite shows to play are mixed bills. Punks are great, but most of us agree on a variety of topics. People who fall outside of that category, who may not have had access to those same narratives, who may not have been influenced by the same movements or politics, those are the people I want to play to the most. I also really dig all ages shows. I remember what I was like when I was young – I was a baby punk/goth kid stuck in a vacuum of small town religiosity. It took a few touring bands to pull my interest in a certain direction. Some of my most valued moments in education came from the lyric sheets of bands I loved, growing up.
In your opinion, what’s the relevance of punk rock right now? What does music offer that other platforms don’t?
Lindsay: To me, a sense of community for sure. The punk scene has been a haven of weirdos for most of my life, anyway, and I usually feel like I’m more likely to see eye-to-eye with people within it.
Megan: I love punk! I’ve been into punk for more than half my life now, I can’t imagine not being a punk, it’s very central to my being. I don’t know if music effects change really – in a political sense – but it’s fun, and it’s a nice way to build bonds with people at least, and I think that’s important in this late capitalist realm of isolation.
Is there any specific approach that you take to songwriting?
Megan: Our approach is pretty collaborative. Usually one of us will have an idea for a riff, we’ll play with it a bit together, and come up with other stuff to go with it. All of us contribute to putting every song together.
Alex: Very collaborative as Megan said. Parts of Night Danger were written in the jam space, parts of it in Erin’s apartment, and at least some of one song at my parent’s cabin. The song only really fully comes together once it’s in the jam space though.
Most memorable show?
Alex: Playing Kitchener and Waterloo was pretty memorable for me. Erin has a big fanbase in the area because of the Rebel Spell, and we played a tiny basement and it was nuts! My mic kept getting knocked into me and I kept having to dodge it so it wouldn’t break my face. I thought I was going to lose my teeth! Erin also had people doing the Wayne’s World “we are not worthy” thing at the end, which I enjoyed watching.
You have roots here in Vancouver. You also like to occasionally hit the road. If there’s anything that contrasts Vancouver from other places you’ve played, what would you say that is? Do you have any thoughts on the present state of the music scene in Vancouver?
Megan: Personally, I really love Vancouver’s punk scene. Really there are a few different scenes, it’s pretty active and there are a lot of people trying to make things happen, even in the DIY realm, which is pretty impressive for a city this expensive. I find it pretty welcoming overall. It’s sweet to see what other people are up to in other places though, touring is my favourite part about being in a band, for sure.
Lindsay: I’ve been involved with the Vancouver punk scene for more than half my life at this point and sure our relationship has had its ups and downs, but I still love it. It’s pretty diverse and welcoming, and even among the different branches of the DIY punk scene there’s the same community ethic which makes for a very collaborative and inclusive scene for the most part, especially, I think, when compared to some places that have tendencies towards elitism. However, it’s always super cool to hit the road and see what people are doing in other places, and how we can learn from those things to make things cooler here at home!
Sarah: Coming from the Interior, I’ll say that small town gratitude is always welcoming and warm and reminds me of home! That being said, there are an awful lot of us living in Vancouver now!
Speaking of, any tour plans in the near future?
Megan: We’re trying to figure out a west coast tour this summer with our new album!
Lindsay: Hopefully, at least Western Canada will be happening soon too.
You’re very partial to the DIY approach. You favour independent venues, mostly don’t bother with anything that’s not clearly on your terms. To what extent do you feel that declaring the rules you’re willing to work with outright allows you to maintain your autonomy?
Megan: I feel like we do try to actively reach audiences that aren’t just our friends. We definitely do a lot of stuff DIY, I think because most of us have been involved in DIY punk to various extents and in various capacities, so it’s kind of our jam. But we definitely try to play to new audiences when we get asked, to an extent.
Sarah: I’d play more depressing dive bars if they’d let me!!!
What’s your favourite place you’ve played? Anywhere you’d love to play that you haven’t yet?
Megan: I really liked playing in Halifax and Calgary when we went on tour a couple summers ago! Super fun cities with really welcoming, fun all ages scenes.
Lindsay: Ditto to Megan! Ottawa was another of my favourite shows from that tour.
Megan: Oh yeah, Ottawa was sick too for sure! Some very rad young punks came out and told us it was their first show! They were really cool.
Alex: Loved Ottawa! I mentioned Kitchener and Waterloo. Fredericton was lovely as well.
Megan: PEI was super sweet as well! We played with a very rad gay hardcore band called Antibodies that blew my mind. We had a really great time on that tour, clearly.
Sarah: Most of Eastern Canada was so welcoming! Ottawa, Halifax, Fredericton (I’m wild about this band called Motherhood that we played with there) and Charlottetown were the deadliest.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Can you leave us with the details pertaining to the album’s release?
Megan: The album is currently available for preorder via Desolate Records. It’s now available for download on Bandcamp and we will have physical copies of the record for sale at our album release show on February 9 at the WISE hall! We’re playing with locals Fashionism, Dead Cells, and Starvation. You can get tickets online or at the door.