Interview with Bad Animal
Bad Animal makes me think about Bill Murray. Murray once said he wanted to be “here” more, be more “present”. I’m taking the fifth or sixth listen to audio interview I had with Ben Painter the lead from Bad Animal, a bad-ass indie-quasi-punk band from Calgary. Playing it back over and over is making me feel more and more like I’d just left a dive bar not realizing I’d had a conversation with picasso after asking him the best colour to paint the walls in my den.
After some back and forth over emails, we arranged time for a call – 2pm Calgary time. I mentioned to my husband the night before (who’s from Calgary) if everyone in Calgary already thinks I’m a dick because I’m from Toronto. “Yes” he said. Don’t worry everyone in Canada, I didn’t fucking disappoint!
Got up early, had some coffee, smoked a little joint – It’s Sunday after all… but before most of that, I popped on my headphones and started re-listening to Tonight, the new album by Bad Animal. It’s fucking good by the way. Faux Filles is the first song.
It was a beautiful day, I was pumped up back from a walk with the dog; I’d gone over my notes and was though the album a 2nd time just in time for my phone call with Painter. 7 minutes passed and I hadn’t heard anything. I sent him a text. Nothing.
A bit later I got a phone call from Calgary, it was Ben. He sounded tired, confused and not ready for an interview. In the slowest three seconds of my life, I realized I’d completely fucked up the time zones. It was 10am in Calgary. I had texted – and woken up – a musician at 10am on a Sunday morning – to take part in an interview. I even had it in my phone for 4pm, later that day.
Later that day, gunshy, and rightly feeling stupid I received another call from Painter. I apologized for being a dumbass and, he accepted graciously and we moved on with my questions.
“Who’s the worst animal?” I started, he laughed a bit.
“Oh man, it depends, everyone’s kind of their own (bad animal), everyone’s got bad qualities you know, we’re all pretty bad for sure. I wouldn’t say any of us.”
I leave that alone, any bad qualities an artist like this is referring to are certainly nothing I could ever pass judgement on, and I’m pretty sure we all know that’s a warm up.
I ask about how they got the name. Painter tells me a short quip about his cat AJ. AJ is a dick. Well I’m told AJ is “the biggest piece of shit ever, essentially”. Between AJ being a dick Bad Animal looking cool on paper (it does), he said
“It kind of sounds like us in a sense, it’s got different qualities, so we came up with it and it just stuck.”
We spoke a bit about politics, mostly because I brought it up referring to something I may have heard in a dream, but more than likely miss-heard on one of the countless radio interviews I’ve been listening to preparing for Dropout interviews. I’m not on my game today. But nonetheless I’d brought up politics with what we quickly cleared up, was not a political band. And again Ben graciously side-stepped my fumble like a pro – allowing me to parlay into a question about his lyrics.
“Yeah, so, we’re definitely not a political band. On our next record, I’m probably going to have a song on it with some politics involved, just with the craziness of the world. We’re in such a crazy time right now I feel like if I didn’t write a song like that it would be kinda crazy.” he continued “at the time we wrote the last album (Tonight), it (the world) was still obviously a mess but that album was about love stories, self doubt, and 10th Song which is just about terrible humans, Thief of Thieves is based on a comic book (by the same name).”
The lyricist for Bad Animal, Painter describes his best work having come from times or places of depression and sadness, a reality he’s accepting, or at least using to his advantage in the meantime.
He’s fantastic to bring the conversation back to Bad Animal, immediately bringing me back to talking about the live shows “people think we’re a party band, if you saw us live you wouldn’t know the songs are about what they’re about” he said “our live shows are insane(!) But, in the songs really we’re singing about passion and love”.
So I asked him about Bad Animal’s ‘west-coast sound’, a term a friend of mine used while listening to their music and smoking joints on my couch.
“I can see how you could say we have a west-coast sound. Our inspirations come from so many different places to be honest, Merrick (Marek Skiba), he loves punk rock, our bass player (Danny Trevena) is really into R&B, I don’t necessarily think we derive our stuff from a west-coast influence or sound, but I can see where someone could say that we have one.”
Coming up on their second year of being Bad Animal we talk a bit about the upcoming year after just releasing Tonight, kicking off a Canada wide tour at the Commonwealth Bar and Stage in Calgary and taking it across the country from there.
I asked about the band’s live shows and the Calgary indie scene.
“Our favorite shows to play right now are still home town shows, they’re insane. It’s our favourite right now, but who know’s if that’s going to change, we’re going to see and play a lot of new places (this year).” back to Calgary he Painter goes on “I’m not even trying to pump the city or anything, but everything I’ve seen – the bands in Calgary and the scene is awesome. Everyone has everyone’s backs, we all go to each others shows and support each other, the music scene here is vibrant. People wouldn’t expect this kind of music scene from Calgary but it’s actually getting better and better.” We go on to discuss the NMC (National Music Centre) in Calgary and the city’s growing arts scenes.
Painter strikes me as a true punk-artist, in that he gives a shit, and that makes me fucking happy.
I turn the conversation to the Casino Vino video because we need to show videos on the website too, because you my friend have a wildly short attention span.
My question was this – Whose restaurant was that? How pissed where they?
“Oh dude, that was a place called ‘Tubby Dog’ and they make gourmet hotdogs there. I went to them and was like ‘we’re gonna have a little food fight, it’s a music video and Tubby Dog will be in it, and the guy was pretty down with it. – The deal was we had to play a show there too, and we packed it, he paid us in hotdogs and beer; I think they made really good sales. We cleaned up the next day too, as much as we could.” I asked if he had anything else to say on that… “those hotdogs are the most insane things ever, you can get a hotdog with peanut butter, jelly and captain crunch on it.”
Before I let Painter off the line I wanted to get a bit more info on the album. I asked him to take me through the process of creating Tonight (Bad Animal’s debut album) as best he could. We spoke a bit about the song and lyric influences again, his bandmates. I commented on how good it sounded – produced – how well put together it was as… well an album.
“Trevor, Merick and myself have played in bands together forever, and we’ve recorded with other people, in not the best places before… This time we knew we weren’t going to do an EP, we were putting everything into it and releasing a full-length album, so the production and presentation were important to us; we needed to try and come out with something better than we’d ever come out with.”
The album Tonight was recorded at OCL studios in Calgar, it was mixed by Spencer Sheen and Brian Lucy who’s mastered tracks for Arctic Monkeys and Black Keys.
“We self funded everything, through shows, investing our own time and money so that’s how that came about.” Then he hit me with something “As for the record, when I was younger – it’s actually like super weird – I always said if I didn’t come out with a record by the time I’m twenty seven I’m just going to off myself, because I’ll be a failure if I didn’t. I was pushing the guys really hard for this and now that we’ve got the record in our hands… Well my birthday is Monday so…”
I wish I could be “more here” Bill Murray said once, “more present in the moment”.
The more is listen to Bad Animal the more I wish I could have another go at an interview with Painter. Much like the music itself my experience with Painter was exciting and fast paced, but the closer I listen the more layered complexities start to show themselves.
Bad Animal is at Cherry Cola’s N Rock & Rolla Cabaret Lounge (200 Bathurst St. Toronto), just north of Bathurst and Queen, on Thursday April 20, 2017 as part of Canadian Music Week.
More shows and more information on Bad Animal is available on their website at badanimal.ca.
Bad Animal is Ben Painter, Marek Skiba, Trevor Stoddart, Kyle Gritchen & Danny Trevena