When I tell others of my increasing obsession with folk punk, I’m usually greeted with looks of general confusion and a resounding “Folk punk? What the hell is that?”
It’s hard to put into words the exact nature of this increasingly popular genre, but trust me, it’s awesome. Musicians whip out their acoustic guitars, banjos, and any number of other assorted instruments and perform songs that wrench your gut out while simultaneously force you to grab a pint, stomp your feet, and sing along till your throat caves in.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with members of the Toronto-based acoustic folk punk band, Revisionist, who took some time out of their weekend to talk with me about their music and how one unexpected flood almost destroyed everything.
Formed in a basement in the summer of 2010, Revisionist is comprised of high school chums Mikey Burrell (lead vocals and guitar), Gabe Delorme (guitar, back-up vocals), and Sean Shorting (bass). With Burrell citing such bands as Alkaline Trio and Against Me! as influences and Shorting’s roots in death metal, the musical background of each member brings a slightly harder edge to their acoustic style.
Part of the trouble in describing folk punk is figuring out where exactly ‘punk’ fits in. Punk, as both a subculture and a style of music, is notoriously multifaceted and has been subjected to countless re-interpretations since its inception in the mid 1970s.
As Burrell notes, “a lot of people think of Punk as just being loud […], but I think there’s a lot of bands with melody and when you just strip that down, you can hear that there’s some really beautiful songs in the genre too.”
Revisionist itself is a stripped down version of their harder Punk alter-ego, Serenity Now, whose latest album entitled “Worst Hits” is currently being promoted as Revisionist takes their act to venues in Ontario and Quebec. With two demo albums already released (Thoughts… in 2010, and Live at Wembley Stadium in 2013), Revisionist has no plans to slow down. They view their first two albums as merely stepping stones to something much bigger, and plan to start recording a full-length acoustic album by January 2014.
After listening to the first few strums of their song “The Gift” from Live at Wembley Stadium, I was instantly hooked. Burrell’s raspy vocals are complemented by the melodic strumming of acoustic guitars and weave a tune that at once invigorates the listener, while causing them to just stop what they’re doing and become completely enveloped.
The lyrics, which are a collaborative effort with Burrell providing their foundational structure, are often interpreted as depressing, but for Burrell they’re about taking a positive spin on the idea of battling through life. For Delorme, it’s not about depressing their audience, but making a connection that goes beyond merely listening to a song to understanding what the song writer is going through on a more personal level.
But why promote your non-acoustic album with a mini-tour as a folk band? Blame it on the rain, according to Delorme: “You know that flood that happened in Toronto? When that happened we were actually taking a day to visit Wasaga Beach and we heard there was going to be a huge storm.”
After calling home to check if their loved ones were okay (good priorities, gentlemen!) it suddenly hit them that they were keeping all of their band gear in a friend’s basement.
“Turns out they had […] eight inches of water in the basement so a bunch of our gear got ruined and that’s why we’re doing acoustic shows.”
It says something about the resilience of Revisionist that when faced with a situation which would leave most people retiring from the music business, they dust off (perhaps towel off) their guitars and get back to doing what they love. So while they may feel that, being a relatively new act on the Canadian music scene, they’re as of yet not able to give advice for other new bands, they can say with an air of certainty and experience that if you’re in a band, and there’s stormy weather ahead, keep yourself above ground (take that as literally or as metaphorically as you wish).
Certainly not strangers to Peterborough, Revisionist have played here several times and say that they prefer this city’s welcoming feel and large variety of venues to the impersonal indifference of the Toronto scene.
Make sure to check them out in person as they swing by The Spill on Friday, October 18 to perform with four other great local acts: Bored Mustangs, I, The Mountain, Those Gulls, and Chico Dusty (brought to you by MLAunderground Productions). Doors open at 8:30pm with music kicking-off at 9pm ($5.00, All-ages). Also, check out their Facebook if you want.