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Local artists in focus: Perkolator

It’s impossible to know what to expect when entering a Perkolator show for the first time. As is the case with any improvised musical performance, how each set will transpire is dependent on a multitude of factors, including the venue, the audience, and how the band is feeling leading up to and during the show.

Formed about a year ago, Perkolator is a Peterborough-based, experimental improv band, comprised of Calla Durose-Moya, Brandon Munro, Jake Ryan, and Hayley Raymond. Though their lineup changes frequently, these four remain the collective’s core members.

Like many bands within this artistically rich and diverse city, Perkolator’s formation was the result of a longstanding, community-oriented musical tradition within Peterborough’s art scene that encourages a new, experimental music.

Durose-Moya and Ryan first played together at a show put on by The Fat Plant Assembly, a non-profit music presentation group, as a part of its Peterborough Presents series, where local musicians of various artistic backgrounds are brought together to perform live shows with one another. From there, the two began jamming privately, with Munro and Raymond joining the group soon after.

All Photos by Jesse Marcelo Pictured: Jake Ryan

Regarding personal influences, the band cites The Nihilist Spasm Band, based out of London Ontario, who have been described by many as the “world’s oldest noise band”, as well as local act Commander Goznalez, with whom the band has had a chance to collaborate with in the past.

Perkolator has also recently incorporated visual art into their live shows through collaboration with local multimedia collective UTHE and visual art collective DROOL, both of which are comprised of students from Peterborough’s Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School. One attendee to these shows noted that the incorporation of UTHE’s visual projections elevated this performance into something that felt more like a live art piece than strictly a musical performance, invoking introspection and self-reflection within members of the audience.

One recurrent theme espoused by members of the band is the idea that creative expression is something anyone can and should participate in, regardless of his or her artistic background. This message is highlighted by not only the band’s openness to collaboration with other local bands and artists, but also in the varying range of musical experience of the group’s members.

Munro, the drummer, studied Contemporary Music at Mohawk College and teaches music lessons at Long & McQuade Musical Instruments. He is also involved with the Hamilton-based Basement Revolver as well as local folk artist Nick Ferrio, and just recently got back from a 20-day European tour with The Burning Hell, where he also got a chance to play on a widely-syndicated BBC Radio program with the band.

In contrast, Durose-Moya, who has a limited formal background in music, is pursuing a joint-major in Cultural Studies and Philosophy at Trent, and finds much of her means of artistic expression through exhibitions as a part of Professor Kelly Egan’s studio workshop classes. She has also helped create a music video for Nick Ferrio and has had her visual art featured in Arthur as a part of last year’s Art Week.

Durose-Moya has contributed to the band’s live performances largely through the use of vocal looping via a vocoder and loop pedal. However, she has also been exploring the use of saxophone during recent shows. Her DIY background provides her with an ideologically unpretentious attitude towards musical expression. “In order to play music, you gotta think outside the box,” she says.

“I try to put myself in a sort of state where the sounds around me sort of paint pictures in my head,” Munro explains in regard to his approach to drumming with the band. “From there, I try to kind of tell a story in my own mind.”

Munro does not shy away from using his drum set as an outlet for his emotional expression while playing, either. “[Sometimes] in the most blatant way, I kind of just try to have the thinnest skin possible and represent that on the drums.”

Durose-Moya finds it easier to express her feelings through the sax than through vocals, describing the instrument as a sort of “uniform funnel to channel emotions into.” While she describes her sax playing as “frenetic”, Munro tries to avoid stepping into the realm of what he describes as “sheer chaos” in his playing, describing his approach to the performing with the band as “hyper-analytical” yet simultaneously “freeing”.

The unconstrained atmosphere of a Perkolator show creates a sort of cyclical artistic
formation process, in which modes of creative and emotional expression among members play off of each other, often creating new ones.

Raymond, who is majoring Canadian Studies at Trent, usually plays the guitar during live shows, but has also experimented with the banjo. She was in a metal band in high school, is currently working on a black metal project with a couple of her friends, and just recently played her first solo noise set at The Spill. She notes that she often makes a conscious effort to play off of the other member’s stylistic approach at any given moment and like Munro, appreciates the freeform approach the band gets to take on during their live shows.

Ryan is in his final year of study at Trent, majoring in Human Geography. He is also in a noise pop band called Prime Junk with his partner, Natalie. His setup often consists of an electric guitar plugged into Casio SK-1, which is a small, lo-fi sampling keyboard from the 1980s that was primarily marketed as a children’s toy during its initial release. Since the 1990s, the instrument has become popular within certain experimental music circles.
He also often incorporates a wide array of distorted samples from old cassettes into his performances; ranging from The Beach Boys to country and folk music.

As opposed to many other improvised bands, where live performances often come across as various moving pieces operating independently of each other, Ryan notes that there is a distinct “blend” to the band’s sound. By the end of each show, it is often hard for him to tell which sounds he has made as opposed to which sounds have been made by the band’s other members.

Almost as important as the final product of a Perkolator show is the process that leads up to it. This is one that includes emotional expression, collaboration, and a wide rage of artistic creativity among its members.

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