Sled Island returns after last year’s apocalyptic deluge wreaked havoc on Calgary and the festival. Out of the chaos, makeshift shows were quickly organized in Calgary and in Edmonton, where they called it Shred Island and showed how our Albertan can-do, will-party attitude goes into full effect even in the face of the craziest situations. This year, Team BeatRoute Edmonton asked some of Edmonton’s Sled Island acts about their past experiences, advice for attending and about playing this year’s Sled Island. The old days are played out. These days, we shred and transcend the Calgary/Edmonton rivalry of our parents’ generation.
BeatRoute: Who are you? What type of band/artist are you? Describe yourself/yourselves.
Slates: We are Slates. We play rock and roll music.
The Betrayers: The Betrayers. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band! Just really primitive stuff, a bit of psychedelia and some ye ye and R&B and garage rock all mixed up together. For fans of ‘60s pop, early punk, paisley underground, you know… the good stuff.
Diamond Mind: Diamond Mind is a four-pronged divining rod oscillating in many directions, seeking a potable source of pure underground pop.
Stepmothers: I am Troy, from the band Stepmothers, we play punk infused rock and roll, I guess you could say. We have been a band for about two years now.
Brazilian Money: My name is Garrett Johnson, a serious recording artist, founder of Brazilian Money, the live band who are friends who don’t hate each other.
Doug Hoyer: I play indie pop, sometimes leaning towards some tropical vibes, sometimes I rock out a bit more. I just write and sing about things that are on my mind, little things that I notice along my way in life.
Jom Comyn: I will be playing with my lovely band — Jessica Jalbert, Renny Wilson and Tom Murray.
Lad Mags: The Lad Mags are a five piece psych-soul-garage outfit out of Edmonton, Alberta. We are heavily influenced by ‘60s girl groups, scuzzy garage punk, surf, soul and I’m pretty sure there is a bit of shoegaze in there, too.
PostNamers: My name is Matthew A. Wilkinson. I am the inner head of The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). My concerts are a front for making and maintaining contacts with local representatives of Maurice Strong, Power Corporation of Canada, the Desmarais family, and what remains of the Reinhard Gehlen spy ring. Obviously, I can’t discuss this in much depth. Musically, POSTNAMERS is an atheist-mystic-junky invasion of Catholicism, Pentecostalism and Witch House music. Left Hand Path Pop songs.
Renny Wilson: I am a solo artist who plays with a familiar bunch of folks. I make “pop” music. Every few shows, I like to drastically change up my approach to the set. Usually, it means a costume switch-up, or me playing a different instrument. This time, I decided to flip it on its head, keep it interesting: new song, set and sound and yeah, essentially no similarity whatsoever.
Tee Tahs: We are Tee-Tahs. Punk band. We’re a band of buddies.
BEN DISASTER: We are Ben, He is Disaster. Dis-functional artists/dis-satisfied band.
BR: If Sled Island was a Jeopardy answer, what would the question be?
Slates: No idea, but we’ll make it a true daily double.
Stepmothers: What is: A super fun week with your best buds, getting wasted and watching the best bands?
Diamond Mind: Pitchfork Media once said of this Canadian festival: “It could only sound funner if it were called ‘Pizza Island.’” I can’t find the exact quote, but it’s true.
Lad Mags: How did I lose my voice, my pants, my tuner pedal and my mind all in one weekend?
Renny Wilson: How are Jeopardy questions posed again? C for 10 billion dollars!
Doug Hoyer: This aural archipelago thrills listeners by housing many inventive, fun, and exciting migratory musical acts from all over Canada and around the world.
BEN DISASTER: What is Most Tubby Dogs consumed in a weekend?
BR: What can Sled Island goers expect from your show? Any special things planned for your set? Tell us why people should check you out.
Diamond Mind: Although there will mostly be brand new ears hearing us, we’re constantly cooking up new arrangements and interludes for the tunes in our repertoire. If it looks like we’re a) navigating an asteroid belt and b) having fun, then it’s probably something we wrote two hours before the show. We also unfurl strange covers (Sade, Philip Glass and Link Wray), smash our shit up and make out. I don’t know what more you want!
Stepmothers: We try to put it all out there every time we play. We’re told we are really loud, we try and play with as much energy and heart as possible. Super sweaty, super fun? If you like loud anthemic rock and roll, hopefully you’ll find what you were looking for at our show.
Brazilian Money: Two drummers! New ones! Jenni and Renny! That’s special. I guess check it out because we’re going to rock. Maybe we’ll play a Weezer cover, or the James Bond theme. People like covers.
Lad Mags: We have some new songs that we are really excited about that will be going into people’s earholes for the first time at Sled Island this year. We have some new merch too, although we almost always forget to tell people about that at shows. Our Sled Island show last year ended up being a total ripper. We opened for Burnt Ones and we played with our band soulmates, Betrayers, as well. I think the Palomino was one of the last venues that wasn’t yet flooded, so it was really packed and, because the weather outside seemed utterly apocalyptic, everyone was kind of wild-eyed. Obviously, I hope nothing like that ever happens to Calgary or to Sled Island ever again, but I would really love another night of total gonzo party magic this year.
PostNamers: There will be speaking in tongues, sex magick, outfits and make-up worth gawking at and it’s my first time playing with a band: God The Father (David Ferris) on percussion and laptop, and God The Holy Spirit (Mary Wood) adding synth and spooky lady-voice textures. Also, during our final song, mescaline pills will fall from the ceiling like manna from heaven. Say no to drugs.
Tee Tahs: Special because we are so deep and yet so fun. You can expect the best quickie of the season.
Renny Wilson: Well, it’s going to be one of the last times (if not the last time) I perform with my current band. It’s a dang good sounding band. I’m going to be playing guitar (I think), which is strange for me, although it’s the obvious choice of instrument for any band-leading solo musician, I don’t think I’ve ever really played one in any iteration of my band before.
BEN DISASTER: A huge Elephant in the room. Spots lots of spots. Check us out to tell your kids what not to grow up to be.
BR: What band are you most excited to check out at Sled this year?
Betrayers: Everyone! We’re especially lookin’ forward to La Luz, Spiritualized, Bass Drum of Death, the Fresh & Onlys, and the B-Lines.
Diamond Mind: Well, St. Vincent is an undeniable favourite and a mistake to miss, Julianna Barwick is fascinating, Calgary’s own Kris Ellestad is too good to ever miss.
Renny Wilson: Booing St. Vincent.
Brazilian Money: Probably most excited to see Un Blonde and also see what Freak Heat Waves and Each Other is up to these days.
Doug Hoyer: Where do I start? I’m a St. Vincent fan boy and I didn’t think that I’d get a chance to see her play any time soon, so I’m super excited to see her this year. Joel Plaskett puts on a great live show that I always love seeing, so he’s a shoe-in. I’m also looking forward to hopefully catching Stefana Fratila (I saw her play when she was like 17 in 2008), Jon McKiel, Quaker Parents, Crosss and Royal Canoe’s irresistibly moving live show would be great to see.
Jom Comyn: St. Vincent.
Lad Mags: La Luz are the queens of my heart at the moment. Shannon and the Clams and Hunx and his Punx will be amazing. I was pretty excited about seeing the Julie Ruin and trying to make Kathleen Hanna be my best friend, but sadly that will have to wait until another time. (We’re all sending that lady our best.)
PostNamers: Natasha Kmeto, whose record, Crisis, is a big deal for me, and Chelsea Wolfe, whose track, “The Warden,” I’ve been listening to once a day for half a year. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m pretty confident it’s a perfect pop song.
Renny Wilson: I’m pretty sure I play in them all. Jokes aside, definitely cop the Betrayers, and my boy Liam’s (formerly of my Sugarglider band) nü band, Diamond Mind. Also, Tee Tahs. I play in this band but [am] not “really” creatively involved, please check this band out.
BR: If you have attended OR played Sled Island before, what was a favourite moment for you?
Slates: Yep! So many great shows — Reigning Sound/Obits/Breeders/Biz Markie — running from venue to venue and meeting up with pals from across the country.
Betrayers: Oh man, there are so many. The year before last was pretty special and just the sheer chaos of the 2013 festival was quite memorable. A lesser city would have crumbled into some dystopian Mad Max-type shit, so it was cool to see everyone looking out for one another in Calgary. What a classy town!
Diamond Mind: Though not necessarily favourite, some very fond memories are: playing sweaty, shirtless disco to a packed Tubby Dog audience, making toddlers bop at Market Collective, having a house show be busted up by the cops, telling us to get the hell out before the whole place floods (not so fond, that last one actually).
Stepmothers: Well this will be my third year attending the festival, and my “second” time playing. Although last year we were slotted to play the Friday night until all that stuff happened and didn’t end up playing. But one of the highlights from last year was seeing OFF! at the House of Vans, as well as Glitter, who played a super rowdy set. Another highlight (though not festival related) was sneaking into an abandoned movie theatre one night. But, those are the type of high jinks that you experience when roaming during Sled Island.
Brazilian Money: Favourite moment was being on mushrooms at this tikki hut-themed after hours venue trying to force myself to puke on a dirt mound for the laughter of a friend, listening to Sans Aids play. It really revealed the absurdity of life. Or riding bikes through three-foot puddles last year.
Doug Hoyer: My favourite moment would be seeing Gobble Gobble at Tubby Dog. The energy at the show was amazing and things were falling off the walls. Their set felt like a very special moment. I also remember being super relaxed when watching Jose Gonzalez. I mostly looked up at the sky and just soaked in his hypnotic playing and calming vocals. Jonathan Richman played later that night which was so fun, too.
Jom Comyn: Actually some of my favourite concert experiences have been at Sled. Constantines, Deerhoof and Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter, Mogwai. I actually drank Mogwai’s beer. Two of them gave me and my friend their beers because the guy from Azeda Booth bought them beers, but they didn’t want it. I didn’t recognize them, but I could tell from their accents they were from Scotland, so I asked them if they came all this way to see Mogwai, and they just looked at me like I was an idiot and walked away, haha.
Lad Mags: Eating BBQ with Wire at Palomino a few years ago was sort of an all-time life highlight. There have been so many brain-melting shows that it is kind of hard to narrow it down. Nardwuar and Andrew WK at the Ship & Anchor was some of the most amazing audience-dazzling I have ever seen. And the Blind Shake. God. I am so happy they are regulars to this festival now. That band is so good that they make me feel crazy. Watching people come together and tough it out after the flood (with the house shows in Calgary and with Shred Island in Edmonton) really highlighted how lucky we are to have the scene and the people we do out here.
PostNamers: I was invited to play Sled last year, but was unable to perform due to Noah’s flood. My favourite moment before the total destruction of humanity were seeing TAIWAN play a mind-bending set to a mostly-empty room. It seemed fitting for the best band in Canada.
Renny Wilson: The very first day I’d ever sold my own music in a physical format (like, ever in my life) was the first day of Sled Island in 2012. I had 50 copies of my Sugarglider on cassette, and I made it a priority to sell them all by the end of the day. I accomplished this, starting with Ryan Bourne (of Holgans, Extra Happy Ghost, Devonian Gardens) in the Palomino parking lot. ALSO: Right before the city flooded last year, I saw Jon Spencer at the Legion. The year before, I saw Reigning Sound there. All my teenage heroes play the Legion.
Tee Tahs: Attended Sled before, mostly to be cool and get laid. Prince Rama 2012, the general solidarity of 2013. Feeling like my ribs were gonna vibrate into dust from the pipe organ drones of Tim Hecker, 2012.
BR: What advice would you give to someone popping their Sled Island cherry? (Attending or playing their first Sled Island.)
The Betrayers: Drink lots of water. Have a Tubby Dog every day. No shots after midnight. Keep all the promises you make when drunk (it’ll teach you to keep your big mouth shut).
Diamond Mind: Make sure that after party you’re headed to isn’t a basement full of stoned teens playing half-baked reggae! Also, buy a wristband and do as much as possible, big and small shows.
Tee Tahs: Leep your cool and party on. Cum 2 our show. Don’t get seconds at Tubby Dog, even if it’s free.
Renny Wilson : Just fockin Giv’ r.
BEN DISASTER: Follow your nose. The stinkier the crowd, the better the show.
BR: Are there any bands or artists that you secretly hope catch your set at Sled Island? (It won’t be a secret now.)
The Betrayers: Mostly, we hope to see the friends we’ve made from playin’ in bands over the years. We’re heading out on tour with the Backhomes right after the festival and we can’t wait to catch up with those rascals. We met Swami John Reis a couple of years back when he was here with the Hot Snakes and that guy is the new king of rock ‘n’ roll. He makes Elvis Presley look like Barry Manilow, y’know? It would be pretty cool to see him at our show.
Diamond Mind: I hope Neko Case does and shows us pictures of her dogs and horses after the show.
Stepmothers: Haha, maybe St. Vincent or something. I would love to meet her because she is a very attractive lady.
BEN DISASTER: Forgotten Rebels.
BR: What did you think of last year’s Shred Island?
The Betrayers: It was awesome. Seeing everyone come together like that, basically organizing an entire festival in a fucking afternoon, it was bonkers. We’ve got a lot of true believers in this town and everyone did their part whether it was throwing a show or lending out gear or having bands crash in their living rooms… We’re always proud to represent Edmonton, but it really meant something that weekend.
Diamond Mind: Speaking only for myself, I had so much (too much) fun last year so as not to necessitate any kind of “consolation prize,” but it was a such a welcome way to see any band who got screwed out of a set and to kind of get a head count after the flood to make sure everyone made it out.
BR: If you were stranded on a Sled Island, what three things would you bring?
Diamond Mind: One bourbon, one scotch and one beer.
Stepmothers: Beer, smokes, guitars.
Lad Mags: Ibuprofen, Dexedrine and lipstick.
BEN DISASTER: A water purifier, Tanning lotion and a box of matches.
By Levi Manchak and Jenna Lee WilliamsAB, Alberta, Featured, Sled Island