By Julijana Capone
CALGARY — When we last heard from Winnipeg slack punks The Zorgs, they were readying to make their live debut at the 2015 instalment of Sled Island, and still in the midst of promoting a three-track cassette, called Stop The World. Now, the trio’s first full-length, Chew On It, is ready for release through Transistor 66, and they’re hitting the road with dates across Western Canada.
“It’s our first real tour and third unreal tour,” says bassist/vocalist Dave Skene, referring to the house shows and impromptu gigs they’ve hooked up in the past while travelling.
Recorded at Collector Studio (The Thrashers, Surprise Party), the new album picks up where 2014’s Stop The World left off, featuring nine snotty, hip-shaking punk cuts drenched in surf instrumentals, spy film-inspired vibes, and LOL-inducing lyricism.
Take for instance, the track “Uptight Rhythm,” where the spastic vocal stutters of guitarist/vocalist Taylor Burgess are interspersed with vomiting guitar wigouts and some amusing call and response lines between him and drummer/vocalist Steph Kolbuck that ask, “What’s up your butt?” to the reply, “Victorian Era.”
“That was sort of inspired by The Courtneys song ‘Manion,’ but it’s also a nod to The Fall,” says Burgess. “It’s kind of absurd. The song is about being in your own head and doing whatever you can to get out of it.”
The record’s first single, “I’m Sick,” is another standout that Skene describes as “a blues song that isn’t played like a blues song,” and a tune that quite literally became a self-fulfilling prophecy for Burgess.
“I would get sick after writing the song,” he says. “It’s like I wrote myself into bed.”
Kolbuck, the shyer member of The Zorgs—whose onstage persona is a stark contrast—puts her own mark on tracks, like the garage-pop gem “Cruisin,’” and James Bond-inflected “Moneypenny,” adding a little sexuality and sass with her vocal coos.
“She always threatens us when we’re not working hard enough that she’s going to leave us and join a band called the McGillivray Boys—a solo band, btw—and tells us how popular they’re gonna be,” says Skene.
Skene, the thespian Zorg, inserts a bit of his acting chops on the closing rock ‘n’ roll monologue, “Prophesies,” inspired by the on-air personalities of Winnipeg’s extremely bizarro cable access shows of the ‘80s and ‘90s (See: Survival!).
“It’s an eye-witness account of an experience that hasn’t happened yet,” Skene says. “It’s like the apocalypse has already come and I’m giving tips on how to survive the cataclysm…that’s more of an acting performance than a real song.”
With their pogo-worthy rhythms, in-jokes and absurd humour, the threesome’s approach to songwriting is built around a desire to defy classification.
“We’ll take a certain semantic or stylistic direction on a song and then look elsewhere for inspiration,” says Burgess about their process.
“This album’s recipe is to take a little bit of post-punk, take a little bit of punk rock, put a little bit of surf in the pot and then finish in the oven,” says Skene. “The next album might be a little bit different, maybe a little bit of country music and you mix it with a little bit of polka or whatever.”
We can’t wait to hear that.
The Zorgs perform at Broken City on April 15 (Calgary), Bohemia on April 16 (Edmonton) and The Black Lab on April 18 (Vancouver). Chew On It is out now via Transistor 66.AB, Alberta, BC, Bohemia, British Columbia, Broken City, Manitoba, MB, The Black Lab, The Zorgs