By Courtney Faulkner
LETHBRIDGE — Is everything a bummer?
“Always,” says Arnaud Sparks, guitarist, vocalist and catalyst of the group Bummer Club, while laughing. It’s easy to see that this running joke is a play on perception, and once you do you join the club.
“It’s almost like it’s a failsafe,” says Brittney Ruston, who joined the band last summer as a guitarist and vocalist, and has made a considerable impact on the evolution of their sound, now co-writing the songs with Sparks. “You can get away with doing anything…if it’s bad, it’s a bummer, if it’s not, then it’s just funny, so no matter what you’re in the clear.”
“You can be sloppy, you can have a bad show, and then it’s this conceptual piece, ‘Oh it was just a bummer, it was a bummer the whole time, it was a bummer for you, it was a bummer for me, everyone had a bad time, it was great.’ And then if it isn’t, then people are like, ‘Oh you guys are called Bummer Club, but you aren’t sad and terrible.'”
“The sloppiness, the ‘What are we doing next?’ That helps us,” says Sparks.
“Even when we’re tight, it still has that element of nobody really knows what’s coming next, which is fun,” says Ruston. “It’s fun to surprise yourself.”
The band is rounded out by a solid rhythm section, with Jon Chapman on drums and Connor HD playing bass, allowing more experimentation to take place.
“As a game with myself, I asked myself what could I get away with,” says HD. “As the dynamic and the relationship grew with the band, we’re able to read each other a little bit better. Jon and I have a really good relationship in the rhythm band, so often we’re nodding to each other and making inside jokes during songs.”
There’s a balance between the four, and push and pull between the alternating dynamics that’s creates an interesting equilibrium.
“You can see it even in what we wear on stage,” says Ruston. “Arnaud and i have committed to this bummer, all black, we’re going to be melancholy, and then Conner and Jon are like, we’ve got our colourful board shorts and our print T-shirts and our hats.”
The four can create a range of sounds, anything from loud, screaming, post-punk, to a more delicate drone-folk, centered on minimalist, cryptic lyrics.
“‘Colours is about the end of the world…colours are swirling out of everything, and that’s what’s ending the world,” says Sparks. “But you’re fine with the world ending.”
“I spent eight hours mixing that song this week, and I didn’t even know that,” says HD.
The songwriting has moved towards an abstraction since Sparks and Ruston began collaborating.
“It’s less direct experience driven and more here’s an idea, and how can we show this idea…and sometimes it’s more how can we hide this idea,” says Ruston. “A lot of it was cutting those words out. So instead of using ten words to say this one thing, we’ll only use two or three.”
Bummer Club, who you may have seen play at Calgary’s BIG Winter Classic recently, are kicking off a 10-day tour starting on Thursday, February 16th with Swim, WINT, Bubblewrap, and The FAPS at The Slice in Lethbridge. On Friday the 17th they’ll play with Manaray and Time Boy at Tubby Dog in Calgary, and Saturday the 18th with Power Buddies, l.n. baba, Brunch Club, and Trampoline at The Sewing Machine Factory in Edmonton. The tour continues into B.C., with stops in Abbotsford, Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna.
“Bummer Club really facilitates not being perfect all the time, because it’s in those moments that you’re not perfect that you get that cool stuff,” says Ruston. “That’s what we’re feeding off of.”
Listen to Bummer Club’s “Live @ CJSW” compilation on Bandcamp, and search “Bummer Club Winter Tour” on Facebook for a full list of tour dates.AB, Alberta, Bummer Club, Sewing Machine Factory, The Slice, Tubby Dog