By Jackie Klapak
CALGARY — Everyone remembers their first Napalmpom show: the energy that lit up the room while watching these five affable guys collapse and spit beer on each other, all while playing electrifying, Thin Lizzy-reminiscent guitars riffs that brought out the professional air guitarist in you. It’s been a wild ride for the guys of Napalmpom since their first album dropped in the fall of 2014, and now two and a half years later they drop their newest album, The Core Competencies of Napalmpom.
Working on this album since the drop of their first, The Unconditional Love of Napalmpom, the guys have been working hard at trying to advance their sound, make it more colourful, sing louder and prouder, but still not be taken too seriously. “After we completed the first album we just kind of thought to ourselves, ‘hey we can actually do this,’” says guitarist Shawn Petsche.
Taking the leap from “Feint of Heart,” the rock and roll ballad from the first album, the band agrees it was that song which has inspired and encouraged the sound for the new album. Proving they’ve got more going on than just great guitar solos, the newest album from the band features a more prominent rhythm section (Ian Baker on bass and Matthew Bayliff on drums), complementing guitars (Petsche and Craig Evans), and lyrics written primarily by sweetheart vocalist P.J. Lavergne, who joined the band halfway through writing the first album.
Becoming more confident as a band, the guys collectively agree this album is a massive improvement from the last. Describing it as more of a pop album, Napalmpom believes the musical advancements they’ve made as a band have given them more space. Everything has its place, and there is no self-indulgence. Together, they also agree the biggest difference and improvement this time around is Lavergne’s vocals, his confidence and addition to the song writing process. “I like pop songs,” says Lavergne, “I write what I want to write about, in a simple way that’s fun to perform and listen to.”
Thematically differing from the last album, which featured numerous anthems dedicated to drinking and party nights, the newest album gives tribute to the last two years of life. With numbers inspired by love and heartbreak, old friends and new, and weird experiences uncommon even in the life of a rock and roller – this album brings together the perfect summary of life and love in the city.
Starting to create sketches of new songs, the goal this year for Napalmpom is the same as it’s always been: create a great collection of songs. With multiple upcoming shows, desires to travel, and a cheeky mission to win the Polaris Music Prize (they have a Polaris Prize Victory Lap Tour planned for April, two months before the prize’s longlist is even announced), the five guys aren’t slowing down now.
“There are people who are seeking a rush in life. For me, it’s writing a song and banging my head against the wall till it’s right,” says Petsche. “It’s a really frustrating process, but really satisfying when you hit replay and it sounds like how you want it to be.”
With new songs off the album that have been played live for a while, and some yet to be performed on stage, the guys are both excited and anxious to play them for the first time. “Songs transition different from a recorded sound to playing live. Some of these songs might benefit from presentation, but some might not; the new stuff is a little more orchestrated,” says Evans. “We’ll turn up the guitar amps and kick it out, but these songs might need some tinkering on stage.”
Overall, the guys are just doing what they love to do, and learning and growing along the way. Continuing to connect with audiences through the sweet relief of rock and roll, Napalmpom’s newest will surely bring out the best of you and put a smile on your face.
The Core Competencies of Napalmpom is out February 24th. Celebrate with the band in Calgary at The Palomino that same day, and in Edmonton at The Buckingham on the 25th.AB, Alberta, Buckingham, Napalmpom, Palomino, The Core Competencies of Napalmpom