Fashionism: Vancouver’s Mod Squad — a sharp, smart, break out

Wednesday 26th, April 2017 / 22:23
By B. Simm

CALGARY – Featuring an all-star cast from some of Vancouver’s best rock ‘n’ rolls acts including the Tranzmitors, The Jolts, New Town Animals and Orange Kyte, Fashionism is a wildly creative and radically fun glam-punk outfit that guitarist Josh Nickel is more than fond to provide the details of…

Fashionism? Fashion fascists? Fashionistas? Some people might tag you as a Mod revival band, but any smart Mod will tell you that their lock down on style never went out of fashion… Mod is the future for evermore! What’s your take on that?

JOSH: Sharp dressing is never out of style and the Mod style lasted for a reason. As far as our band style we were just looking at all these old bands that had a specific look that was tied to their subculture. Like when punks were punks and Two-Tone was an actual thing with history and rules and not just a tag to sell Fred Perrys and Shermans. Subculture gave an identity and a space to people that were disenfranchised or looking for some sense of belonging. It had strict rules because it had to. These days it costs a lot of money to pay attention to those rules. It’s one of the many reasons we’ll be elbowing our way past you in the thrift stores as well as the record stores. It’s not just a game to us. We were kicking around names that would help define an aesthetic rather than just be a throwaway name. Jeff was studying history in College and working as a tailor at the time and we all joked about how the name was really cheeky sounding. Like we didn’t want to be thought of as lazy, thrown together kind of group, we try to pay attention to detail and wear our influences proudly. I think the people that are searching for that stuff can pick it out and appreciate it.

Indeed, there’s a lot going in the band’s sound, a lot of deep roots… Caribbean dancehall, ska, punk, the Specials, the Jam, Northern Soul, Brill Building., even Mott the Hoople. Not anything in particular, but a melting pot of style, sound and ideas. How would you describe Fashionism’s music here and now?

JOSH: I never thought the first thing to come out as far as comparisons would be dancehall and ska but I’ll take it. When we first started we had a definitive approach to play early ‘70s Glam and ‘60s Bubblegum. It didn’t work out. Our record collections are way too apparent in our playing and though we have lots of Mud, Sweet and 1910 Fruitgum Company records but we also have thousands of punk singles from ‘76 to ’83. The glory years of the “new wave” in all of its forms straight through to hardcore punk. It’s what we learned to play our instruments to and anything that we do is going to be influenced by the same. We’re all big record idiots so delving into the sounds that influenced that stuff is a big part of it as well. I think that we come across as an apprehensive, 2017 powerpop band that is critical of the trade off that relates to quality and sincerity for the immediacy of modern convenience and throwaway culture.

This band is about having fun, seizing the moment, breaking out, bending the rules, and defiance. Mods may conform to a certain look, but they don’t play the game. Songs like “We Got It Wrong,” “Smash the State,” “Subculture Suicide,” “Where Have All The Rock ‘n’ Roll Girls Gone”…  all your songs throw down the gauntlet, present a challenge the sterility of gentrification. I’d say Fashionism is radicalism.

JOSH: Yeah, I don’t know that we’re the most political band, but we try not to have the most vacant lyrics ALL of the time. I think we are a rock ‘n’ roll band that is in extremely scary times and it all relates back to what we’re playing. Some bands have a really severe political approach, especially when it relates to punk. One of the most amazing things to me is the Northern Ireland punk scene in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Civil unrest everywhere and it’s all so totally fractured, yet a bunch of teenagers come out playing pop music influenced by the New Wave and record some of the most timeless love songs ever. Like five kids record “Teenage Kicks” and meanwhile there are car bombs exploding on their streets and very real battle lines are being drawn everywhere. If we’re doing this properly, and I hope that we are, we can ride the balance between writing songs that are critical of the world around us while still taking into account that it is very important to make out with someone at the gig, to fall in love, to live for rock ‘n’ roll and play music that is based in desperation without being negative and foreboding. Sincerity is everything. Without it, what’s the point?

Fashionism play April 28 at the Palomino (Calgary).