by Johnny Papan
SURREY – Pointed Sticks were the punk-rock indie-darlings of 1970s Vancouver. Coming up the same stream with groups like Subhumans, U-J3RKS and the infamously reckless D.O.A., Pointed Sticks’ power-poppy blend of punk and new-wave hoisted them in a popular limelight during their short tenure from 1978 to 1981. Their debut record, Perfect Youth, was one of the first albums to ever be produced by the legendary Bob Rock and is considered a classic in the Vancouver scene. The band reformed in 2006 and will finally be making their return to Surrey, performing at the recently renovated Byrd Sonic Show-Lounge this Friday. It will be their first time in the city in nearly 40 years.
“The last time we were in Surrey we played at a place called the Scottsdale Inn on 120th Street,” says frontman Nick Jones. “That would have been in 1979 maybe, it was all bar bands at that time. There would have been a lot of gibbers at the show. A lot of Surrey boys with feather haircuts and, yaknow, not really ready for Vancouver punk rockers at the time,” Jones chuckles. “So yeah, it was a little tense, but all their girlfriends liked us. If you get the girls first, the boys will follow, definitely. It’s a good motto for any band.”
“Marching Song,” the opening tune on Perfect Youth was also the first track featured on the infamous 1979 LP entitled Vancouver Complication, a staple in our local punk-rock history. The cut featured some of the most notable Vancouver punk-rock talent of that era.
“Vancouver was pretty much a frontier town at that point, it wasn’t a big city like it is now,” Jones recalls. “We had the game all to ourselves, it was amazing. It was a great time to be young, and a great time to be in a band. We could live cheap in great places, we gigged all the time. You could rent the floor of a warehouse for $100 dollars a month to practice in, and the sense of community was unbelievable. It was a really special time, I don’t know if there’s been a scene like that in Vancouver since then.”
Influenced by acts such as the Buzzcocks, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and David Bowie, Pointed Sticks were fine-tuned with speedy riffs and catchy melodies. Since getting back together in 2006, the group released two albums: Three Lefts Make a Right in 2009 and Pointed Sticks in 2015. The albums have showcased the bands evolution from a manic punk group to more of a rock n’ roll band.
“I think when you’re young there’s a lot of emotion, energy, anger and things you have to try and express. As you get older the groove sort of becomes more important,” Jones explains.
Despite the great memories of his youth, Jones can’t help but sympathize with the local artists of today’s music industry.
“I think one of the main problems for artists is that everything is so expensive now. Back then you could spend $100 bucks a month for a space and you get to play whenever you wanted for how long you wanted. Now rehearsal spaces are $20 an hour and you bring your gear, you pack it up and you unpack it. It puts a lot of pressure on you when you’re there when you’re paying for that time instead of just having that freedom to create and not have to think about money.” Jones continues: “Bands also don’t get to play live as much. We used to play every week back then, and sometimes even more times a week. It was a lot easier to make music your life I think. Now, it almost has to be a hobby for most people. That’s sad to me that they don’t have the same kind of freedom. Life was just a little bit cheaper and just a little less complicated for kids back then.”
The local scene isn’t all that has taken a bit of a slap in recent years. Jones believes the addition of social media and streaming services into our lives has become more of a detriment to the industry as a whole. The ability to see live videos of any artist repeatedly on YouTube has mostly stricken the viscerality of the live-music experience, resulting in a chop of attendance that is increasingly declining. This isn’t the only issue.
“Contemporary pop has become more of a soundtrack for everyday life. People don’t address music specifically the same way they did before social media and things like that. Before, your interaction with music was all you were doing. When you were listening to music, you were only listening to music. You weren’t listening to music and doing 10 other things at the same time. The relationship between music and human beings is not as personal, and that’s why people’s standards have slipped in what they kind of accept. It’s also been proven over and over again that if you subject people to something often enough, the repetition part of it gets ingrained in people’s brains. If you hear ‘She’s a Dirty Ho’ by Nicki Minaj enough times, eventually you’ll start to sing it to yourself in your head whether you want to or not. So yeah, brainwashing definitely plays a part in it.”
Not all hope is lost. Though the rock and roll scene has felt decaying over the last several years with a lack of guitar-bands hitting the mainstream market, lots of talent has been developing underground. Is there potential for a punk-rock resurgence? It’s slim, but only time can tell. Jones states that bringing some old-school mentalities can breathe fresh air into developing artists of the modern generation.
“Just try to play as much as you can. Try to organize as many gigs with your friends as you can. Basement gigs, house parties, any kind of gigs you can do, play as often as you can.”
In terms of the Pointed Sticks’ upcoming show and what the city of Surrey should expect, Jones concludes: “We’re playing two sets. New songs, old songs, cover songs, all kinds of things. I think at heart, more than anything else, we’re kinda like a dance band. People like to dance when they come to our shows. So if we play two sets I’m hoping that’s what’s gonna happen. I’m hoping instead of people just standing there watching us play, they’re gonna be dancing around.”
Pointed Sticks plays the Byrd Sonic Show-Lounge on Friday, March 23.