By Cole Young
VANCOUVER – Bend Sinister have been cranking out honest rock ‘n’ roll records for so long that flip phones were the hot new thing when the Vancouver band launched their now 18-year-long career. With their 10th album, Foolish Games, due out this month on Cordova Bay Records, Bend Sinister are proving they’ve still got the momentum and aren’t planning to phone it in any time soon. That is, if you don’t count the fact that the music video for the first single off their new album was recorded on an iPhone. Vocalist/guitarist Dan Moxon and bassist/vocalist Matt Rhode sat down with BeatRoute to chat about the evolution of the band and some of their fondest memories together as a group.
Eighteen years ago, Bend Sinister started with a distinct plan for a sound that has evolved beyond their initial blueprint. When the band was starting out, Moxon describes that Bend Sinister wanted to sound “metal without being metal,” a perfect descriptor for the garagey keyboard laden math-rock that defined their earlier records. Refusing to be repetitive or stagnant, the band slowly developed their sound to be more anthemic and pop influenced, drawing inspiration from bands like Queen, Supertramp and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Although Bend Sinister now have a much more polished sound, they’re still in tune with the DIY approach to their music. Rhodes cites their latest music video for the track “Shannon” as an example of their hands-on approach. The band filmed it in their jam space using only an iPhone X as the de facto camera. This isn’t the first time their iPhones have been the main tool used to make their music videos, though you wouldn’t have guessed it by their consistently stellar quality.
One would expect that after nearly two decades as a band it would get harder to keep writing quality songs, but Moxon has an interesting take on this topic. “Basically as you get older you have to carve out the time to put towards songwriting. Once you get there though, for me, it just flows really easy. You can write a song in a couple hours if you put your mind to it,” he explains. “Every band or songwriter has their own way of writing and developing songs, you got to do whatever works for you.” Moxon goes on to describe Bend Sinister’s songwriting tradition which involves band members sojourning to Lighthouse Park with some doobies, snacks and rough demo recordings on their phones (there they are again!). In about three hours time, the band will be able to write at least one new song in this relaxed environment.
Foolish Games is a tightly executed 10-track banger. With their first driving single, “Shannon,” to the building and anthemic “Got Your Back,” to the danceable title track, this honest LP has something for all rock fans. At 36 minutes in length, Foolish Games is a quick ripper of an album designed to leave the listener wanting more.
Besides putting out an astounding amount of quality albums and EPs over the years, Bend Sinister has been a very hard-working touring act. “We’ve probably toured Canada more than most bands out there,” says Rhodes. “There were several years there where we were touring six to seven months out of the year consistently. When you finally get home it’s like you almost forgot what home is.”
From literally running into Metallica backstage once to Moxon playing solo Rush covers while Rush watched from the front row of a gig, Bend Sinister are not short on tales from the road. Moxon and Rhodes agree though that the personal encounters they’ve had with folks across the country and around the globe have been the most rewarding experiences. “You don’t need to be making it huge in the States,” Moxon explains. “To get the chance to go to a place like Bella Coola or some other small town where the community brings you in and you get to be these rock stars for the weekend; it’s a lot of fun to be put into these scenarios and get to hang out with people and be invited into their homes and to their parties.”
Bend Sinister perform July 1 at David Lam Park as part of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and on July 28 at Celebration of Light.Bend Sinister