In London Ontario, at the Winter Spectacular Festival IV (Dec. 2017), on a cold night of blowing snow and freezing wind, the Toronto-based shamanic beat group DOOMSQUAD quickly turned up the heat and transformed the now legendary Vibrafusion Lab into a spellbinding site of rhythm and sound (full review). This May 27th, the trio is set to return to London Ontario and perform at Grickle Grass; the community-inspiring and fund-raising festival that incorporates family programming and music in order to celebrate healthy and sustainable living.
As the excitement grows in anticipation for the festival, I caught up with Trevor Blumas (one of the three London, ON raised, siblings and DOOMSQUAD members) in an interview for Indie Underground to clearly capture and release all the reasons why you need to experience their performance in person.
DOOMSQUAD’s live performance is an awe-inspiring collection of world music, electronic experimentation, and cosmic meaning that is wholly danceable and captivating. Their dark side, the ‘doom’, was surprisingly inspired by their early days as a group that played happy Christian folk songs with the intent to add subversive pagan and satanic elements. Read more about how the group’s sound has changed as well as a live performance video lower in the interview.
The most important element to DOOMSQUAD’s current sound is the state of nature from which the instrumentation flows. It is a meditative treasure. Since the successful release of ‘Kalaboogie’ the group has been experimenting with an eclectic mix of world music, indigenous rhythms, and natural sounds. The vocal layers range from whispered enchantments in ‘Ovoo’, hysterical yells ‘It’s the Nail that Counts not the Rope’, and muffled clips in the recently released ‘Sun. March 1st 2015: Snow falls on Manzano’.
The group has worked together for several years now and most of their released music is the result of serious meditative study. Their most recent release is ‘Spandrels Sessions Vol. 1: Unconscious Transmissions from the Manzano Mountains’. This project is a series of ambient recordings meant to be a meditative mix. The word spandrel has two related meanings that capture a state of excess, being in-between, or left-over. In architecture, the word spandrel refers to the triangular spaces on the wall between an arch and the ceiling. In biology, a spandrel is a byproduct from the process of evolution. DOOMSQUAD describes the album as the consciousness of ‘Total Time’. You can watch a video created by Ghostprom for the Spandrels project below:
On Saturday May 27th, DOOMSQUAD, alongside other stunning, exciting, and experimental acts such as Hooded Fang (Toronto), Lonely Parade (Peterborough), Secret Sign (Toronto), and Zachary Grey (London ON), will play one of the most hype and new age events in London Ontario. Grickle Grass takes place at the Children’s Museum at 21 Wharncliffe Road South. Daytime programming begins at 10AM, and at 4PM the museum switches over to a fully licensed venue for the night. All joking aside, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss is a hard-hitting illustrated book with strong thematic images and messages for proper care of our environment and labour force and the natural guides like the Lorax who are their to defend and nurture the earth. With this same seriousness, the lineup for Grickle Grass 2017 is jam-packed with stellar creative personalities who have different stories and messages to spread through their artistic work.
Adam: From what I understand you are a siblings group – from Montreal, the band was created in Vancouver, and you’re currently based in Toronto. Correct me if I’m wrong, but some if not all of the band members were born in London Ontario? Can you describe what it’s like to have connections that spread from one side of the country to the other?
Trevor: Ya. We we’re all born and raised in London. Our parents still live here. We only all split up when we went to different universities across the country. Jaclyn in Vancouver, Allie in Montreal and Trevor in Toronto. The band was conceived and formed one summer in Vancouver when we gathered to spend time and visit and this musical thing just happen to be born out of that.
Adam: You’re set to play Grickle Grass in London Ontario this year and you’ve worked with the creators of Grickle before when you played Winter Spectacular last year. You’ve played London before and you’re set to play London again, what is it about this city that most excites you when you come to visit and work with Out of Sound Records? A favourite local hangout to get food or drink perhaps?
Trevor: Adam and Savannah and the whole Out of Sound crew have been so good to us in the past and we’ve become great pals with them over the years. We love the way they merge their creative efforts with strong social commitments in a unique way that seems both enormously fruitful for burgeoning London artists, but also, for London communities as a whole. Coming home to play is always a treat because London now seems much different than the London we knew growing up. There seems like new places opening all the time, so it’s just fun to explore and always feel pretty green in your hometown.
Adam: What artists are you excited to see at Grickle Grass and why?
Trevor: Well, always thrilled about Hooded Fang. They have a new album coming out that I’m actually currently listening to as I write this and it’s phenomenal. Also, I’ve only ever listened to Un Blonde‘s music so can’t wait to see how he interprets it live.
Adam: As a group with some radical experience creating music in Canada, playing alongside some fantastic up and coming artists, working with beautifully creative folks like Leon Taheny of Bruce Peninsula, signing with BELLA UNION and Hand Drawn Dracula. Given your experience and the stories or experiences of your friends and loved ones in the industry, what words of advice might you offer committed bands and artists living in London Ontario?
Trevor: Try and tour and get out on the road as much as possible. Establishing a network of friends in other towns and regions and diversifying your community is so essential. Not only does this help you become a more seasoned musician, but it exposes you to new sounds and new ideas and new players. Community is everything. Why not try and make it global? if you plan on travelling anyways, try and conceive how you can merge touring in your travel plans.
Adam: What is the ‘doom’ in DOOMSQUAD all about – what is the story or inspiration behind the naming of the group? And given your shift in genre from your first show in Vancouver how has that solidified or evolved in meaning?
Trevor: Well hmmm. I don’t think we were really thinking long term when we conceived the name. It was originally only related to this wacky little folk thing we did where we tried to make dark, subversive songs about paganism and satan underneath happy jubilant Christian folk tunes. It was supposed to end there. But the candle kept burning for us, so I guess we just kept the name because everything was still coming out of the same place of spirit and play.
Adam: Your most recent album ‘Total Time’ – it’s imaginative and strikes me, please forgive me if I have a problematic interpretation, as a collection deeply rooted in a physical immediacy but with a strong element of spiritual or psychedelic reaching out. 2016 was a tragic year on many fronts, but specifically, in the world of politics and popular culture, the hearts and minds of Canadians were shaken by many deaths and political changes across the border and across the Atlantic. Looking back on the release of ‘Total Time’ (April 2016), with tracks like ‘It’s the Nail That Counts, Not the Rope’ that express a certain growing anger and tracks like ‘Eat the Love’ with elements of entrancing sadness, did you experience any feelings of creative responsibility or imaginative sentiment for the world around you?
Trevor: We wrote part of the album in the summer of 2014, and the rest of it in deep seclusion in the mountains of New Mexico in the winter of 2015. So, long before we could have known what was looming ahead in 2016. And as political as we are, we really attempted to disconnect from exterior influences and current events and just channel whatever it was that was burning inside us in that moment. I guess it turned out that we were feeling these shifts and many of the songs on ‘Total Time’ deal with these cosmic changes and how our minds and bodies are attempting to adjust. We were trying to make something that wasn’t focus on the ‘now’ but instead trying to address the ‘always’. But ya, it was released in Spring 2016 and by the late fall of 2016, after touring it for almost a whole year, the songs did begin to feel immediately relevant and they sort of took on this whole new meaning. Context is everything I guess.
Check this out! DOOMSQUAD’s track, ‘Pyramids On Mars’ from ‘Total Time’ made Indie Underground’s ‘Best Songs of 2016’ Spotify Playlist!
Adam: DOOMSQUAD has done some extensive touring since the release of ‘Total Time’, what was that experience like – picking up your creative work and sharing it live with audiences in Europe, the States and the rest of Canada?
Trevor: We love touring. It’s always such a thrill. but by the end, as the weather shifted and wasn’t so friendly, it did start to really feel like the last legs of a grueling marathon.
Have a peak DOOMSQUAD performing ‘Apocalypso’ live from their 2015 album, ‘Pageantry Suite’ below.
Adam: Are there any particularly powerful memories from your travels? Or perhaps one overarching feeling towards the whole experience?
Trevor: Being on the road with Holy Fuck was a great time. Graham Walsh, who’s in the band, produced our album so we had already established quite a friendship and those guys are real veterans on the circuit, so just experiencing tour life through them was great.
Adam: Would you say that it’s important to tour out of your own country if you want to grow as a band?
Trevor: We’ve actually never toured Canada. We’ve toured the US and Europe numerous times, and can obviously vouch for the benefits of that, but we’d love to tour our own country some day.
Adam: We’re almost halfway through 2017. I know you are on the exciting lineup for Green Man Festival in the UK alongside acts The Shins, Angel Olsen, Timber Timbre among others. What other plans does the group have for this year (or the next for that matter, what’s the rush)? Any new music or projects you are particularly excited about?
Trevor: We’re actually going to be releasing a whole new collection of music very shortly. It’s not an album, but it’s certainly an album’s worth of original music. Stuff recorded during the same time we recorded ‘Total Time’ in New Mexico. Much more experimental. But like a companion piece, I guess. It’s called ‘Spandrels Sessions Vol. 1’.
Question 11 (Bonus Question):
Adam: If you had one song to sing at Karaoke, what song would it be?
Trevor: ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Micheal
If you go to Grickle Grass Festival 2017:
Price $25 (Get Tickets)
Saturday, May 27th
London Children’s Museum
21 Wharncliffe Road South
Grickle Grass Festival is London, Ontario’s most diverse and peculiar musical event – with a twist. The premise is as unlikely as it is awesome. Take ten spectacular bands from around the country, invite hundreds of curious guests, and bring them all to the wildest spaces in London, all miraculously contained under one dreamy roof: a forest, a space station, a construction site, a crowded supermarket, an arctic tundra, a mysterious cave, and a stage beneath the belly of a hanging whale skeleton. It sounds like a wild dream, and in a way it is – but it’s all real, loud, and spectacular, housed in the historical halls and weird rooms of the London Regional Children’s Museum.