I won't bore you with (too many of) the sordid details, but 2011 was a tumultuous, trying year for me, and this is a somewhat difficult thing for a man of my age to admit, but during that prolonged stretch of utter confusion, I turned to pop-punk for solace and salvation.
Pop-punk's magic mixture of dumbfuck hope, idiotic glee and stupid heartache, which attains stirring perfection every once in a while (Ramones, Screeching Weasel, Green Day, The Queers), aligned in sublime ways with the myriad silly and sad realities of life last year, and I was lucky enough to be bummed at a time when a slew of contemporary bands were making albums that could go toe to toe with the documents of suburban sadsackery that spun my head around as a dour teen.
Because what's more pathetic than a fully grown man using a scuffed copy of Dookie as caulk for a cracked soul, right? Okay, one could argue that turning Mean Jeans singles into reasons for living is sadder still, but whatever, times were tough, and I needed new tunes to mark the dread. And why would one want to argue anyway? Lemme get my kicks.
Anyway. So: It was Joyce Manor that saw me through; the Steve Adamyk Band that was by my side; Something Fierce that sang me to sleep; the Mean Jeans that kept the party going; Royal Headache that soundtracked drinking bouts; Barreracudas that gave me hope.
And it was the White Wires that drove with me. Whether slick and shot through with anticipation while cruising to a sweet assignation or wracked and bludgeoned by some shitty severance, I found just what my besieged brain needed in the White Wires' WWII, which nailed that tender, tiny, perfect part of humanness that gets sad when all signs point to happy and ecstatic when everything falls apart. I was a confused man, and the White Wires' power-pop-punk anthems spoke to me, filled my car with noise that knew just how I felt, got me from point A to point B and back again with some semblance of sanity intact.
The Ottawa trio's new album, WWIII, dials down the sun-bleached glee and focuses on the sad side of its peerless pop equation, which, it turns out, suits the White Wires. Or maybe it just suits me. I'm sad, okay? But I think a lot of you are sad, too, and the White Wires has crafted a wonderful document of longing and lovesickness, and it is the best thing they've ever done, and I think you need it like I need it.
But enough about me. I tossed a few questions to White Wires frontman Ian Manhire via email, and he was kind enough to hip me to a raft of Ottawa punk bands and clue me in on just how much fun touring with Mean Jeans can be, among other things.
While you're at it, listen to everything the White Wires has recorded here. It's all great.
WW: You toured Europe with Mean Jeans a couple years ago. How did you survive two weeks with those shameless revelers?
WW: We didn't just survive, we prospered. Touring with the Mean Jeans was incredible! We also like partying, a lot...especially with those guys! They are an inspiration!
Your past releases have contained equal parts sadsack solace and wide-eyed joy. But I feel like WWIII is the closest you've come to making a full-on heartbreak record. Did you go into the writing process thinking "okay, no beach songs on this one"?
Ha, that's a funny thought: 'No beach songs'. I dunno though, you're kinda right in a way too. This record is not as carefree as some of our other moments. Ken told me that his favourite 45 was the Pogo/Don't Call 45, and so we kinda took ourselves down that path a little further...which was the reminiscent reveling kinda theme. In that regard, I think it comes off honestly for us; we've been doing this all along. It's not pretentious, and that keeps it real, and when it's real, nobody has to worry about being skeptical, and therefore...THEREFORE, since nobody is distracted by their skepticism, the fun times can roll. Was that scientific or what?
It's only been in the last few years that I've come to appreciate the amazing punk-oriented stuff coming out of Ottawa. Has the scene always been so teeming with talent? Or is Ottawa actually really just having a moment right now?
Yeah, I think it would be fair to say. It all depends on what you're comparing it too, but a ton of really impressive bands call Ottawa home. Currently, there may be a moment, I dunno, maybe this will continue, and that would be great! But currently, there are a ton of great bands. You want my list? Pregnancy Scares, Boyhood, Voicemail, Mother's Children, Holy Cobras, Dagger Eyes, Steve Adamyk Band, Crusades, Creeps, Visitors, World War 4, Silkken Laumann, Peach Kelli Pop, Asile, Sedatives, New Swears, Gunsmoke, Big Dick, Party Knives. Older ones would include bands like Germ Attak, Suppositories, Sick Fits, Million Dollar Marxists, Fortunate Sons, Dead City Rebels, Resin Scraper, Camp Radio, Lucky Ron, the Black Donnellys, the Bureaucrats, the Action, the Red Squares, Jeremy Gluck (the Barracudas).
Is Ken Dirtnap the nicest man in the music biz?
Yeah, Ken is a golden god. He works so hard at his store and label. It's a tough business, and you need a lot of perseverance. Ken manages, day after day, to wade through the endless bullshit, and still be really positive. He is a pleasure to deal with, and deserves every bit of success. I hope the new WW album puts a pool in Ken's backyard!
What are you listening to in the van these days?
We usually just bring the mp3 player, and usually listen to albums. Punk, power pop jams...lotsa new stuff too. The new Jeans record is incredible. New Sonic Avenues, new Steve Adamyk. This week I've been really hung up on the classics...spent a lot of time listening to the Boys, the Kids, the Addicts, Cocksparrer, Hubble Bubble, the Outcasts, Protex, the Undertones, etc. I listen to all my out-there albums and singles at home, and in the car it's usually the classics. For this tour, I wanna listen to my Portland faves. I'm a huge fan of Portland's bands: the Wipers, the Observers, the Red Dons, Clorox Girls, Dead Moon, the Rats, the Flip-Tops, the Minds, the Exploding Hearts, the Epoxies. We might have to take the scenic route just so we can cram it all in.
Something I've always been curious about but have actually never asked a band before: when you're on tour, do you have "driving clothes" that you shed for "show clothes" before you take the stage?
Not us. We usually wear the same clothes for days.
Is it my nostalgia-addled imagination, or is pop-punk circa 2012 better than it's ever been?
People call the Mean Jeans a pop-punk band. I think they're a lot more than that, but if the Mean Jeans are a pop-punk band, then yes, circa 2012 is the best!
SEE IT: White Wires plays SMMR BMMR at Plan B on Saturday, August 4 with a million other wonderful bands. 4pm. $13. 21+.