I had a chat with one of Toronto's young, high energy garage psych punk trio; BBQ Pope. The band is made up of Reid Millar (Bass, Vox), Sean Hackl (Guitar, Vox) and Duncan Briggs (Drums) who spoke to me about their first full length self-titled album, the Toronto music scene and their influences!
How did you guys get into playing/making music?
R: Sean and I met in the 4th grade. We were in the same class and we bonded over mutual developing interest in ACDC and then one day his mother and my mother were standing next to each other talking and I was invited over for a play date. We went over and played rock band cause at that time it had just come out and Sean had it so was really cool. I played piano and Sean had just started playing guitar so we kinda like “we could do that, that would be cool!" We were maybe 10 at the time and we started a band with some friends
S: We pretty much just decided to start a band and then assigned our friends to different roles like “alright he can play bass, or he can play drums” and stuff
R: We made this poster where we laid out the cast of the band and gave each kid that we wanted to be in it a flyer the next day and it was like “you’re in this now”
D: Ahah that’s very formal
R: We called ourselves The Shadows. We found a picture of a shadow to go on and then Duncan grew up on the east end, on the other side of town so he has a different story
D: Yeah, my dad’s a musician and my parents, since I was born and even before have run a music school at my house called Kitchen Music Studios and it used to be right in our apartment so lil two year old Duncan would just run around naked and these students would just come into the house. I took lessons from my dad and just went to festivals with him and he kinda just surrounded me in that environment and then I don't know, I first started playing guitar and then picked up drums when I started jamming with these guys, its been a blast!
S: Reid and I were pretty much playing in a band, we were playing in this band called The Hunch up until grade 10 and that sort of fell apart. We played a bunch of big showcases and won some battle of the bands around Toronto but we just didn't really vibe with the drummers that we had and we sort of just decided to call it off for a little bit. I ended up joining another band with a mutual friend of Reid’s who went to another school and so when I was playing in that band we were looking for a new bass player and I had met Duncan cause we went to the same high school and we were both playing in the band program. I asked Duncan if he wanted to play bass in this band called The Operators who are now called Fade Awaays and it pretty much worked, we were like “alright this sick!” and then we were playing in The Operators for a while and Reid was still writing songs. Me and him were obviously still friends but weren't playing in a band so we decided to reform and we asked Duncan if he wanted to play drums
R: Yeah and we've just been playing shows since then, we got Duncan on drums the day before our first gig so that was sort of informal. But yeah, we just started throwing house shows at my house and there was a lot of people we knew who were starting bands so we took advantage of the fact that we’ve been playing music a bit longer than they may have been to kind of organize events and then it kinda just took off from there
Alright! So I want to do a track by track of your album, so how it was making it and a bit about every song
R: Yeah cool! Welcome To My Hell is the first song on the album. The riff; we were at practice and we were fooling around and we came up with it and Sean was like “I’d like to sing a song, I haven’t sung a song yet!” so he came up with those words, that was the first song we both sing. I sing the verse and Sean sings the chorus so he wrote the chorus and I wrote the verse. We kind of just spent an afternoon working on it and Sean’s girlfriend at the time came over and we played it for her and she was like “alright sounds good” so that’s how that came about
And then Sad and Stoned comes after that. I wrote that song when I was really high on the subway. I just hung out with Reid MacMaster who is a far bigger stoner than I am and I just wasn’t feeling that great after trying to keep up with him. Sean wrote the riff for that and Duncan came up with the drum part.
S: Cry is the next one on the album, I think this is more about you, you should talk about this song
R: Oh yeah, um, my grandmother had schizophrenia and I never really knew her growing up. My mom didn’t have a lot of contact with her so one day she passed away and we never met her but we were invited to the funeral. We went and there was all these relatives I had never met that I was meeting for the first time and everyone was very emotional, and I was trying to process the connection I had to the women in the urn but I could not really cause I didn't know her, so that’s what that song is about
And then there’s a song called No More which is sort of about getting older. We’re 18 years old, but that feels like you're getting older as its happening but in reality when people come up to us they're like “you guys are only fucking 18” like what are you worried about? So it's about being stuck in the middle and looking back on the things you've done, looking onto the future and being ready for it
S: It reflects on teenage hood and also it sort of comments on not letting other people's ideas into your head. The next one is Baby Face
R: When we were teenagers, there are bars in Toronto that don’t card you but you kind of have to look a certain age and I was kind of developed mentally behind everybody and I look a bit young for my age. So, my friends would be like “alright Friday night we're going to Bistro 422 its going to be crazy!” and I’d be like “can I come” and they’d be like “no! you can’t cause they wont let us in if you come with us” and then I’d feel sad. So, that song is sort of about the features of my face and how I look a little younger than I am and yeah
Then, All My Friends Smokes Cigarettes is about Duncan ahaha, its about a lot of people. Its like you grow up in an environment where you’re told “say no to drugs, say no to cigarettes” and then in high school you see that go over everybody’s head. You know doing drugs is one thing and smoking cigarettes are cancerous and stuff, so its like learning to not be affected by it. What you do is up to you and just accepting each other. That song is really just about accepting people at its core, its not even really about smoking, it can be about anything. And then Sean wrote Make It Happen so you wanna talk about that?
S: I guess Make It Happen is sort of just-I went to school for songwriting and performance at Seneca College this part year and I think its the reason I wrote this song. Just because I had this riff I was writing but then the lyrics ‘make it happen’, ‘where do you see yourself’, like ‘where do you want to be’ is sort of just a question that I felt teachers and people older than me always ask. Like “so what do you wanna do when you grow up” and you don't really know and if you do know then you, yourself have to sort of make it happen and you have to just go for it, its not a very complicated story
R: And then the next two songs are the last two songs which we rerecorded off our first EP. Cartoon Moon was the first song we wrote together as a band that was sort of organic. My friend Nick did mushrooms and was telling me about it and he was staring at his friend and her eyes kept growing and then I remembered in Scooby-Doo when they're running around in the dark and you just see their eyes and then the light comes on and theres a monster next to them, so I wrote a poem about those eyes in the dark and brought it to Sean. I had a little riff and he was like “nah that sucks, let’s add this” so we fixed it and we then brought it to Duncan and he came up with the drum intro and then we kind of just wrote the song from there
And then Blank Screen is about growing up in the age of the internet and the dangers of learning about sex in the age of the internet
D: Its funny too cause those last two songs are our oldest songs and I think they took the longest, like Cartoon Moon, the recording process was like 10 takes or something and other songs like No More took us no time
S: Also, Blank Screen was an adaptation of one of The Hunch songs we had written when we were like 15 or whatever and it was sort of like a weird song
You guys have a video for I Wanna Soda, do you have any other videos?
R: Not quite
S: We have a couple of live videos, we have a video from one of Reid’s basement shows but the audio quality is crap
R: There’s a long lost video I found from one of our friends back yard show that got shut down. Everything got moved into the living room for acoustic sessions and I found a video of us playing Cartoon Moon. Gonna try and find a way to share that. Duncan was playing pillows, I was playing piano and Sean was playing guitar
S: We were playing in the backyard and there was like 60 kids packed in that backyard and some angry neighbours
R: Yeah pretty crazy! But yeah, the video for I Wanna Soda we made with our friend Veronica who studies film and she offered to do make more with us so I don’t know, we're thinking about it
Do you have a song in particular you want a video for?
S: I think we've been talking about making a music video for Cartoon Moon. We wanna do some sort of trippy, half cartoon half real life video
R: Also, this song called Day Drinking that we're working on, we’ve talked about making a video for that in High Park. We’ll see what happens
You guys are a part of Fried Records, how is it being a part of that community?
R: Yeah its nice! I guess people confuse it for being a label cause its called Fried Records but its more of a group of people that are friends and that do things together. Its run by Goodbye Honolulu who went to Sean and Duncan’s high school, they're a few years older than us
D: Shout out to Rosedale Heights!
R: There was a period in Toronto when we were like 15 and they were in a band called Ghost Daze and another band called Creep Creep Beach and they were kind of the shit. So when we got to meet them and started playing shows with them it was really cool that they supported us. Its just really nice to know them and be able to play shows through them cause they have really good values and they do things each year like the Halloween EP where every band in the collective writes a song that's halloween themed so its a lot of fun! We also met a lot of cool people through it like Hannah from Luna Li and Alex from Passport Radio
S: It's basically a bunch of musicians supporting other musicians and also artists and filmmakers and friends
D: Its a community of people that are there to share music with us. Like, everyone that comes to a Fried show is a part of Fried Records just as much as we are right? Its half and half, our stage is their stage
Do you think Fried is a big part of the underground rock scene of Toronto?
S: I think that Fried Records plays a good role in the garage rock sort of underground scene but there’s so many good garage rock bands, psychedelic, indie rock bands from Toronto right now. I mean I don't think all the bands would fit on Fried Records, but like there's so many good bands and Fried definitely plays an important role in that especially with the shows they throw and the values that are upheld by the members
R: When we recorded our album we worked with two of the members of a band called Possum and through them we met a lot of older musicians that are in their older twenties so there’s this whole other scene of heavier garage rock that we didn't know about. And then there’s like this group of punk kids that work out of this space called Faith Void, there’s this guy named Greg Benedetto that runs this festival called Not Dead Yet where he brings hardcore bands from all over the world to Toronto so thats pretty cool!
D: It never ends! Honestly, the more you know about these different bands and different scenes the more experienced you become. Its great to see everyone working together and I think everyone that’s in these scenes want to find more scenes and find more bands and experience more music
What are your influences?
S: I think we have a specific scene that we’re influenced by. We sort of are exposed to this whole garage rock underground scene thats not in the top 40’s or whatever. Bands like Together PANGEA are a major influence on us, White Reaper, Twin Peaks
R: FIDLAR was the first band from that scene that exposed us to others
S: No Parents and we played with No Parents!
R: Also bands from Toronto like VCR and Ghost Daze who are playing garage rock and garage punk. We’ve seen those bands a few times and met them and hung out with them
D: Yeah, we experienced those bands and we thought it would be cool to do what they were doing
R: Yeah, I’d say that and also we grew up on classic rock like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, ACDC. I think anything that's a little bit loud and a little bit driven
Check out BBQ Pope here: https://www.bbqpope.com/
Photos by: André Varty