Uncharted is our weekly showcase of independent artists we think you should hear. This week we speak to Hamilton, Ontario's TV Freaks, who tell us about Golden Horseshoe's punk rock renaissance and share their tattoo shop playlist.
There's something of a punk rock renaissance happening in Hamilton, ON. Not that the burgh has been at other times impervious to the faster, snottier stuff (no Hamiltonian will ever skip the chance to remind you where Teenage Head come from), but there seems to be something special happening, and it's something quite apart from the normal ebb and flow of trends towards bands doing fey indie rock or riffy metal or that stage-packing baroque stuff. Maybe it has something to do with the James North art community that's resuscitating the city's core. Maybe it has something to do with Schizophrenic Records, who've been giving Hamilton talent serious backing. But whatever the reason, TV Freaks, even with their Welland, ON transplants, have quickly become some of the city's favourite sons.
The Freaks do that jangly, bratty punk, much akin to the Stooges or the cool, curled-lipped stuff that came from Iggy's contemporaries Down Under. Frontman Dave O'Connor is part Darby Crash and part D. Boon — throwing himself around the stage, sloganeering. Sometimes he loses his clothes. But it's not all filth and fury. You don't have to listen terribly close to catch the influences of more minimal art rock, like Wire or Mission of Burma. And now that I've made them sound like some trip to the punk rock antique mall, know that these guys are experimenters, they're appropriators, punk rock curators. It wouldn't be crazy to see 'em alongside The Spits or Bad Sports.
I traded emails with O'Connor, guitarist TJ Charlton, and bassist Kev Bell. We talked on making burritos, spoofing Sgt. Pepper's, and why exactly tattoo shops love Motörhead. Plus they gave us a nifty little guide to their favourite local punk releases.
TV Freaks drop their sophomore album Two on September 28 through Schizophrenic Records. Get it.
I always thought you guys were named for the Black Flag tune, ya know, “We’ve got nothing better to do/than watch TV and have a couple of brews.” But then I learned about The Victims song. What about that song tickled ya enough to go and name your band after it?
TJ: That song is a ripper and seemed to have a better ring than “Television Addicts.” I was going through a heavy Aussie-crush at the time that I couldn’t kick (still can’t) and it seemed like a good name for this yet-to-be band. Makes complete geographical sense, right? Some dudes from Canada trying to sound like some dudes from Australia who were ultimately trying to sound like some other dudes from Detroit. But fuck does that guy strum like a maniac!
A few of you guys have worked in kitchens for a while. What’s the connection between making burritos and making rock and roll? Does one teach you anything about the other?
Kevin: Absolutely not. Any connection there is is strictly due to the fact that a shitty kitchen job is the easiest to hold down while playing in a band. Having tomato seeds stuck to your Converse is kind of punk though I guess.
TJ: In the long run, they’re both soul-crushing pursuits.
The opener “Rewind” hinges on the lyrics “Be kind/please rewind.” Unless you’re borrowing VHSs from a tape shop, you never see that reminder anymore. What wisdom were you hoping to plumb from that old chestnut?
TJ: I think Dave ripped off a Bryan Adams lyric or some shit? I wanted to puke when he told me that.
Dave: TJ doesn’t appreciate the finer things in life, like Bryan Adams. In ‘Rewind’ I took that adage and appropriated it into a scenario where the character (me) is asking someone “would you be so kind, to try and rewind? Can we go back to the top, can we stop?” It’s not any more detailed than that — just the idea of trying to restart a relationship and take it from the top.
Dave, you tattoo. Why exactly have I been tattooed to Motörhead more than once? What are some go-to albums at your shop?
Dave: Motörhead seems like a good adrenaline booster and adrenaline helps fight pain, so there could be a correlation there! At our shop we like to keep it pretty mild mannered, we aren’t really the moshing, motorcycle tough guy kind of shop, ha! Usually and lately we’ve been playing:
T-Rex - Electric Warrior / Desmond Dekker - Israelites: The Best of Desmond Dekker / Big Star-#1. Record/Radio City / Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork / Lou Reed - Transformer / The Monks - Black Monk Time
Two has my favourite cover art of anything I’ve seen this year. But why, in the whole world of all things that you could rip on, did you lampoon Sgt. Pepper’s? It seems silly to ask, but I’ll go for it: what’s so special about that album?
TJ: I wouldn’t say we’re purposefully lampooning Sgt. Pepper’s. I think it was more about the absurdity of trying to recreate such an iconic album cover, 40 some odd years-removed and it being the cover of a punk record (this too, an absurd thing to be releasing in 2013) by some band from Hamilton few know of. The actual photo shoot was even more absurd—assembling 30+ friends, fans, and strangers together, with us full of pizza and beer trying to orchestrate some weird semblance of an idea into a cohesive photo. That said, I don’t think there were any conceptual ties between Sgt. Pepper, the album, and our record. This isn’t our psychedelic studio-laden venture like it was theirs. I mean, yeah it’s definitely more refined and thought out than our first LP. But I still think the end product ultimately sounds like we do live. Which is how we approached it from the start.
Kevin: I think we just wanted to do something that included all of our buds hanging out wearing silly costumes and having fun. Somewhere along the way it sort of morphed into a Sgt. Pepper’s style thing but I'm not sure we’re all even huge into the Beatles. I'm sure we’d listen to GG Allin in the van before Sgt. Pepper's.
There’s so much punk music that’s come out of the Golden Horseshoe. I know you guys aren’t sociologists or anything, but care to hazard a guess why the area kids have taken to punk rock so lovingly?
TJ: This’ll be redundant, but I guess the same shit still holds true: suburban boredom, feeling helpless/angry/apathetic, or maybe they’re getting sick of the stale pool of indie-rock that permeates much of Canada’s musical climate.
Kevin: I personally think it’s because they had to deal with shitty breakdown metal garbage for so long, and that stuff isn’t fun and takes itself way too seriously. Plus anyone can play a punk tune, it’s better if you stink at your instrument and it’s just always been such an inclusive environment.
Dave: I’m with Kevin in that punk is and always has been such an inclusive thing that any kid could do. Even when it’s bad, it can be good, and that’s an exciting prospect.
That being said, will you leave us with a little playlist: TV Freaks’ 5 great punk tunes from the Golden Horseshoe?
Simply Saucer - "Instant Pleasure"
Kremlin – "No Work"
Hassler - "Asphyxiate"
Magic Shadows - "Sunburned Mind"
Strange Attractor - "Just Looking"