Personal Views - Victoria, British Columbia

PERSONAL VIEWS: A guide to the close-knit music scene of Victoria, B.C.

With an eye to finding out what makes The Garden City tick, we discover what it’s like to be involved in a music scene that exists on a (literal) island.

- Apr 15, 2015

Victoria, British Columbia is a city of about 80,000 on an island 100 kilometres off the coast of Vancouver. Despite (or perhaps because of) its relative isolation, the city’s music scene has punched well above its weight since the '80s when it exported punk bands like Dayglo Abortions and Nomeansno.

In more recent times the city has produced bizarro Classics-PhD-prog weirdos Frog Eyes, Shapes And Sizes - an early project that signed to Sufjan Stevens' Asthmatic Kitty imprint and began the careers of Caila Thompson-Hannant (Mozart’s Sister) and Rory Seydel (NONI WO) - and (*cough* *cough*) Pitchfork darlings turned embarrassing reminder of what the life was like in 2003, Hot Hot Heat. All the while the scene in Victoria has hummed along, providing a haven for a wide array of musical ideas in part due to its closeknit and supportive community.

With an eye to finding out what makes The Garden City’s unique musical community tick we checked in with a few contributors to Victoria’s music scene to discover the current local favourites and what it’s like to be involved in a scene that exists on a (literal) island.

Johnnie Regalado (Program Director at CFUV)

Johnnie Regalado

Favourite Venues in Victoria

My favourite venue to see live music in Victoria is The Copper Owl. It's got a great vibe, friendly staff, and awesome sound. The old school speak easy and soft padded bar make this a really fun and unique place to catch live music.

Fever Feel - "Lose Your Mind" :: Live @ CFUV 101.9 FM

My second favourite spot to see live music is actually in the studios at CFUV 101.9 FM. We do live bands every Friday afternoon that are broadcast on air and we film them as well. We call them Basement Closet Sessions and anyone can listen or apply to come down and play.

Three Best Victoria Bands of the Moment

The Backhomes

Painted Fruits

PAINTED FRUITS - RESTLESS

Fountain

Live Set by Fountain

Favorite Recent Victoria Releases

Iceberg FergWaiting On

Old GirlEternal Idol

Cosy FatherLoser Birds

Most Memorable Victoria Show

Island Eyes, Fascination, Cosy Father and Ida Diana @ FREQ SHOW 2

Wand - There Is A Place

There are so many great local shows here, it's pretty hard to pick one stand out. In recent memory it was FREQ SHOW 2, a concert organized by CFUV & Weird Canada to showcase some local bands. It was a pay-what-you-can gig featuring Island Eyes, Fascination, Cosy Father and Ida Diana. It was memorable because people came in droves and paid tons of money to support local music. This is a pretty great city for being a music lover.


Chart Attack: What sticks out to you as unique about the music scene in Victoria?

Don't let someone from Victoria hear you call our bands Vancouver bands.

Johnnie Regalado: The most unique thing about the scene is the community support. You'll see lots of shows with a diverse line-up of artists on the bill and everyone is excited. People always want to support and celebrate new music. Even if something's not totally polished or perfect, people still get stoked just because someone is trying something and putting themselves out there.

Does the Victoria scene have particular musical tendencies? Are certain sounds or genres ascendant?

There's been a recent shift to a heavier, sludgier kind of pop-rock and post-punk over the last few years. It probably has something to do with all the rain. It's like a slight haze on top of a layer of good vibes. For such a small city there is a pretty wide arrange of styles here, but if any genre was ascendent it'd be post-punk.

How does Victoria’s location influence its music scene? 

I think a big reason that Victoria is so excited about local music is that our isolation makes it difficult for touring bands to come through town. Most stop in Vancouver and skip us all together. It's a pro and con situation. We have a vibrant local scene because there's little outside influence and we're super protective of our local talent. Don't let someone from Victoria hear you call our bands Vancouver bands.

Ali Lopez & Phoenix Bain (Animal Productions)

Ali Lopez and Phoenix Bain

Favourite Venues in Victoria

Logan’s & OuterHeaven

Three Best Victoria Bands of the Moment

Freak Heat Waves

Freak Heat Waves - Dig a Hole (Official Video)

Iceberg Ferg

Psychosomatic Itch

Favourite Recent Victoria Releases

Iceberg FergWaiting On

Freak Heat WavesBonnie’s State Of Mind

JonsSerfs Of Today

Most Memorable Victoria Show

Freak Heat Waves and Iceberg Ferg @ Lucky Bar (December, 2014)

Freak Heat Waves - "Instructing" :: Live @ CFUV 101.9 FM

Phoenix: My most memorable show is actually pretty recently. Freak Heat Waves and Iceberg Ferg played together at Lucky Bar and I hadn’t seen them in a very long time and forgot how incredible they are live. Ferg ended with this one song and his slide guitar and I was totally mesmerized. It was a great showcase of local talent. Also, every Slam Dunk show ever….

Damo Suzuki @ Logan’s (May, 2014)

A day with Damo [Document film of Damo Suzuki} [English subtitles]

Ali: One of Damo Suzuki’s appearances at Logan’s. He had an entire backing band of local musicians from Thomas DiNinno (Freak Heat Waves), Ryan Beattie (Himalayan Bear), Thomas Shields (Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness) and a tonne of others I can’t even remember. It was a while ago but he had like eight local musicians backing him up and just throwing down some mesmerizing vocals. It was unforgettable for sure. Also, every Slam Dunk show ever…


Chart Attack: What sticks out to you as unique about the music scene in Victoria?

Ali and Phoenix: The music community is very close. There’s certainly a huge feeling of camaraderie here amongst the bands themselves and the people involved in the music community.

Does the Victoria scene have particular musical tendencies? Are certain sounds or genres ascendant?

Victoria's location is the reason the music community is so connected and it provides a safe scene to experiment in and still receive support. At the end of the day we’re off doing our own thing.

Definitely very drawn towards a post-punk leans. There is also a very vibrant experimental, noise, electronic scene; and a tight-knit, DIY hardcore and punk scene.

How does Victoria’s location influence its music scene? Does the proximity of Vancouver change things? 

Its location is the reason the music community is so connected and it provides a safe scene to experiment in and still receive support. The proximity of Vancouver really doesn’t affect us; the ferry costs for a van full of gear is pretty inaccessible and thus the trek is made only if the situation warrants it. At the end of the day we’re off doing our own thing.

Are there positive or negative outcomes associated with its relative isolation (it is after all on an actual island) or does that not feel like a factor?

Some positive for reasons mentioned above but mostly negative because bands are stuck here and it’s very hard to come up with the money for the ferry and therefore the idea of touring is a bit more challenging. Bringing in outside bands is also super expensive. Our location essentially isolates us which leads to the decision for most bands to leave the island for good.

Madi Zin (Shake! Records)

Madi Zin

Favourite Venues in Victoria

Logan's Pub due to great staff/soundman, good deals for bands, and non-exclusive space where anyone can feel welcome plus they're always open to new events. Copper Owl as is a smaller room for more intimate shows, cool retro atmosphere.

Three Best Victoria Bands of the Moment

Painted Fruits

PAINTED FRUITS | VERTIGO GALLERY SHOW

Psychosomatic Itch

Psychosomatic ITCH - Glue Gaze

Girlfrend

Favourite Recent Victoria Releases

NovelDiscrete Noise

NoGoodsLet's Be Friends

Collagen,  s/t

Most Memorable Victoria Show

Rebel Spell/Durban Poison @ Copper Owl (April, 2014)

The Rebel Spell - I See Fire

As of late I'd have to say the REBEL SPELL/Durban Poison show at Copper Owl last spring, craziest show I've ever been to at the Owl.. the small dance floor was coated with booze and steaming at the end of the night.


Chart Attack: What sticks out to you as unique about the music scene in Victoria?

Madi Zin: Positive - There are a lot of bands and lots of great shows for such a small city.
Negative - 9/10 times turnouts to shows are not as good as expected.

Does the Victoria scene have particular musical tendencies? Are certain sounds or genres ascendant?

It's kind of all over the place but most bands fit into the punk or metal/hardcore umbrella genres. There are a few lo-fi and garage bands, post-punk and some synth groups.

How does Victoria’s location influence its music scene? 

There are a lot of bands and lots of great shows for such a small city. But 9/10 times turnouts to shows are not as good as expected.

It's sometimes tough to get touring bands to come over to the island due to expensive ferry costs, and when a touring band does come through this puts extra pressure on promoters to make enough money to pay them for travel. Proximity to Vancouver allows Victoria bands to hit up the mainland very easily and distribute their albums in Van.... that is if they have money. The isolation factor is mostly negative due to the fact many bands feel "trapped" on the island if they can't afford ferry costs and when bands do come and there is not enough people through the door the promoter may have to pay touring bands out-of-pocket just to cover their basic travel expenses.

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