Canadian post punk band AVERSIONS are releasing their debut EP Base Portrait on all streaming platforms today, and we’re thrilled to give you its first presentation, along with the band’s special track by track rundown, and commentary on their local music scene in Vancouver, as well a number of quality recommendations to feed our hungry souls!
The album never had a central concept behind it, but one emerged after the fact: the songs each inhabit some despicable character or another. There’s the blowhard armchair demagogue of “Cistern Chapel,” a religious zealot who frustrates the efforts of her community college teacher on “Night Class,” etc. The title “Base Portrait” reflects that each song is a character sketch of these debased people. But there’s also a strain of sympathy throughout, an understanding that each of us could end up like these people if circumstances were different. It’s not all a lampoon.
Scroll down for the full track-by-track commentary!
Recorded at The Noise Floor on Gabriola Island, BC with Jordan Koop (Orville Peck, Wolf Parade). Mastered by Harris Newman of Grey Market Recording in Montréal
“While it may be the band’s debut album, their sound is clean and refined as if it were their tenth release. The droning guitars in “Cistern Chapel” loop around and between themselves, a captivating backdrop to the complex, spoken lyrics of the track. Think along the lines of La Dispute’s vibes, except Aversions would maybe be their cooler, more fun and upbeat younger brother.”
– Rekt Chords, March 2020
This song and “Simulation Fire”, the EP closer, were written in one particularly productive afternoon last August and are both the newest songs on the record. A friend of mine works for the public adult school system here in Vancouver and hearing about her experiences was inspiring from a writing perspective. The song is about an obstinate student, someone who’s ostensibly there to learn something but can’t get out of their shell enough to accept the lessons. That happens in the classroom setting a lot but in a broader social context, it’s really the root of all the bigger problems we’re dealing with right now.
Bill Got Got
This one sprung out of a particularly interesting multipart episode series on the popular podcast Reply All about the NYPD’s implementation of a social-credit style system of enforcement. I was fascinated by how one man’s single idea could come to shape so much public policy in a country as big and multifaceted as the US (this system was widely adopted across the country–if you’ve watched The Wire and seen the scenes of the police chief grilling his subordinates, you know a bit about how it works). For the officers on the ground, I just really sympathized with how some of them must feel enforcing these bizarre and increasingly impractical standards: a lot of them must come from the neighbourhoods they patrol, and must see how the system is rigged to keep poor people down. For a lot of them, performing their duties and being good neighbours are mutually exclusive, and I think that’s a terrible position to be put in.
This was the first song we ever worked on as a band, and we were happy to finally record it properly. It’s more personal than the other songs–it tracks the decline of an older couple, one of them is better off than the other and has become the primary caregiver, and he or she is forced to watch helplessly while their partner declines. I saw this play out on both sides of my family and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with from a personal standpoint, standing on the sidelines of that terrible detente. There’s this undercurrent of guilt that the narrator has–they know there are things unsaid that they’ll never be able to say, and there’s a personal redemption that’s stymied there.
This was another earlier jam of ours–it’s pretty off the cuff, we wrote it quickly and it still kind of retains that feeling. We tried not to overwrite it, I improvised the lyrics at some point and just kind of kept them. I’m trying to feel out the smarmy aloofness of a Jordan Peterson type internet personality. I’ve known so many dudes who have fallen down his or some other’s rabbit hole, and being a white male, I can almost sense the appeal–which is a super weird feeling, because I couldn’t oppose that movement more. But still, you can feel what it would be like to fall in love with an idea like that, to want to believe that you’re the chosen one and the world is yours to subjugate. It makes me feel so insanely gross. This song is about being gross.
This song is about priests who systematically rape nuns. The child sex abuse scandals of the Catholic church are well documented, and they’re among the worst stains on humanity, but lost in that narrative is the extent to which nuns have been exploited for pretty much the entire history of the church. Centuries, millennia of suffering at the hands of unmitigated male privilege. I was forced to attend church as a kid and my community priest ended up being a sexual predator–it never impacted me directly, as far as we know his crimes were committed in other communities earlier in his career, but having it hit that close to home was quite dizzying. I’ve always felt really close to this story even though it has only tangentially affected me–I’ll continue to shout about the dismantling of institutions that claim moral authority for as long as I have breath.
Even though this track has arguably the heaviest sound on the record, this is maybe as “fun” as our band gets. I used to write more fiction and I had written a short story about a university intern who’s put in charge of running a complex historical simulation–the kind you can kind of imagine are just around the corner, technologically. Except, that’s a lot of power to put in the hands of some arrogant nerd, so you can kind of imagine it going horribly wrong in some way. I think if we were able to create simulation people with a rich interior life, it would be a kind of war crime to let them endure terrible circumstances. Our narrator decides ultimately to pull the plug, because he can’t stand to think about putting them through the rigours of the clinical setting in that sense.
Asked about their plans for the coming months and the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, the band replied:
We’re planning to do all the things that bands normally do–tour, make some music videos, and obviously write and record a lot more material. Covid-19 has obviously frustrated a lot of this, but we’ve been writing together remotely by passing iphone recordings back and forth. It’s led to some interesting new results songwriting-wise.
We added a second guitarist in January to perform some of the album songs live, and he’s been a really great influence on our songwriting process as well–he’s introduced a new sonic texture to our overall palette and we’re really enjoying writing new material with him involved.
Vancouver music scene
Vancouver is a place for polyglots. I think circumstantially, it’s hard to live here, it’s expensive and people don’t stay. There are a million reasons to leave, and a lot of people do. So, projects come and go, it’s an itinerant place. But there’s a cool energy that springs out of that as well, a lot of cross collaboration between genres, and an overall appreciation for artistic effort. You can’t really find venues here that specialize all that much like they do in other cities: the same room we’ll play with a grunge and an art rock band will host an underground rap show the next night.
It’s important to remember that we just live in a moment. We feel lucky to be a part of anything, really, so if the scene in Vancouver is scattered a little jigsaw-puzzley, then we’ll just do our best to fit in wherever we do and prop up the other amazing and kind people who are making shit in our city. Things could be totally different in five years, for better or worse.
Other bands worth a check
Lots of great music coming out in our sphere: we really love a Vancouver band Apathy Spells and they just put out a new track on Bandcamp.
We share a rehearsal space with Vancouver legends Anchoress and some of their members have a new punk project, The Thing, they just released a great new EP.
There’s a new lié record out as of last month, they need no introduction.
And one from last year that we can’t stop shouting about, Material’s “Leather”, recorded in the same fine venue as our own EP.