Founded in Vancouver in 2005 by vocalist Brian Gustavson, SPECTRES is commonly cited as one of the bands responsible for kicking off the renewed interest in the post-punk sound in Canada. Inspired initially by the original UK anarcho-punk bands of the late ’70s and early ’80s, SPECTRES mixes the ethics of that scene (Crass, The Mob, et al.) with the stylings of post-punk and an incredible knack for writing catchy songs. As a review on CVLT Nation put it, the band is “firmly rooted in punk, but it weaves dreamy melodies into the angst and frustration.”
Their new outstanding album “Nostalgia” was released on March 13th and marks their first album of new material for Artoffact Records, a label whose roster contains, among other things, an array of crucial bands from across the post-punk spectrum – from Icelandic witches Kælan Mikla, to Lithuanian “sad-dance” experimentalists Solo Ansamblis, to SPECTRES and their hometown Vancouver labelmates ACTORS. Today, we’re giving you a special insight into their work and new album with thefull track by track rundown below!
Track by track commentary by Zach Batalden (guitar).
The Head and the Heart
We began writing this song years and years ago, probably just shortly after we’d finished all the studio work for Utopia. We’ve always been big Chameleons fans and thought it would be cool to do something with a Chameleons style riff that transitioned from a more light hearted pop vibe to a darker sounding song. Our previous guitar player Tyler came up with the riff but for literally years we threw transition riffs at it and nothing really stuck. We had virtually given up on the song by the time we went through the line up change but decided to give it another shot and it just started to come together for the first time. Brian suggested trying something that would eventually become the baritone riff that ties the whole thing together and that proved to be the key that unlocked the whole song.
I’d been obsessing about “Goodbye Horses” and decided to try writing something like it. I came in with a bassline and the only two proper guitar chords I’ve ever been able to play correctly and then within one or two practices we had it nailed. Again we wrote this one before Jason and Adam joined the band so they came in and put their stamp on it as they are both very distinct players.
When Possessed Pray
This was one of the first songs we wrote with the new line up, and I think it showcases Adam’s dynamic playing style and Jason’s driving bass lines. As with The Head and The Heart we really wanted to focus on dynamics with the songs that would eventually become Nostalgia. We are all fond of the work we’ve done on previous records but felt that we really wanted to experiment with writing big emotional swings into the songs like you see here with “Pray.”
Pictures from Occupied Europe
The initial riff for this song was also written by our previous guitar player Tyler and when Brian heard it he thought it felt a little like a Magazine song. We were sort of underwhelmed by the initial sound of this song but Jason suggested adding some of the bridging riffs to the song that really make it pop in its current form.
Years of Lead
Another song that more or less wrote itself with the new line up in place. This one really exemplifies our desire to mix light/pop oriented riffs with darker or more political subject matter. In this case we were trying to talk about the deepening tribal divide between the two political poles in North America and draw some historical allusions to where things could go.
We all loved this guitar hook as soon as Adam played it for us and knew that we’d want to build something with it. It took some time to get right in the mix in a way that gave the hook its due, but in the end this felt like a great way to start side B to reengage the listener.
I wrote this riff shortly before the line up change and we finished it once Jason and Adam joined the band. We all loved the way that Brian’s huge “Whoa-ooh” chorus works with the sparse guitar riff in the intro and the swing of Adam’s guitar in the verse makes the whole thing feel really driving.
This song was written exactly two weeks before we headed into the studio to record Nostalgia. We had initially planned on having ten songs for the LP but ended up using Provincial Wake and Northern Town for a separate 7″ and really wanted to write one last song to make it 9 songs for the LP. We always loved Crosses and Wreathes on Utopia for its mid tempo swing and felt like we wanted to have something like this on Nostalgia. I’d been listening to Trisomie 21’s “Last Song” and started messing around with riffs that felt like they had that same feeling and The Call was born.
Along the Waterfront
Another old song that seemed dead in the water before the lineup change. I’d written the guitar riff that would become the chorus many many years ago and never been able to find out how to effectively use it in a song. Adam and Jason both bring a very unique approach to songwriting and allowed us to finish the song after years of trying different sounds that just didn’t click.
Vancouver music scene
We are probably not the best people to describe the scene as we are all getting older and spend a lot less time at shows than we used to. Generally speaking there are some cool venues and bands, it remains a medium sized scene for a medium sized city.
If anything characterizes the scene in Vancouver it’s the insane cost of living and the total lack of priority that this city has always placed on non commercial art and music.
That being said Vancouver has always managed to have active venues and bands despite the difficulty of trying to pay rent and feed your self in this town which is a testament to the hard work and perseverance of Vancouver artists and musicians.
Some early 2020 music recommendations to feed our hungry souls and tireless ears.
Riki, Dock Hellis, Nouveaux, The Strangers, The Passengers, Cold Beat, Dials, The Uranium Club, The Smarthearts.