Saturday, October 13, 2018

Volunteers I Wish I Was As Happy As John Denver Interview & Shows # 743 & 744

In the spring of 2018, Volunteers, a band based in Vancouver released a new album entitled, I Wish I Was As Happy As John Denver. This debut album appeared mysteriously, by a band consisting of Dave McMartin (guitar), John McMartin (drums), Fraser With (guitar) and Brad Felotick on bass/vocals. They have had their song “Who Needs A Girl Like You” featured as the theme song to the CraveTV series, Letterkenny. In addition to providing the title theme to the show, they also have other songs in the various episodes of the show, along with other Vancouver bands. The album was recorded by Andrew Wilkinson, who also plays in the band Dead Ghosts. It was recorded in a barn on the outskirts of Vancouver where the two bands share a rehearsal space. This location is also the same place where Dead Ghosts recorded their 2015 release, Love and Death and All The Rest. As a result, I Wish I Was As Happy As John Denver has a laid back feel, but also never loses its 60s garage/rock spirit.

“Slough Road” starts off the album in a slow fashion. With just tom drums banging and ringing guitar chords, this opening instrumental track opens I Wish I Was As Happy As John Denver in a swampy, nostalgic way as pedal steel guitar joins the mix. “Dollar Bill” follows with a 70s Rolling Stones feel as lyrics in the chorus “It comes creepin’ like a bad disease/Where did the money go/I don’t know” haunt the character in the song. “Pass My Time” is a jangly alt-country track, “Don’t Bring Me Down” brings up the tempo as it rides the grooves of the bass and drums. In the chorus the ramshackle 60s garage riffs blend with organ and the lyrics “Turn on the station/Where’s my television/Don’t bring me down”. This song shows a disillusioned character that is caught between an outside world and another world created by different forms media and what they have to say. The character tries to relate to the outside world while at the same time, not letting either place get them down. “I Don’t Mind” drops into a hazy groove, sounding like a slowed down version of a song by ? & The Mysterians. Surrounded by a circus-like organ and ringing guitars that verge on psychedelic, the vocals, bass and drums hold down the mesmerizing centre of this track. “Dunce Kin” follows in a short, but electrified rickety groove, as “Mother Nature’s Blues” follows with a 70s rock feel. Blending 70s exotic country rock grooves, maracas, and organ, the song questions the environmental factors that surround us all on a daily basis that are often ignored.

“Ten In The Sky” comes in with acoustic guitar, inspired by Neil Young’s 1974 album On The Beach. With its country-folk dynamics, the song paints a landscape with an atmosphere that seems to question the passage of time. “In The Van” drives with a woozy George Jones/Hank Williams feel, “Come On Through” thrashes along with a tight looseness through casual bass grooves, harmonica and cutting guitar riffs, “Jealous Kind” is an alt-country track that sketches out characters that leaves a lasting impression on the listener. Like some of the songs on the album, there are lyrics, but more musical atmosphere. With words such as “You have to admit/You don’t give her much time/That girl you got there/She’s the jealous kind”, the listener is left to wonder about the characters in this song, although mentioned briefly, and the true nature of their intentions. “Open Hearted Strangers” ends the album. Inspired by the story of a person that helped the band out on tour when their van broke down that went by the name Captain Kirk, the song features dusty acoustic guitar, dominant barroom styled piano, amongst country bass, guitar and drums. With lyrics such as “When you’re heading into town and your brakes are burning down/Trust the open hearted strangers on the road” and “At the end of the day/When you don’t know where you’ll stay/Trust the open hearted strangers on the road”, the song not only emphasizes the unexpected kindness of unknown strangers, but also the unpredictability of life in general.

With a title inspired by an ad-lib from a live recording by Neil Young & Crazy Horse, I Wish I Was As Happy As John Denver, blends a country/garage musicianship with lyrics that are strong with rich, folk-like imagery. The album is a bit mysterious, but is also a mature reflection on the past and present, while creating something new. The sound of Volunteers is organic, but pulls its roots from different musical backgrounds. I Wish I Was As Happy As John Denver is homegrown, but never sounds dated. It leaves a lasting imprint on the listener that is hard to shake.

Check out the interview that I did with Dave McMartin of Volunteers here:

Show 744 (Originally Aired On October 13th, 2018)(Volunteers Interview):

1. Run Coyote - Night Rider
2. The Insufferables - FBI
3. Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Unwanted Number
4. Colter Wall - Nothin'
5. Leonard Cohen - Travelling Light
6. New Riders of the Purple Sage - Lonesome LA Cowboy
7. The Rolling Stones - 100 Years Ago
8. Indian Wars - Took A Trip
9. Volunteers - I Don't Mind


10. Volunteers - Come On Through
11. Bloodshot Bill - Never Wanna See That Face Again
12. Snake River - High/Low
13. Kurt Vile - Loading Zones
14. Black Belt Eagle Scout - Just Lie
15. School Damage - Isn't Easy
16. School Damage - I'm In Love With A Chump
17. Anybodys - RFK
18. Preoccupations - Espionage
19. Fucked Up - House of Keys
20. Carbolizer - ICE
21. Parquet Courts - Total Football

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for October 15.

On October 6th, 2018 a repeat of an episode featuring an interview with Colin Newman of Wire and the music of Wire. This program (episode 743) can be downloaded here and the playlist can be found here.

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