By Carl Begai
Their name sounds like the house band at Arnold’s Drive-In on an updated adult version of the iconic ’70s / ’80s sitcom Happy Days. The music sounds like a mix of The Go-Go’s, The Cars and The Ramones. Yes, the quartet out of London, Ontario known as The Alcohollys are something special. Seriously something special, and definitely different. For the moment they have a small but loyal group of followers and, as of today (February 12th), one official independent release (The Flashback EP) under their belt. The Alcohollys also boast Kittie drummer Mercedes Lander and original Kittie bassist Tanya Candler as part of the line-up; a completely unexpected partnership when you put songs like ‘Flashback To ’93’ and ’27 Death Riot / Demolition In Speed City’ against the Kittie debut from 1999, Spit.
Mercedes: “I’ve only been in The Alcohollys since 2011, but the band has been around since 2009. Dana started the band with some girls that aren’t in the band anymore, and Tanya joined in 2010. When they lost their drummer, I’m pretty much the only female drummer they know in town (laughs). They asked me if I wanted to join and I wasn’t doing anything, so I said ‘Fuck yeah.’ I’ve known Dana (Hartman / vocals, keyboards) for something like 17 years, and I know Tanya of course from playing in Kittie. And we have out new guitar player, Bri (Lue-Kim), so since 2011 we’ve gotten serious about this band.”
Take the above description of the band’s sound for what it’s worth – in this office, that’s a lot – or check it out here. Bottom line is The Alcohollys stick out like a sore thumb on today’s rock scene and are better for it, right down to their stage names: Kimber Heart, Scarlet Fever, Ruby Pubey and Maiden China. Kittie fans and metalheads in general with narrow minds would do well to buy a can opener.
Mercedes: “I don’t think we have a particular sound compared to other bands where people can say ‘Oh, that band is death metal…’ or whatever. The closest thing that I think we fit into is the ‘70s power pop movement. It’s weird, though, because we play a lot of metal shows, so we’re obviously the odd man out. For instance, the last time we played Windsor it was us and three metal bands, but we had the biggest crowd of the night. I think the appeal of The Alcohollys to the metal crowd is the musicianship in the band.”
According to Dana, in spite of The Alcohollys’ modern day ‘70s sound – something one would assume most musicians on the low side of 30 would shy away from in favour of mindless pop pap or trendy death / black / oh-so-evil metal – she hasn’t had a problem finding musicians to keep the band moving forward.
Dana: “I find that girls are more open to playing this kind of music, something that’s more pop-oriented. Nobody’s had any complaints (laughs). I’ve always wanted to have an all- girl band but I could never find enough girls to make a full band, so now I’m living my dream (laughs).”
The ones that did rock the boat have since taken a hike or were invited to leave, making way for a quartet that most certainly has its collective shit together.
Mercedes: “We run in a circle of really awesome musicians. All of our friends play an instrument so we kind of have our pick of players, which is nice. London isn’t really known for great musicians (laughs) but I think we hang with the cream of the crop.”
Tanya: “When we work together it’s chemical but it’s magic, too. Everything is really organic the way it comes out when we jam together. We’re usually on the same page about things when it comes to what sounds good and what doesn’t.”
Mercedes: “When I joined the band, all the songs except ’27 Death Riot’ were finished. I think the toughest part for me was re-writing the drum parts to make them…”
Tanya: “Make them good (laughs)…”
Mercedes: “(Laughs) … make them part of my style, and at the same time lend itself to the music. There were previous recordings – which we won’t talk about because they’re terrible – but I really had to do my homework.”
And there are the keyboards; big, fat ’70s in your face electronics in the spirit of early era Styx (not the sappy ballads) or that suspicious keyboard line that fills out the beginning of the Guns N’ Roses classic ‘Paradise City’.
Dana: “When we wrote the keyboard parts they were originally meant for guitar. They were supposed to be solos but the guitar player we had lined up fell through and nobody else wanted to solo. I just decided I do the stuff on keyboards, but that made for a really cool sound. I don’t think too many people have that sound anymore, with the keyboards up front.”
Folks that have locked into The Alcohollys have to be content with The Flashback EP for the time being, but we can expect to hear more from the ladies in 2013 if all goes according to plan. And there most certainly is a plan…
Mercedes: “We have enough material for a full length album, but the EP is technically three songs. ‘27 Death Ride / Demolition In Speed City’ is actually two separate songs but we ran them together because they sounded cool. I don’t think the picture would have been painted properly if we split the songs up. When we actually release the full album, those songs will be split up.”
It’s worth noting – and it really shouldn’t come as a surprise given the nature of the music – that The Flashback EP was recorded live off the floor in the studio. Producer Siegfried Meier, who has worked with a large variety of artists including Kittie and Woods Of Ypres on the metal front, kept things as organic as possible rather than polishing and tweaking the soul out of the music.
Mercedes: “That’s the problem with music today… nobody makes real music anymore; they all use auto-tune and nobody can sing live anymore. Beyoncé is lip-synching, for fuck sakes. With this recording we really wanted to capture the live sound of the band, which is why it’s live off the floor with a couple overdubs. Sig did a great job.”
In the pursuit of keeping things organic and old school The Alcohollys are looking to tap into good old-fashioned radio and releases on vinyl.
Tanya: “I think radio and getting air time is a good thing even though things are moving differently these days technology-wise. Radio and TV reach a wide audience; radio is the 30+ crowd and TV / video is the tween crowd. We’re definitely looking to go to radio with this; we just don’t know how to do that yet without spending a buttload of money.”
Mercedes: “I think seven minutes is the limit for 7” vinyl, so we’ve been talking about doing that with these two songs. We just have to supplement the pressing of the vinyl with online sales, so we’ve still got to work that out before we can make it happen. When we finally do put out a full length album we plan to press it on vinyl as well.”
Tanya: “It sounds better, it sounds warmer. Records are something people hold on to. My vinyl collection, those are my babies.”
Mercedes: “We’re going to have one of those kickstarter campaigns with Pledge Music so we can pay for the recording of the album, because it isn’t cheap.”
Tanya: “Especially when it’s real people and not robots; we actually go into the studio. And if all else fails we still have SugarDaddies.com (laughs).”
Reactions to The Alcohollys are only now starting to pick up steam, so no real judgement as to how they’re being received can be made. Of course, for a laugh one can always head to the media cesspool known as Bladdermouth and watch the keyboard warriors work their magic in the comments section.
Tanya: “My favourite thing is to go down and read the comments. They’re so abusive. I sit at my computer and piss myself reading them. Those are the guys that are 35, sitting in their mom’s basement and still jacking off to the Sears catalogue. That’s why we all chose stripper / roller derby names (laughs).”