Ladyhawk and Pride Tiger

By Julie Colero / Photo: Julie Colero

So there’s this amazing Ladyhawk t–shirt making the rounds, designed by Steve Hubert, the band’s spiritual guide. It’s a self–portrait of Steve, more than a little Rushmore–hero–looking, in a very Cosby–esque sweater, holding a microphone up to the heavens. I have it on lead singer Duffy Driediger’s word that this shirt, when worn, gets guys laid. Every time. Lady luck follows not only Ladyhawk followers, but the band itself. Ladyhawk was the opener on Black Mountain’s fall U.S. tour, and was picked up by the band’s U.S. label, Jagjaguwar. After three gruelling weeks on the road, the band decided to take a much–needed break to write a few new songs and re–record their debut album. This break came to an end late January, as the boys teamed up with fellow Vancouverites Pride Tiger for a three–day mini tour, gracing Victoria, Vancouver, and Whistler with their presence. The Vancouver show was huge, the other two, not too shabby. I tagged along for the ride, and took in as much as I could about eight dudes who are pretty fucking adept at having a good time wherever they go.

Friday started nice and slow with a sunny ferry ride from the Tsawwassen terminal to Schwarz Bay. I was afforded the chance to meet the Hawks and Tigers over White Spot fries and gravy (not as good as they used to be, I’m sorry to say), and was quickly caught up to speed on the trials and tribs of the touring life. Driediger was more than a wee bit groggy, as he’d spent a recent night waiting on the floor of a Vancouver hospital to have a nasty ear infection diagnosed and dosed up. Not one to spoil the fun, though, Duffy was going to give things his all to keep the tour on track. Huddled over a table with Sharpies in hand, he was busy producing high art for the Saturday night show, which was rumoured to have a projector. Also busy drawing unflattering portraits of his bandmates was Ladyhawk drummer Ryan Peters, whose rendition of guitarist Darcy Hancock garnered more than a few guffaws, and a later debate as to the origin of Darcy’s reputation as the most haggard of the ‘Hawk.

The Pride Tiger boys managed to elude me for most of the trip, gathering only briefly on deck for a gloriously lit photo shoot. It should not have surprised me to note that all in the band were familiar faces, as Pride Tiger is made up of S.T.R.E.E.T.S. and Three Inches of Blood alumni Sunny Dhak, Matt Wood, Bobby Froese, and Mike Payette. I’ll let you sort out the who’s who for yourselves…

VICTORIA

Soundchecks went off like a charm, and before anyone knew it, the Lucky Bar was full to overflowing with concert–goers eager to catch a glimpse of Vancouver’s finest. Victoria band (with Kelowna transplants) The Greatest Explorers in the World started the night off right, getting the crowd bumping and grinding (I wish I was kidding). Ladyhawk followed suit, doing their best on a night when Duffy was struggling to stay upright. Often visibly out of breath between songs, Driediger kept it together long enough to provide a wonderful introduction into the world of Ladyhawk for myself and the other uninitiated in the crowd. The band was much tighter than I had expected, having heard that they were more in the easy–going free–rockin’ vein of things. Instead, the crowd was treated to a solid, if slightly sordid–sounding, bluesy–rock set. What proved by far the most impressive, though, was the side–stage presence of friends and Tigers, all of whom knew the words to every song by heart. You’ve got to have something special going for you to inspire dedication like that.

By the time Pride Tiger hit the stage, everyone was in full party mode. If Ladyhawk was tight, these guys were, uh, tightest. I guess that’s what you get when you take your job seriously, but not too much. Guitarists Dhak and Froese didn’t even spare each other a glance before lighting up the most intricate of dual guitar solos, and, so far as a layman could tell, Wood’s drumming was bang on, as were Payette’s bass lines. And all this after hours of pre–show drinking down by the water.

After the show, we were offered up a Ladyhawk mansion retreat, complete with an algae–infested hot–tub, or a quiet night “just chilling out” with a school–friend of Wood’s and the Pride Tiger guys. The quieter option sounded the wiser of the two, and so it was off to the suburbs. Upon entering the house, buddy Stu invited us to make ourselves at home, ripped off his t–shirt, and headed straight to the living room, where he proceeded to crank Thin Lizzy to maximum volume. It looked as though the plan to do some PT interviewing wasn’t going to work out, as the boys were all hooked up, chum–style, singing along at the top of their lungs, for pretty much the full Lizzy back catalogue. The night was a conversation write–off, but a pretty good taste of what was to come…

I awoke Saturday morning to the PT van taking off, with the boys intent on getting an early start to the day. Not only was the band playing, but they were also playing host to the Vancity show. Froese, Dhak and Payette are shared owners of Bloodstone Press, a union shop and kickin’ party venue, a business they’ve built, according to Payette, “from the fuckin’ gound up. It started with a press in my basement at the Georgia St. House. We just bought a press and started doing shirts for bands and stuff. It eventually grew into what it is now and we never borrowed money off of a bank or our parents or anything.” So there you have it. Dreams really do come true.

But back to reality, or a foggy version of it, for a second. The better part of the day was spent hanging around Victoria with the Ladyhawkers and their entourage, doing a bit of celebrity spotting (David Suzuki! Too shy to snap a pic!) and record shopping. Although the exact number cannot be confirmed, it is rumoured that guitarist Hancock invested in the entire Midnight Oil back catalogue at Lyle’s Place, a purchase not particularly welcomed by roomie Peters. It wasn’t until Amanda got a little distracted and started driving us along the scenic road to Nanaimo that I got in some quality Q and A time with Duffy and Ryan. We joked about bassist Sean Hawryluk’s affinity for Dungeons and Dragons and his desire to share his obsession with everyone within hearing distance, but talk quickly turned serious when the subject of the band’s ever–impending record release was breached. “We had to re–record it,” explains Driediger. “We recorded it first about a year and a half ago, and sent it away, and we got on our label [Jagjaguwar], and they were like, ‘well, we really like the songs, but we don’t think that the recording does it justice,’ and I kinda felt the same way. They gave us money to re–record it, so it was like, why not?” Asked about what exactly was at fault with the original recording, Peters offers, “it was just too same–y.” Driediger explains, “We recorded it all live, did it really fast, and it sounded shitty, but not in a good way. Our new record sounds shitty, but in a better way.” Both recordings were done with Colin Stewart of the Hive, with the only big difference being that the new one was recorded in part at the band’s jam space. “We dragged the 500–pound reel–to–reel down to our jam space. That was the hardest part,” says Peters. This strenuous effort is rumoured to have paid off, as those who have had the chance to hear the recording, not due out until some time in May, are convinced of its greatness.

“When the album comes out in May, that’s going to be a new beginning for all these songs, because we’ll have to tour them for a year. That could be frustrating,” says a level–headed but still somehow optimistic Peters. “There are a couple of songs that we didn’t quite nail on the second recording because they mutated, or maybe evolved, past the point of…”

“…sweetness.” finishes Driediger. It seems the two are in sync with the way these things go. But truly, optimism pervades. The band, in its current incarnation, has been together for more than two years, and their enthusiasm at eventually having their music heard outside of just concert venues is clear. Driediger jokes, “It’s better to have our expectations low. We’re not the best band you’ll ever hear, but we are the most unprofessional. That’s my motto.” Somehow it’s hard to take this nonchalance too seriously, as easy–going as all four dudes seem to be.

Ladyhawk are all childhood friends from Kelowna. As Hawryluk explains, “We started the band originally backing Duff up for a couple shows at Pat’s Pub. After the second show we decided we needed a band name, and not just be Duffy Driediger (& the…). Duff had a crap load of names that we all went through and short–listed our favourites. Ladyhawk didn’t necessarily appear on all our short lists (I don’t think it was on mine), but after a few days of thought we all figured it sounded the most like us, and it was short and sweet. No “the”, and it was easy as hell to remember. We are very much in love with birds and ladies too, so that helped us settle on it.”

VANCOUVER

On Saturday night I left the bands to their own business, as there was no need to interfere with a quality home–town party. Bloodstone’s warehouse was packed to the max by 11 pm, with early–birds treated to a tour of the premises and offered first dibs on the six kegs of beer. The show seemed less about watching the bands than being seen and chatting it up with those in the know (the show was strictly word–of–mouth). The party went off without a hitch, with nary a copper in sight and little damage done to the space. The only problem, and this a minor one, was that one guest smuggled popcorn inside in his toque and managed to get it every–every–everywhere. Sticky beer floors made that one a bitch to clean up.

WHISTLER

Sunday afternoon I was picked up by the Ladyhawkers, all pretty colossally hung–over, and we were on our way up the mountain. The ride was peppered with tales of tours past, with large amounts of praise heaped on Black Mountain’s Josh Wells, who kept things together on the fall tour. “I felt so bad asking him every morning for directions,” says Hancock; as Hawryluk later explains, on top of playing every day after an 8 to 12–hour drive, Wells also acted as tour manager and mapped out the bands’ routes. The band holds Black Mountain in the highest of esteem, and Driediger suggests that “they could drop the stoner rock bullshit [and still be hugely successful]. It’s like the lowest common denominator.”

After arriving and loading in at the Boot Pub, the drinking began. Soundcheck was nixed in favour of a two–band dinner, slightly more pricey than planned, as the night’s openers, The Wednesday Night Heroes, had run off with all of the food vouchers. A round of caesars was ordered, and we toasted the final stop of the tour with a rousing, “Here’s to Punk Night!” Everyone was pretty psyched to see what kind of crowd the less–than–obvious Calvin and Hobbes–esque poster would round up.

Dearest of Pride Tiger fans, please, by no means believe that I’m short shrifting your homeboys. It was more than a tiny bit tricky getting all four guys in the same room at the same time, and things didn’t really take shape until pre–show time on Sunday night. It turns out that PT often has, according to Payette, “a bunch of lesbians at our shows because they think we’re a gay band.” The band’s name has a much more complicated origin, though, which in Payette’s words, goes something like this:

“We’d watch Thin Lizzy videos and have these things called Wizards’ Councils on Sunday nights where we’d get together and drink Pride Pops, which are Okanagan Spring Apple Ciders, and just get totally fucked up. [We named the band] after ‘Ride the Tiger’, a Dio lyric from “Holy Driver”. We talked about it for, like, six months, and then we jammed. It probably wasn’t that good, but we thought it was awesome. Our first jam was like, 8 hours. We Wrote “Far Out”, that was our fist song. It’s not on the new album. Only the ‘locs’ know those gems.”

Although singer and drummer Wood was willing to go along with most everything I pre–supposed about his band, the others were less eager to get behind my all–too–one–dimensional view of them as a “party–rock band”. More appropriate terms thrown around over the course of the weekend were “thrash rock”, “boogie rock”, and, ever–so–mysteriously, “glue–rock”. As to the flood of Tiger bands on the Vancouver scene at the moment, what sets PT apart from the rest was, originally, a ‘y’ in the ‘tiger’. The issue can now be pinned down more concretely to the fact that “we’re such good–lookin’ fellas,” according to Wood. There’s not much disputing that…

The Saturday night show at Bloodstone was meant to be a CD release party for PT, but things got a little messed up the week prior to the shows. “It’s such a long and terrible story,” states Wood. “We had a record company contractual litigation difficulty, so unfortunately we couldn’t put the record out. We’ve spent the last month trying to get it ready for last night, but last minute it didn’t work out.” It turns out that Froese and Dhak are locked up in a contract with US label Roadrunner because of their affiliation with Three Inches of Blood. “We were the fools,” grumbles Froese. “We signed our souls. We’re Roadrunner artists, basically.” And so the waiting begins. “They have first rights to the band, to hear the band and possibly sign it. And I don’t think they will.”

The album was recorded at the Hive and at Bloodstone with Jesse Gander, “the sweetest dude ever”. Gander “fronted money for us to get the goddamn thing mastered,” says Payette, “only to find out less than a week later that we can’t put it out.” The fact that things came together so quickly took everyone in the band by surprise, as PT has really only been together in its current form since S.T.R.E.E.T.S. and Three Inches returned from their summer tours. “There’s no rush,” according to Froese, to get the album out there.

When it comes to songwriting, PT has a different approach than Ladyhawk, eschewing personal lyrics for inside jokes about each other, and songs about the band van and practice space. “It’s really deep stuff, you know. It’s blue collar, man,” asserts Wood. As to the band’s purpose, says Payette, they just want you to “put your beer up in the air, raise your can of beer on high. [We’re] that kind of party rock.”

That’s pretty much the course that Sunday night took, with fluorescent beers sloshing around onstage and off, and girls in small shirts and dudes in toques rocking out whilst picking up. Some may have been there because of previous run–ins with S.T.R.E.E.T.S., a band that tours constantly but has next to nothing available to buy. “It’s totally cult,” explains Payette, “We recorded our last album three years ago, and it’s our best work, and there’s maybe, like, 100 copies floating around. It’s so stupid, but kinda cool, though.” One Whistler fan in particular made a point of personally congratulating each and every one of the eight musicians on how rad their work in S.T.R.E.E.T.S. had been.

PART(Y)ING WAYS

After three successful nights, there was nothing left to do but get completely wasted. Yours truly called it quits at a respectable 3 a.m., but, as my interview tapes attest to, most of the others stayed up until it was time to leave at 7 the next morning, interviewing each other on subjects as diverse as celebrity urine consumption and, uh, “cock–knocking”.

And so there are many, many things that spending three days in the company of near–strangers can’t explain, as eager as the boys all were to talk. The secret language of Gnar continues to elude me, as does the origin of some very creepy cat–calls the Pride Tiger boys use to keep each other in line and on the drink. It wasn’t until I got back that a friend chose to shed light on Duffy’s pre–Vancouver Chicago sojourn, and the record, never released, that he recorded there with Tim Rutelli of Red Red Meat fame. To be honest, there’s a lot of back–cataloguing that I didn’t get around to, but gladly encourage curious readers to search out, with help from Deer and Bird records and Hive Studios, just to name a few sources. If you’re not piqued by back catalogues, no fear, as you’ve now got the heads–up on two very promising spring releases, and two very excellent bands to view from front and center at every possible opportunity.

Check out Quinn Omori’s review of the Bloodstone Press show at www.discorder.ca