You hear it constantly these days: “The rock band is dying; the rock band is dead.” Whether this outlook is simply a jaded gripe, a universal truth, or some combination of both, it behooves a band in the modern age to seek ways to define themselves as more than “just a band”. Spinning a mythology is one way — whether that mythology be underpinned by some sort of philosophy, an outlandish tale, or simply an ability to spread artistic wings wide.

Such mythologies are sometimes wholly manufactured — but for Montreal and Toronto-based three-piece, DOOMSQUAD, the mythology came naturally, through spontaneous growth followed by deliberate action. You see, DOOMSQUAD have an interesting tale from the outset, for they are a family band — comprised of multi-instrumentalists Jaclyn, Allie, and Trevor Blumas, two sisters and a brother — who never intended to make music together. Yet after pursuing their separate artistic interests in different cities across North America, they intersected in adulthood to discover that the fruits did not fall far from the tree, and somehow, the philosophies and musical tastes which came to govern their separate existences somehow made them the perfect collaborative partners.

DOOMSQUAD Band InterviewPhotography by Ghostprom

“We were close, and we would see each other on holidays and stuff, but we weren’t as close as we are now, and it wasn’t until some point we realized that we were on the same creative, artistic journey,” recalls Trevor Blumas, DOOMSQUAD’s frontman and guitarist. “It was definitely mired in spirituality and political views, and we found certain music to resonate with us in those regards, and they were all the same kind of music…”

It was only through the natural unfolding process that DOOMSQUAD eventually sat down to formulate a band manifesto of sorts. Its content is known only to the three of them, but generally still holds valid, even three years into their project.

“It was never like, ‘Let’s make music together,’ notes Blumas. “It was two different streams. The music-making part kind of started as a joke, but then a whole deeper conceptual project emerged kind of through an ongoing conversation.”

Seeing Clear Through to the Other Side

Yes, despite their urban hippie vibes and the free-form flow of their music, a calculated ideology is woven through everything DOOMSQUAD does. Spend one day with the band, and one will easily discover that they are naturally deep and philosophical thinkers, drawn effortlessly to discussing political and social issues. Hence it follows that their latest EP, Pageantry Suite, is “overty political”, even beneath its relatively poppy sounds.

“We wanted to make something in the vein of a lot of music we’re really inspired by. A lot of it is really inspired by post-punk and the no wave movement,” explains Blumas. “We wanted to kind of take that approach of… making something that was a bit subversive in a sense of making a more poppy album that felt kind of fun and summery and light but had a political message.”

On Pageantry Suite‘s opening track, “Two-Way Mirror”, the band tackles issues of misogyny and gender imbalance. The track’s title comes from a cinematic scene, which provides the visual of two-way mirrors and interrogation rooms.

“The image we were conjuring up was about this woman in an interrogation room, and… it’s like a faceless man confronting her from the other side of the mirror, and he has all this anger and all this resentment towards her, but they’re like blocked. She doesn’t really see him, but he’s kind of maintaining his position from the other side,” explains Blumas.

Repeating halfway through the track is the infectious line, “The apparatus is working” — and even though Blumas details his struggle over whether or not such a line was too cliché, DOOMSQUAD’s politicization of their music feels as though it is done with great grace. Perhaps due to the band’s cascading rhythms and general ease of flow, the messages they expound feel honest, natural, and easy to swallow.

“[The track is about] how the roles are kind of shifting,” Blumas continues, “so it seems like people are giving less potency to that straight white man in society. They kind of see these guys holding on for dear life, trying to hold onto that position of power, and they’re trying even harder by applying more force and more mechanisms to maintain that. It’s becoming more and more apparent. And the song is about the last grip of control from the dying figure of the person that once had the power. It’s kind of about that, mixed with themes of surveillance and different things.”

“‘The apparatus is working’ is more him kind of trying to say that, as a mantra to reassure himself that everything, all the stuff that he’s applied, is still working, even though it’s clearly not. I guess it’s up for debate,” Blumas then adds, “but I think it’s clearly not.”

 

On Rhythm

“[Rhythm is] kind of everything, I think. In the spiritual sense… rhythm — even just a steady repetitive beat — is a vessel that kind of is used to bring people into these higher states… You see it on dancefloors; it is this original type of ecstasy, even if you keep the drugs out of it. You just have hundreds of thousands of people kind of entrained or entranced into the same groove, and it breaks down a lot of barriers, especially when you exclude lyrics from it. Rhythmic music is kind of universal, and it has this profound impact on your body — like, a good groove is pretty hard not to have a physical response to. It’s hard not to have a physical response to it.” – Trevor Blumas, DOOMSQUAD

 

Breaking Out of Space & Time

Outside of adhering to philosophies and manifestos, DOOMSQUAD like to challenge themselves by manipulating the frameworks and spaces within which they create, so that they mirror the output they wish to have. Due to the urban nature of Pageantry Suite, for example, the band purposely sought out a professional recording environment at Polyphasic Studios in Toronto.

“We were kind of going with the New York Bowery vibe and kind of evoking that energy and that spirit, so we went into a studio and did it,” explains Blumas. “It was our first time actually in the studio; we’ve never recorded in an actual proper studio before that, and the next album isn’t that either, and it was also our first time recording in a city.”

By contrast, their previous full-length, the dark and moving Kalabogie, and their upcoming LP, 2016’s Total Time, were birthed out of retreats into nature.

“[Kalaboogie], and the one we just finished recording in New Mexico, were a conscious effort to remove ourselves from distraction and into a pretty blissful, enlightening place where we could really focus on our music and focus on our whatever rituals and practices that we have and kind of conjur up our creativity and our approach to the music, in those kinds of spaces that cater to that,” says Blumas.

In preparation for their next LP, Total Time, DOOMSQUAD rented a house outside of Albuquerque for two months, arriving there with a fully fleshed out concept for the record, but only a couple loosely written songs. What emerged was a true embrace of the creative in-the-moment, thus reflecting the timeless quality which is found in DOOMSQUAD’s mesmerizing music.

“We basically forced ourselves to break out of time. We got rid of all the clocks and time devices, and we would force ourselves to stay up really late, and then wake up really early in the morning, to break out of the habitual practices that we had conjured from the city. We got in this weird state of out of time, and the only things we had to give the sense of time was the sun rising and the sun setting,” explains Blumas, who goes on to say that the band meditated a lot and jammed every day with very little intention of actually creating songs.

“We usually kind of found in the past that the blend of all those things kind of has a really organic experience, where the music that you’re making is kind of directly a response to the environment and the elements and places around you. So you kind of create everything around you, and the music is a response to that,” he continues.

From this environment will come a record that boomerangs back towards Kalaboogie in sound.

“[Pageantry Suite] has a really hi-fidelity, and all of the elements were controlled in this really nice state-of-the-art studio, and yeah, it was surreal…” says Blumas. “When you’re away recording an album, you live and breathe it, and when you turn off your amp or unplug your instruments for the night, you’re still in the zone, but with that exchange, you walk away from it and you’re back in the city, and you have your responsibilities and your back in your apartment, that kinda thing.”

“[Total Time] is more in the vein of Kalaboogie, where it feels like an album and it goes on kind of a journey,” he contrasts. “It’s definitely a lot, lot darker than [Pageantry Suite].”

 

DOOMSQUAD – “Apocalypso” (Live)

 

Translating Concepts Into Tangible Results

DOOMSQUAD can sometimes be seen extending their divergent artistic backgrounds from concepts and music into other mediums. Thus far, these components are still a work-in-progress, to be fleshed out at a later date, but on rare occasions — particularly during headlining shows in their hometown — DOOMSQUAD will utilize more theatrical elements, such as costumes and projections.

“It has to make sense for us to do it. If we just do it for the sake of doing it, it feels contrived,” explains Blumas, “but we travel around with that stuff when we’re on the road, and if it’s the right environment and we’re feeling confident enough to do it, we do it. It helps us, and it sets a colorful tone, and it makes people feel like they can be a bit weirder.”

DOOMSQUAD - Pageantry Suite Album ArtworkWhen these attempts at branching out are successful, they sometimes result in repeat collaborations with close artistic friends. One repeat player is Chris Boni, a filmmaker and artist in Toronto who Blumas admits DOOMSQUAD “has always admired”. Boni created the music video for “Ovoo” off of Kalaboogie, as well as the album artwork and two music videos from Pageantry Suite.

“Because there was a conceptual thing underlying the entire EP, we wanted to have that conceptual project carry out in the visuals as well, so we kind of brought [Chris Boni] into the conceptual project, even while we were recording,” says Blumas. “And he had free reign; he had carte blanche on how he responded to that… it was 100% his response to the music.”

The album cover for Pageantry Suite, which somehow feels like an abstracted extension of the ordered chaos of the album cover for Kalaboogie, is a mixed media wonder — one that cannot be fully comprehended, even upon close inspection.

“The photo on the cover of the EP was a sculpture that [Boni] had built and he had photographed it from basically 360 — so all these different angles — and then he did a photo composite of all the photos on top of each other,” Blumas says, while noting that his understanding of the artistic process is limited. “It’s sort of this impossible sculpture. The sculpture doesn’t look like that in person; it’s kind of like a 360 photo composite crammed into one image, so it kind of has this impossibility about it.”

Elements from the completed album cover were then incorporated into the two music videos for “Two-Way Mirror” and “Apocalypso”, which Boni shot when he visited New Mexico with the band.

“He just kind of organically created that whole narrative when we were down in New Mexico… the way the art ties into it is that if you watch the two video, the part one and part two, you’ll see different linework. You’ll see these different paintings and drawings the main character does that’s basically the album cover,” explains Blumas, who adds that the American painter Richard Tuttle was a big visual influence for both Boni and the band on this record.

With 2015’s Pageantry Suite and Total Time likely being released in 2016, the momentum DOOMSQUAD is generating with their various conceptual, musical, and artistic interests is impressive. Quite organically, but also through careful contemplation, they are pursuing their music career in exactly the kind of challenging and expansive way that other modern bands ought to take notes from.

“We’re on such a roll, we’re like, ‘Why stop now?’ You never know when the well is going to dry out, so might as well keep the machine rolling.”

Ω

 


Music Video Gallery

All music videos directed by Chris Boni

DOOMSQUAD — “Two-Way Mirror” Music Video

DOOMSQUAD — “Apocalpyso” Music Video

DOOMSQUAD — “Ovoo” Music Video

DOOMSQUAD – “Eternal Return” (Live @ REDEFINE magazine SXSW 2015 Haus Party)

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