This week HSY hit the UK for a short tour, including a show at Canada House for The Great Escape. The band have a single coming in June via Too Pure and rapidly rising Toronto label Buzz Records. We spoke to label co-founder Ian Chai about the story behind the label before letting the bands themselves introduce each other.
Buzz first started as a musical venue in a garage in the Chinatown area of Toronto back in 2011. Initially hosting punk and noise shows, the space rapidly became something of a multi-genre hub, playing host to like minded touring bands on their way through town, with acts like White Lung and Sean Nicholas Savage passing through its doors. All the shows were recorded to tape and sometimes released in small quantities. As is often the way, with underground or DIY venues, the space was closed down in late 2012. However, the ethos of “Music for the sake of Music” remained.
When Metz invited Odonis Odonis out on tour in 2013 the Buzz story sparked back to life. Dean and Denholm of the band joined forces with Jude of HSY (another founding member of Buzz the venue) and Ian Chai to put together a label that Chai describes as “taking forward the ethics and values of the people who came through the original Buzz”. The labels first release was Odonis Odonis’ Better EP, which was followed by HSY’s Self titled EP and ANAMAI. “Initially it was just releases from the immediate, original Buzz family, but soon we reached out to others, including the Beverleys, Weaves and Greys”.
Although many of the labels releases lie at the more noisy end of the spectrum, and that much of the ethos behind the label stems from growing up in the DIY and Punk scene, Chai is keen to point out that the labels approach is not genre specific. “We listen to fucking everything. I don’t care if someone thinks we sold out because we put out something different. Surely the inherent thing with having your own label is that you can curate it. And we do that. So we can put out a pop record by Weaves, or an Electronic record by Beta Frontiers…we have meetings and sit and really listen to and talk about the music. We send it to the other bands on the label because we want them to have a say, or get excited, or want to tour with them or remix them or whatever. It’s not like we are just going to put out a polka-trance record. You can be eclectic but you can’t be unfocused.”
Buzz’s approach seems to be a simple one, in a world that Chai feels can often over complicate things: “We got fed up with that one size fits all approach - the same marketing, the same touring circuit…we like to work one to one, and see what different people can bring to the table. There isn’t a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow anymore - so you have to work with the right people. After a while, you just know, you can almost smell it. We work with people who have the same view of loyalty as we do.”
While everyone who is on the label are friends, Chai is aware of how that can appear to outsiders: “You hear so much about ‘we’re a family’ or ‘we’re a community’, but so often you could add on the phrase ‘until you are of no use to us anymore’. It’s opportunistic and it’s bullshit. But now more than ever, with a little effort, you can find people with like minds and you CAN make it work. But you still have to focus, you have to be judicious and enterprising - that might be house shows, or it might be the traditional agent route, whatever. We do what it takes, and we work with people so they are in a better position than they were before. If there’s ever a conflict between the art and the commerce - we know the art will always win…and if it doesn’t work down the line, then you can call us on our shit.”
“There is no one way of doing things, and there is no manifesto, but if there had to be one golden rule I guess don’t be a dick fits the bill.”
We are delighted to present a Buzz Records sampler, with tracks from each of the artists currently releasing on the label. And, in order to get to know the bands better, we tasked each artist with introducing one of their label mate. So while you listen to the sampler, you can find out what they really think of each other…
ANAMAI on Beta Frontiers
Beta Frontiers is the soundtrack to a near-future physical video game where your shoes are hovercrafts and you actually make it to all the parties in one night. When you get there, everyone is like, “Hey Mike!!”, as beamy smiles melt into your now-hologrammed dancing body.
Beta Frontiers on ANAMAI
Anamai songs are a forest to get lost in. There’s this familiarity to them, but still not like anything I’ve really heard before. Somehow the melodies are both welcoming yet unsettling. It’s folk music from planet Neptune.
The Beverleys on Greys
Greys are a loud rock band. Full stop? Nah, Greys are so much more than this. Step-kids to Fugazi and Pavement, younger brothers to The Constantines and Hot Snakes, Greys come from that perfect school of rock that captures everything you’re looking for in aggressive punk music. Never too in your face to leave you feeling bruised, but never far enough away to let you forget that what you’re listening to should be taken seriously. Their songs are short, thumping, guitar soaked testaments to what it’s like being in a band, figuring out life and just giving it your fucking all. Greys leave it all on the floor, exactly where it should be.
Greys on The Beverleys
The Beverleys will tell you that none of them knew how to play their instruments when they started, and I think that’s their biggest virtue. It’s what makes each song so urgent, because they approach songwriting with the bare essentials. Their music is exciting and engaging as a direct result of its simplicity.
Odonis Odonis on HSY
Hey we love HSY, it’s a special kind of love. It’s like that moment when you’re waiting for the subway at 1 a.m. and the schizophrenic homeless man to your left decides to feverishly masturbate. It’s like the moment when you’ve realised that the sandwich you just ate didn’t have some sort of fancy meat on it, it was just mouldy. It’s like the moment you realized that Grandma’s cooking tastes special not because there is love in it, but because some Dove lotion and mucus found it’s way into the recipe. If you turned HSY into a living breathing creature it would ask to hangout on your couch for a couple days and not leave for weeks and get you sick in the process. But you know, whatever man. They are heavy and they RULE.
HSY on Odonis Odonis
The first time I heard Odonis Odonis was before the Garage, before Buzz, before everything, and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. Heavy drums, harsh guitars, and reverbed out vocals, it opened me back up to bands like Skinny Puppy and Ministry. To this day Odonis Odonis is in my repertoire of music I listen to everyday along with Cabaret Voltaire and Swans. I saw their first show at the Garage, and pretty much every show (in Toronto) since then, so to see a band like this grow and get better and better every show has been a real treat. Great people and an even better band.
Weaves on Mexican Slang
Leather jackets, tattoos and a serious swagger resembling the poise and presence of a young Debbie Harry mixed with the gloom of Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls. When I listen to Mexican Slang I feel like smoking a cigarette, maybe sweating on the beach in my one-piece and re-watching the cult classic Jawbreaker. There’s a dark twang to every song that in my opinion leaves a taste of nostalgia on my tongue. I’d say Anna’s muttered and muggy voice makes me feel like she knows more about the end than we do. I only dream that they get Rose McGowan to star in one of their videos.
Mexican Slang on Weaves
W is for weird and wacky grooves
E is for being effortlessly smooth
A is for acid tripping noise
V is for a velvety far out voice
E for engaging, energetic and loud
S for the sweetest and sauciest sounds
HSY play Canada House (Blind Tiger Club) at The Great Escape on Thursday 8th May at 1.30pm
HSY and Odonis Odonis tour the UK in May. For full dates visit Buzz Records’ website.