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Introducing // Odonis Odonis

11 November 2011, 14:00 | Written by John Freeman

Let us start with the basics. Odonis Odonis come from Toronto and make one hell of a noise. The trio sound like they’ve been force fed a diet of Steve Albini’s seminal Big Black and the Jesus And Mary Chain. And these crazed music geese are gagging to spew out some dirty punk foie gras.

Odonis Odonis are the brainchild of Dan Tzenos and their debut album, Hollandaze, is half an hour of lo-fi proto punk, scuzzy shoegaze and thrilling excitement. The title track is a right little charmer – metronomic drum machine beats, electric shock therapy guitars and Tzenos’ howling drawl. Or should that be drawling howl?

And Tzenos has been a busy boy. Having written a secret stash of songs over an 18-month period, he home-recorded Hollandaze before knocking out another 40 demos over the next few weeks. These latter songs will appear on a second album due next April. This time, the band – now a trio with drummer Jarod Gibson and guitarist Denholm Whale fleshing out the sound – decamped to Vancouver to record with Colin Stewart and enlist a slew of co-conspirators including the odd New Pornographer or two.

But, for now, you’ll have to make do with Hollandaze, which is a rare beast indeed. Tzenos is happy to wear his influences like badges of honour like a cuddly version of Big Black; there is a freshness – a sheer, exhilarating headfuck of strapped-on energy – which elevates Odonis Odonis above the bevy of retro-bands.

The Line Of Best Fit spoke to head-honcho Tzenos about just how he created such wonderful fury.

Odonis Odonis – Hollandaze by Odonis Odonis

Howdy, I believe you guys are from Toronto. I went to Toronto once and loved it. But I went up the CN Tower and stood on the glass floor thing and nearly fainted, such was my nauseating vertigo. Have you ever stood on the glass floor section?

I have, but I don’t think I’ve done it since I was nine. I’m not big on heights either.

What bands were you into when you were growing up? How did that differ from other kids at your school?

I’ve always kind of stuck out with my musical tastes. I was huge a Ministry fan growing up and was wearing one of their t-shirts in my grade seven school picture while the other kids were dressing like Kriss Kross. Ha ha.

I believe you have sisters – do they like Odonis Odonis?

My sisters were a major influence, introducing me to the Pixies, The Stone Roses and a bunch of early industrial bands. They have been really supportive of Odonis Odonis and definitely seem into it.

I absolutely adore Big Black. When I heard the track ‘Hollandaze’, I thought of them. How much – if any – has Big Black been an influence? Do you like any other of Albini’s bands such as Rapeman or Shellac?

I’m a huge fan of Big Black and Shellac, so I’m definitely influenced by them – Rapeman being my least favourite of the bunch. Scratch Acid, Jesus Lizard and Dead Kennedys are on my list, too. I would say that those bands created the balls of Hollandaze; which, in my humble opinion, is something that a lot of music lacks these days.

What other bands/musicians have shaped the Odonis Odonis sound?

The sound of Odonis Odonis really comes from a lot of different types of music. I dig surf, like The Ventures and Link Wray. Toss in some shoegaze bands like Black Tambourine, My Bloody Valentine and Jesus And Mary Chain. I really love The Smiths, although I’m not sure how much that comes through in my music. Some newer stuff I really enjoy includes Black Angels, A Place to Bury Strangers, Liars, Deerhunter and Animal Collective. Lately, I’ve been listening to tons of music out of the local Toronto scene and bands that I’ve enjoyed playing with on the road. I’m really into our friends’ bands like Hut, Rituals, Metz, Mood Rings and Carnivores. I’m all over the map, constantly finding new influences.

What’s the Toronto music scene currently sounding like? Who do you consider your peers?

The Toronto scene is probably heavier than most cities. There’s a pretty big crust punk, grungy, shoegaze thing going on that I’m happy about. It has made it easy for Odonis Odonis to find a place in the scene. Bands that I would consider our peers are Hut, Soupcans and Metz.

I believe you write 40 songs ahead of picking ten for Hollandaze – do songs ‘come easy’ to you?

Songs definitely come easy, although I’ve made it a point not to take it for granted. I figured that while the juices were flowing I would write as much possible and figure what do with it after the fact. People go through music way quicker these days so it makes sense to stay on the ball. The days of waiting six years between records is dead and I always want the seal of freshness with this project.

How do the initial demos differ from what we hear on the album?

The initial demos for Hollandaze are not too far off from the final version – they were mostly sketches that I moulded over a year until they were ready to go. Some songs were what they were right off the bat – others needed quite a few passes. There is a more dramatic leap from demos to final tracks with the next record, which comes out in April next year. It has way more studio production going on – it was a meticulous record, while Hollandaze ended up being really immediate.

Odonis Odonis – Tick Tock by Odonis Odonis

When did Jarod Gibson and Denholm Whale officially join and will they become part of the writing process?

The live band itself is relatively young. Originally, Chris Slorach helped me get the project up-and-running before his responsibilities with his primary band, Metz, took on a life of their own. We found Jarod about year ago from a Craigslist ad. I heard his former band, Print, and it was the perfect fit for what I wanted to do. He was totally into the idea of electronic drums and even made a custom kit for the project. We added Denholm in March of this year and everyone was instantly impressed. He added a lot to project and filled in gaps. Within two to three months of Denholm coming on board, we were ready to unleash Odonis Odonis. The band has already started writing music together and I’m lucky that I found some likeminded people to work with. There’s lots more music coming.

Will you be coming to the UK? If so, what are you expecting?

We are definitely gonna make our way down next year and are really looking forward to it. I’ve toured the UK before and enjoyed the experience, but I learned that while on the road, it’s best to keep modest expectations. It really makes the whole process more enjoyable because we really are just happy to be playing music anywhere.

You’ve mentioned a second album due out in 2012. Can you tell me about the album and how it will sound? I believe it may be ‘less distorted’ – why is this and how does it point to the evolution of Odonis Odonis?

This second album is a studio album and is more of slow burn. It’s less distorted but still very distorted. Ha ha. It’s definitely an album, and not a collection of tracks, which has a flow and requires more patience from the listener. I actually wrote and recorded this album first, so I can’t say that it’s an evolution, just a different experience. That’s what I want to establish with this project: never expect anything. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed – I want to be open to explore different styles of music every time.

One final silly question – what is an Odonis and why do we need two of them?

An ex of mine worked with someone named Adonis Adonis and I just couldn’t shake the name. I just thought it was memorable and dug it, so it stuck. I threw in the ‘O’ to shake things up and because it’s easier to Google.

Hollandaze is out now on FatCat.

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