By Nicholas Jason Lopez
The trio of Paul Shepherd, Owen Marchildon and Val Calam collectively offer two decades worth of musicianship and expertise within the Toronto scene through acts like Purple Hill, Rough Skeletons, From Fiction and Stoner Dad.
Under the name High Wasted, Calam plays drums, makes music videos and takes the band photos, Marchildon plays guitar, writes lyrics and handles press, while Shepherd plays baritone, writes occasionally and serves as producer.
Their signature self-coined “Quine Sound,” is modeled after live Velvet Underground recordings that Robert Quine taped in the late sixties – real and rugged, combining elements of simple punk with lively lyrics, which listeners can find in their independently released debut single “Germ Free High Fives.”
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with the band about “Germ Free High Fives” and more.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the band name?
Val Calam – It’s a literal depiction of our Sunday night, jam ritual. Not much imagination on this one.
Music Bugle – What inspired “Germ Free High Fives”?
Owen Marchildon – The song was inspired by Paul’s daughter, Maizy Shepherd. She was always really funny and would constructively criticize the music the three of us were making. She’d say things like, “I like what you all are doing individually, but not collectively.” It always made us laugh. One day, a debate got a little heated and to smooth things over, one of us said, “Come on Maize, give us all a high five.” The Maize said, “Only if it’s a germ-free high-five.” She was really serious because she survived meningitis when she was nine years old. That’s the kind of experience that makes you a germaphobe for life. After she left, the pencils came out and “Germ Free High Fives” was written in about 30 minutes. The three of us were so excited to tell her about the inspiration she brought to our collective. It was about a week later when we told her that we wrote a song based on the remark she made. She simply said, “You three owe me songwriting royalties.” The Maize. What a cool kid.
Music Bugle – What excites you most about your style of music?
Paul Shepherd – When we recorded, Owen and I both used ‘60s Sears Silvertone amps. That was exciting.
Val Calam – As our music gets going, it’s almost out of control. Like a wooden rollercoaster. It’s falling apart and it’s exciting to hold onto that line. It’s an exercise in listening, but it’s also shambolic.
Music Bugle – What was your biggest memory involving music?
Owen Marchildon – A couple years back, my wife took me on a surprise trip for my 40th birthday. Turns out she rented the house in upstate New York, better known as BIG PINK. The house where The Band made music with Bob Dylan. They have this guest book you can sign when you arrive. When I went to sign my name, I noticed that the name above said, Micheal Hurley. I said to myself, “Doc Snock? There’s no way.” I recognized the handwriting, as he does all his own artwork and handwrites his titles. Turns out it was him! I asked the owner and he said he had done the sound for a show Micheal played in Woodstock. After the show, Hurley asked him if he could go see the house the next day because he was a fan. This really blew my mind. I felt so inspired. The owner happened to be a huge Hurley fan as well. While we were talking, he opened up a cupboard in the basement and pulled out a disposable tea cup. He said, “Do you know what this is?” I shook my head. He said,”Micheal Hurley’s tea cup.” I said, “Wow, I thought I was a nerd.”
Music Bugle – Of the shows you’ve played, which ones stand out the most to you?
Val Calam – The pandemic has not allowed us to play a show as High Wasted, but before we were High Wasted, we were called The Tight Ship. We played a show at The Magpie. At one point in the show, my jacket started falling off while I was drumming. I couldn’t get it back on, so I managed to take it off while I drummed. I got applause for that. It was magic!
Music Bugle – How would you describe Toronto to someone who has never been there before?
Val Calam – Toronto is really multicultural, so there is a great culinary scene. Delicious foods from all over the world! Toronto has an abundance of parks and nature. Good infrastructure. Well-kept. Lots of art. It’s a really great place to live. An inspiring place.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Paul Shepherd – I’ll go for a walk. Try to find a street I’ve never been down. No expectations. It’s relaxing.
Val Calam – I go to Lake Simcoe.
Owen Marchildon – I just installed a Sauna in my backyard. I have the best breaks in there.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID 19 pandemic?
Val Calam – What’s that? Is that on Netflix?
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music wise?
Paul Shepherd – I like the new Future Islands single, “The Moon Is Blue” and the new Muzz ‘Covers’ album.
Val Calam – Charli XCX and Ecco 2K.
Owen Marchildon – ‘Mutator’ by Alan Vega and the new Sophia Kennedy album ‘Monsters.’
Music Bugle – What has been the hardest challenge lately?
Paul Shepherd – Homeschooling my daughter or the time between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., right before I take my nap.