By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Somewhere between the sonic grittiness of The Ramones and The Strokes’ playful lyrical genius/vocal delivery, Edmonton-based power-pop pioneers Real Sickies dropped their album ‘Love Is For Lovers’ via Montreal label Stomp Records this past summer, praised for its energetic vibes and catchiness in songs like “Destructive Nights (Love Degenerate)” and “Communication Breakdown.”
An upgrade in their songwriting abilities, ‘Love Is For Lovers’ marks a new level of maturity for the band and rightfully so. It was recorded at Rob Lawless’ Physics Lab Studios, with production input from bassist Mario Nieva (Real Mckenzies) and musical contributions from indie country musician Lucette for “Give And Take” and SNFU’s Dave Bacon for bass/vocals for “Think Of The Sunshine” and their cover of T-Rex’s “Jeepster.”
For the band, it was a chance to express views across many topics like life on tour, friendships and relationships, growth, setbacks, addictions, sobriety – basically, working through life’s ups and downs. As for the album’s title and namesake track, according to the group, it was in response to a homophobic comment left on some of their videos.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with vocalist Ben Disaster about what they’ve been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide on the band name?
Ben Disaster – “Real Sickies,” the name, comes from the song lyrics in “Teenage Lobotomy” by the Ramones. The name was suggested to the group of founding members by our friend Sarah Lawless and we rolled on with it ever since.
Music Bugle – What was your goal for ‘Love Is For Lovers’?
Ben Disaster – This album was the first where we actually sat down as a band and discussed what we wanted out of it. Learning from our past experiences and wanting to repeat successes, but also grow from things that didn’t quite work out. Being our fourth official LP after a handful of singles, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to accomplish. The album ‘Love Is For Lovers’ had been in the making for sometime and we wanted to try and make a very inclusive album. Something to show our beliefs as individuals, but not alienate our fans. We wanted to make conversation, not arguments. Sound-wise, we wanted it to be louder and step above our previous attempts. I feel we accomplished a lot of that, but there will always be room to grow in one way or another.
Music Bugle – How did 2021 treat you?
Ben Disaster – I mean, okay, I guess? It gave us sometime to reconnect to ourselves and try and finish up some loose ends. It’s been pretty busy with writing and music videos, also re-learning our songs, etc.. It’s been pretty isolated for the most part, but we found ways to keep connected the best we could.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Ben Disaster – I’m not even sure what style of music we fit into anymore. With this last LP, we broke the mold, but kept all the pieces. I like that we can have a 30-second hardcore tune and then, blast into some country-ish rock n’ roll. It’s nice to have the diversity, but still keep a general feeling. In a lot of ways, we fit into the pop punk/power pop genre and that’s been a style of music I’ve loved for a long time. It has energy and hooks and usually makes you want to put a song on repeat. It also allows us to be open to let each other shine when we can and that creates an opportunity for an entertaining live show.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Edmonton to someone who has never been there before?
Ben Disaster – It’s weird. I met a new friend a few years ago who came to Edmonton from Germany for school, I believe. Since then, they’ve been back over and over, so there must be something special about Edmonton. From my experience, it has a strong punk scene. The city is fairly isolated from other cities, so people have a big drive to make the most of it. Before the pandemic hit, there was multiple shows every night, always some sort of festival of art or theatre or music. There’s many venues from diy clubs, small bars, midsize to full-on music venues. It’s a great place to grow as an artist and very easy to connect with peers. The sky is huge and summers are long days. The sun almost doesn’t go down at points. The winter is cold, dark and usually feels bleak as all hell. You kinda lose your mind at some point. That’s part of what inspires a lot of sounds from here. You can hear it in the music, but also feel it in the energy. Once spring hits, everyone is pent up and ready to rage. It’s a very open-arms community and all the scenes become connected one way or another. It’s worth the visit. Good vegan food and a huge river valley that most people will laugh at, but it’s very true. It’s a pretty city with a lot of heart, but a lot of hardships and grit.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Ben Disaster – Most of the songs in the past came to us instantly. There was an idea, then one jam and then, we’d record it almost. Some of them kinda grew over the years and became stronger. That being said, with this album, there are two that really stand out for writing challenges. Our single “Destructive Nights (Love Degenerate)” took a good long while to finalize. We had the riffs and melodies, but there was so many options to where we would take it. We landed on a great version after working with Mario Nieva. That and “Hold On Baby” took a while to finalize the lyrics to make it a proper pop tune.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Ben Disaster – I made a new playlist for the band so we can get some ideas for the next LP, actually. I run a radio show called “This Is Pop” and Alex runs a radio show called “Big A, Little A,” so we are always exploring new and old music. Some heavy repeat artists – Amyl And The Sniffers, Bee Bee Sea, The Beths, Little Junior, Buzzcocks and Tommy And The Commies. There’s a major love for snotty punk and power pop, always. Phil Seymour and The Vapours will always be on repeat.
Music Bugle – Did the video for “Communication Breakdown” come out the way you hoped?
Ben Disaster – I wasn’t too sure what to expect from it, really. The cage I built was a little floppy, but it turned out pretty well, even after transport. We made a few props and had a few in our backpocket as well that added a nice texture. Working with Jesse Nash is always a real treat. He’s very knowledgeable, so if you’re paying close attention, you’ll learn a thing or two from him. We were able to improvise pretty well with the limitations Covid brought into the picture, so anything we’ve been able to accomplish, I’ve been very grateful for.
Music Bugle – What did you miss the most about performing live?
Ben Disaster – The separation of day and night mostly and those moments to release built-up energy. I found myself blasting music in my headphones and running around in a park like I was playing show a few times now. I bet my neighbors think highly of me! (Laughs) That and the real interactions with people. Whether you’re performing or watching a show, there’s a nice release of the mundane day-to-day and a connection to like-minded people.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ben Disaster – As a band, aside from not being able to play live, it hasn’t made a huge impact. I mean, obviously it has, but we try and make the best of all worst-case scenarios. We did an impromptu LP called ‘Quarantine,’ which we wrote, recorded and released in one week. Then, we made videos for that and went straight into working on ‘Love Is For Lovers.’ That being said, we’ve struggled in our own ways, as well as watching friends be deeply affected. Mentally, the thought of things reopening is exciting, but also depressing, oddly. It’s been a wild ride and I don’t think it’s over yet.