Masa Anzai (left), Dan And, Brad Mackinnon and James Farwell weren’t thrilled to discover a UK ska band working under the name Bison.
EXCLAIM TOUR featuring BISON B.C. with BARONESS and GENGHIS TRON at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Wednesday (September 24), 8 pm. $17. 416-870-8000.
When shredding guitarist James Farwell of beloved Vancouver skatepunk crew S.T.R.E.E.T.S. turned up ripping chunky riffs at a considerably slower rate in Bison, it raised a few pierced eyebrows. But as it turned out, there were more stoner rock fans in the mosh pit than you might've guessed, and thrash fans of the disbanded S.T.R.E.E.T.S. turned out to be Bison's most aggressive supporters.
But that was a couple of years ago, and since then hipster metal has turned from an insult into a marketable sub-genre. Suddenly Bison find themselves attracting a whole new crowd of people wearing fedoras and skinny jeans.
"Oh my fucking gawd, we're hipster metal?" shrieks Farwell in mock horror. "Hold the phone while I go slit my wrists. I mean, amongst my crowd here, ‘hipster' is a go word. I'm not a tough guy, but if you said that to my face, I would have to fight you.
"But we do live here in the hipsterland of Vancouver, so I guess there's not much we can do about it. I just thought I was getting away from all that by moving out of Toronto."
Someone at Metal Blade must've recognized Bison's crossover potential with the non-metal crowd and decided to make the heavy 'n' hairy foursome of Masa Anzai, Brad Mackinnon, Dan And and Farwell the legendary alt-metal label's first Canuck signing. No one was more amazed than the members of Bison when Metal Blade responded to their press package with a contract offer.
"Metal Blade was high up on our list of labels we were interested in signing with. They were there from the start of the whole thrash metal thing and served as the launch pad for Sacred Reich, Death Angel, Slayer and fucking DRI.
"At the time we contacted them, we'd just gotten some really good write-ups in European magazines, and I think that must've piqued their interest in us, because other than their Canadian rep, Sarah Lutz, who came to see one show, I don't think anyone from the label ever saw us play before they e-mailed me a copy of the contract to sign."
Being that the hard-battering new Bison album, Quiet Earth, is produced by Jesse Gander (3 Inches of Blood) at his Hive Studio in Burnaby, where he also engineered the group's slept-on 2007 debut, Earthbound (Forest) LP, there's little discernible change in sound or concept. The big difference is that they're now calling themselves Bison b.c. What the fuck?
Anyone who is aware that S.T.R.E.E.T.S. stands for Skateboarding Totally Rules Everything Else Totally Sucks will know that Farwell enjoys nothing more than fooling with acronyms. But b.c.?
"The ‘b.c.' doesn't stand for British Columbia as some people think," says Farwell, "and it isn't Before Christ either. We didn't want any problems with the province or people from the Catholic Church, so it's actually ‘brutal and crucial.' At first I was pissed that we had to alter our name, but now it's, like, whatever.
How exactly they came about the decision to change the group name is an interesting story in itself. Evidently there was no lawsuit involved, it was purely a precautionary move to avoid a potential legal wrangle in the future.
"There was a band preparing an album for Metal Blade recently that got into trouble because of their name, and the label dropped them rather than get involved in a drawn-out legal battle.
"There was some concern that we might run into difficulty because some ska band from England is also called Bison. Who the fuck plays ska music in 2008? Anyway, we went to their MySpace page and they looked like dudes who might sue. You know how some people just look litigious? That's them.
"So we added the ‘b.c.' part. It's way better than the other idea we had. If we called ourselves Bison VII, people might think we're a goddamn theatre troupe or something."
Bison b.c. singer/guitarist James Farwell breaks down the complementary songwriting relationship he shares with bandmate Dan And.
Although Bison b.c. are just releasing their new Quiet Earth disc on September 30, they already have plans for the next album according to Farwell.