HOSTAGE LIFE with BOYS NIGHT OUT , NO USE FOR A NAME and others as part of Wakestock on the Toronto Islands, Friday (August 11), doors 9 am. $24.50, all ages. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Almost every time i look at band profiles on MySpace or some hot new group's website, I find a bio so full of self-importance and hyperbole that it's laughable.
Something like: "Without a doubt, this band will revolutionize rock forever" or "They push boundaries and go to places never before explored."
Then, thankfully, there are the bands who couldn't give two shits what impression they make.
Case in point are Toronto's Hostage Life, purveyors of explosive and highly catchy punk rock. Their MySpace bio section ends with "Stop reading and just listen to the fucking song."
To get a sense of how the band sells itself, consider very tired and hung-over singer Colin Lichti's response to a standard question : "I partied too much last night."
"Who would you compare yourselves to? The Clash? Dillinger Four? C'mon, man, we need a point of reference here."
Lichti goes one better and instead of dropping names like America drops bombs, offers a disturbingly detailed description.
"I would like to think we sound like a recently freed wage slave anally satisfying himself with his boss's toothbrush."
Lichti says rating your own hype is tough.
"It's very hard to keep a straight face while you're writing. Bios are so self-aggrandizing when you have to explain how you've grown since the last album. Keep it as simple as possible. I don't mention who we've played with, cuz it doesn't matter."
Hostage Life, including drummer Paul Miller, guitarists Hai Vu and Patrick Mathers and bassist Eric Gaudet, nevertheless have every right to brag. Since 2004 they've toured incessantly, playing with everyone from the Dead Kennedys to No Use for a Name, and will soon be sharing the stage with both Rancid and NOFX.
Not bad for a bunch of local kids. Then again, not surprising either, considering the band is made up of well-respected members of Marilyn's Vitamins, Blank Stare and Atomic Drops.
But Lichti's quick to point out that the band did not start out as the serious project it became.
"We started out playing for fun; then it steamrolled into this. Our label, Underground Operations, run by friends of ours, put out an EP, then a full-length. In the back of our minds we still want it to be fun, and there are five different points of view and five different minds at work with ideas about music and tours."
The five different brains throbbing with ideas agree on one consistent factor: the music's message. They don't play conventionally political punk (Lichti and I concur that that would be très boring), but their music is born out of frustration from having to work shitty jobs.
"I've had enough jobs to know about what I don't want to do. Hostage Life refers to a nine-hour shift; you want to go home but you can't. It's about feeling trapped. It's a stark reality, and sometimes getting a paycheque can be degrading."
Hence the earlier freed wage slave comment.
Emancipation through music can be a beautiful thing, and Hostage Life seem to be coming closer and closer to fruitful labour with their project. They tour Canada for the rest of the summer before Lichti goes back to finish his BA, and then they're off to Europe - a goal they're all very excited about finally reaching.
Before hanging up, I ask Lichti for his take on the current state of the music that's helped shape their aesthetic, and the avalanche of emo and prefab bands. Not surprisingly, he sounds like he's taking it all with a grain of salt.
"When I was 23, ska was all the rage and every band was playing guitar upstrokes. Now every band sounds like Thrice. It won't last.
"The lamest, whiniest guy is Chris (Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional), and he plays the most disingenuous music I've ever heard - there's no way he's had that many girlfriends and breakups. It's like Wilt Chamberlain saying he's slept with 3,000 women."