The experimental pop trio have seen the city's creative communities handcuffed by political interests and capitalist real estate agendas, but they're not giving up
DOOMSQUAD with ICE CREAM and DJ NEW CHANCE at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West), Thursday (June 27), doors 8 pm. $12. ticketfly.com.
Doomsquad began their life at DIY venue Double Double Land in 2012, before moving their activities to the 8-11 gallery and underground punk venue S.H.I.B.G.Bs – all of which have since shuttered.
“After the closure of these spaces and the constant threat to many others, an existential dread swept through the community,” says Doomsquad synth player, vocalist, percussionist and flautist Allie Blumas.
Along with providing a stage for their earliest performances, Kensington Market’s now-officially-defunct Double Double Land served as the rehearsal space for the experimental electronic pop trio and a home for singer/guitarist Trevor Blumas. He and his sisters/bandmates Allie and Jaclyn Blumas also used the multidisciplinary art hub to found the Heretical Objects Cooperative, releasing music and throwing parties for an ever-expanding crew of collaborators.
Sadly, civil bylaws and pressures have forced the closure of that space, dislocating their creative communities in the process.
Doomsquad’s propulsive, pleading new album, Let Yourself Be Seen, rallies back against the crushing force of capitalist real estate agendas while shouting out their heroes and inviting everyone to the dance floor.
“There was a beautiful, fleeting moment in Toronto a couple years back where there seemed like many unique spaces were available,” says Allie. “You had your pick, which helped set the vibe and tone of the party you wanted to create. So many new artists and groups emerged and developed in response. Shows weren’t burdened by the commerce of bar sales and commercial rent, so people throwing them could take real risks.
“The rave spaces on Geary, which keep getting pushed further up north, are a big character on the new album,” she continues. “There’s so much energy and love, not only [because of] the incredibly exciting programming, which introduced us to super-fresh new sounds, but also from the crowds. It’s here where we’re reminded of the diversity of Toronto.”
The year 2016 also plays a role, with the tragic fire at Oakland’s Ghost Ship and shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub representing the start of cultural wars waged against alternative venues worldwide. On the speaker-rattling title track, they deliver their mission statement: “I used to fly my freak flag at night, but now it never comes down / Go where you want to, and let yourself be seen.”
“A lot of our songs are inspired by outsider figures who lived life ferociously out loud and proud,” explains Trevor, “like pioneering feminist/anarchist Emma Goldman, who lived in Toronto for some time and died here, and legendary NYC drag queen Dorian Corey. We found strength and hope in their lives and our impulse was to send a call-to-arms to outsiders and fabulous freaks to find strength in numbers.”
Let Yourself Be Seen is a heady, beat-driven brew drawing from 90s acid house, New Age, West African disco and other mutant genre strains. It features wide-ranging contributions from local soul guitarist Ejji Smith, pop exploder Sandro Perri and Israeli jazz composer Itamar Erez – an approach that echoes Jaclyn’s work with the Long Winter music and arts series, which brings together artists from countless local scenes, genres and disciplines.
The ambitious siblings put their money where their mouths are, often attending City Hall meetings to advocate for their community. Jaclyn sarcastically likens Toronto describing itself as a “Music City” to Doug Ford saying he’s for the people. But she also offers tangible tips for anyone wishing to make a difference.
“Come out and support live music,” she says. “Support all creative community events. It shows the city that its citizens care about music, art and local businesses.
“Protest and visually resist any efforts the city makes toward the further condoization of neighbourhoods. Artists are struggling constantly to sustain a modest living. Protect what you love and fight for what you believe in.”
It’s not just about your own friends, she says, but the health of the many interlocking arts scenes.
“Support communities outside of your own, and go to shows that aren’t in your normal scene,” she continues. “Not only are collaborations more interesting when you reach outside, but by opening up your artistic scene to diversity you make spaces safer for everyone.”
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