Odonis Odonis ditch their guitars and go No Pop

The Toronto trio have stopped flirting with it and jumped fully into purely electronic industrial dance

ODONIS ODONIS and BELIEFS at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West), Friday (November 3), doors 9 pm. $12.50. rotate.com, ticketfly.com. More about Beliefs here.

Odonis Odonis are unstable. 

The Toronto trio, four albums in, have proven unable to sit still, to stick to any one musical formula. With their latest No Pop, they have arrived, by way of howling shoegaze spiked with surf and raucous post-punk noise, on purely electronic industrial dance.

Abandoning guitars hasn’t exactly been without consequence.

Despite the fact that Canada birthed one of the most important bands in industrial music – Skinny Puppy – and Toronto has always had a healthy appreciation for the stuff (our own Malhavoc was doing Ministry before Ministry), it’s fair to say at this point that the genre is not generally a springboard to any kind of mainstream success. For Odonis Odonis, turning industrial is both a logical culmination of past derivations and a left turn that means building a whole new audience.

The band – Dean Tzenos, Jarod Gibson, Denholm Whale – first emerged from Toronto’s Buzz Records crew and soon signed to prestigious British indie FatCat. The trajectory from weirdo bedroom project to indie darlings was swift. 

“There was lot of hype for us in Europe to be the next thing,” says Tzenos. 

Then last year, they put out Post Plague (on Toronto’s Telephone Explosion and Los Angeles-based Felte), which fully embraced the NIN/Ministry sound they had long toyed with. They briefly considered changing the band name but decided to stick it out, which caused confusion while touring.

“Everybody who came out was expecting one band and we were playing this full dark industrial set,” recalls Tzenos. “We played this club in New York and this one drunk fan was yelling out old songs she wanted, swearing the whole time. I thought, ‘Oh, we just totally fucked ourselves.’”

For the new record, the band doubled down on rejecting commercial aspirations by signing on to the “No Pop” manifesto  – a “declaration for a new alternative” written in 2014 by anonymous local music blogger Lonely Vagabond. The album is named after this movement.

“When the internet took over, I thought things would be more democratic,” explains Tzenos. “Now the gatekeepers are different. Clear Channel owns everything. It’s hilarious that Beyoncé and Kanye West are making arty albums, but below them the indies are trying to be mainstream to get into the pop circuit. The idea of No Pop to me was the opposite of that.” 

He compares it to the 80s, when “selling out” still carried a major stigma. 

“Maybe I’ve got rose-coloured glasses, but it seemed to be more about the art. By definition, No Pop means there are no limits to what we are able to create now. We don’t have to try to be anything.”

While based in the same roots as Post Plague, No Pop is a less intense listen, both lyrically and musically. While the last record shouted about a dystopian near-future, this new one is more concerned with present-day anxieties surrounding social media and other privacy-invading technology. 

Its examination of man vs. machine is done with a gentler touch, with longer songs and more ambient rests.

“I want people to get lost in it,” explains Tzenos. “Almost our entire catalogue before that was an assault. We were attacking you. Now we are inviting you in to be a part of it with us. To enjoy the music as it’s happening.” 

One challenge to switching up their sound to such a degree has been learning new instruments. On No Pop, they cast aside the drum machines and samplers they used for Post Plague and built new analogue kits. So even if they wanted to toss in some old tracks at their upcoming shows, they’d need to travel with two gear set-ups, which isn’t currently doable. They’ve fully committed to the new regime.

“I feel that we’re an island now,” says Tzenos of their place in the city’s music community. “The old industrial crowd – they haven’t necessarily been looking for new bands. But I feel we’ve finally got a lot of new fans from the O.G. industrial scene in Toronto. We’re on the radar.”

music@nowtoronto.com | @LiisaLadouceur

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