NINJA HIGH SCHOOL CD release with KIDS ON TV, WOOD HANDS, DJs GREGORY COLLINS, JOHNNY DOVERCOURT, WOLFGANG NESSEL and others as part of the INDIE ROCK RAVE at the Boat (158 Augusta), Saturday (October 22). $10. 416-593-9218, www.ninjahighschool.info. Rating: NNNNN
After opening for British buzz band the Go! Team this July at an all-ages event at Lee's Palace, Ninja High School made a decision: they'd never play that kind of show again. Seated with five of the thinking party-rap group's six members (founder/lyricist Matt Collins, "grunge yeller" Greg Collins, Star DT, Anna Cvitkovic and Adrian Cvitkovic - Blocks Recording Club founder and Barcelona Pavilion member Steve Kado is absent) at the Tim Hortons next to said venue, that adamant statement seems a bit extreme, especially since both bands seem to share such a gleeful spirit.
But apparently the Go! Team's performance philosophy strongly violates NHS's own.
"Have you seen Cats? It's like that, like Rap: The Musical," says Matt. "It's so brutal."
"The idea of going to a show and very passively observing this dog-and-pony show onstage is something we're not interested in at all," Greg adds.
NHS are all about participation. Or rather, ParticipAction, Star DT jokes, referring to Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod's Body Break fitness spots.
Suddenly, the conversation is running like a thread on www.stillepost. ca, the message board where certain NHS members hold court. Throughout the interview, everything is brought up, from Canadian history to David Bowie's bank to the prevalence of the word "wolf" in indie rock band names ("We're thinking about changing our name to Ninja Wolf School," says Greg. No, "bald eagles are the new wolf," counters Matt).
For Ninja High School the idea of participation goes beyond the dancing and shimmying that happens when they perform.
"It's about changing your mind about things," Matt circuitously explains of his lyrics, which he says are vastly more focused on their new album. "If you can change your own mind, then odds are you can change the minds of people around you. And if everybody's thinking differently, then things are more likely to change, instead of now, where people expect someone else to lead them."
The only obstacle is getting people not to hate them. When their first album, We Win! (Blocks), came out, folks were outraged that these indie rock kids were so glibly co-opting hiphop. On the verge of releasing the far superior Young Adults Against Suicide, they've got new issues.
"Lately, people think we're wasting their time cuz we don't have instruments and don't sing about vague things that let the audience make up their minds for themselves," says Matt.
Still, Greg, who insists that NHS is completely unironic, admits that "it's much better to be hated than for people to be ambivalent about us."
Fortunately, the folks at German hipster label Tomlab didn't feel neutral about NHS. Instead, they got excited and signed them around when they signed Final Fantasy - after Kado sent them the entire Blocks catalogue.
The fact that beyond their infectious call-and-response energy and remarkably tight beats, NHS actually speak insightfully about some pretty advanced societal issues was just the icing on the cake for Tomlab's owner.
Now the international press is weighing in, proclaiming (through Internet translation) that the indie-rock-spirited hiphop group "deserves many bravo," and that they sound like they "drink drugs from expired cans," deeming their "rap poppy good child and vitaminized."
Come up with your own broken description at their CD release/"indie rock rave" - if you can stay awake till NHS go on at 4 am.