About six years ago (Preemptively, I will try not to make any puns on the word buzz as it may pertain to the band and the insect simultaneously) Toronto's Mason Hornets called it quits after a steady four-year run that had blessed this city with power pop that was equal part Beach Boys and Guided By Voices. Since then, members have gone on to play in Ghostlight, Republic of Safety and Phoenix Lights Band, but for some lucky reason, they've decided to reunite for the big 1-0 anniversary, and throw down like they used to when they were the city's indie darlings. They're getting back together for fun, which sounds like a lot of fun, no?
And besides, you should probably care about this for no reason other than the fact that the band is worth seeing, due in part to the extensive, collective fantabulousness all these guys bring to the table. Singer and original Hornet Doc Pickles graciously answered some questions about his band's reunion and some other random stuff.
Q: Let's talk Mason Hornets reunion. Why did you decide to go at it again after 6 years?
A: My current band Phoenix Lights were playing a show with More or Les this spring at the boat and Mason Hornet's drummer, Miss Priss, turned up out of the blue to see the show. She's the best drummer in the whole world, her style of drumming is the easiest for me to follow while I'm crooning and scampering around the tune. It makes me dance inadvertently. We got to talking, exchanged baby-rearing stories from the six intervening years since our last show. Somewhere in the conversation the idea took root for us all to play again sometime around the 10 year anniversary of our first show. Before the decision sank in it was time Phoenix Lights to go onstage and I scooted away. It wasn't until the next day when I realized that we'd just agreed to reunite.
Q: For those who aren't familiar with the band, what are you guys all about?
A: I used to make a poetry zine called "Fluff" in the 90's, mostly my own poems and rants, some re-worked updates of old Chinese and Latin poems. One day I got an Optigan organ at Goodwill and a karaoke machine on sale at Radio Shack and began putting the poems to music. After a little while I started writing poems that were music, and suddenly I realized that I wasn't writing poems anymore, but songs. Dave Rodgers (from my punk pop idols Neck, later named Christiana) heard some of my bedroom tapes, brought over a real 4 track and re-recorded my bedroom songs as basement songs, a lovely little home-burned cassette called Shagg. We learned to play the songs, and when Magic Lamp needed an opening act for a show they were doing at the Lion, we invited Miss Priss to drum for us, picked out some pretty dresses, and named ourselves after a messed-up Gumby cartoon that was on TV.
Q: Is this the beginning of a new chapter for the band?
A: So far so good! We've learned a new danceable song already and are sitting on four or five more. We've been practicing most Friday nights in various basements and practice spaces since springtime and I don't think we've ever sounded better. I certainly hope we get another chance to play soon.
Q: What's happening with your other projects?
A: Michelle (sadoceanspacebear) and I have finished our next CD! Now it's a matter of figuring out how to release it. We used to call ourselves "Your Band Sucks" but our next CD will be by "The Phoenix Lights Band." Then we'll change our name again to something else. In my dreams I'll get to play solo Doc Pickles shows, stream of electo-consciousness shows with the Phoenix Lights, and dance pop punk shows with Mason Hornet. I'm a born-again-bachelor so I guess I'm happiest looking for excuses to get out of the house.
Q: If the Mason Hornets were a type of food, what would you be?
A: The Professor would be a cinnamon stick, Pins would be cumin seeds, Goo would be chopped fresh oregano, Jonny Dovercourt would be a cardamom pod, I'd be a garlic clove, and Miss Priss would be a ginger root. The audience would be a bed of rice & beans. The actual songs would be Mr. Gouda's hot sauce.
Q: A recent post of yours on a message board concerning frustration in playing in bands and wanting to throw in the towel, so to speak, seems pretty contradictory to the idea of revisiting a former project, so is this, for you, a kind of statement saying "giving up is for chumps"?
A: That post was more of a pre-emptive strike, I'm pretty happy with stuff right now. I've been down before though, and at those times I've wondered how I was ever going to scrabble out of that terrible pit of self-doubt. Every time I've pulled out of it, it has been because somebody who cares about me has provoked me into acting on my rut. I love to learn about what makes people tick, what motivates them to keep on keeping on in spite of yawning apathy from the mainstream alternative weeklies, abject poverty, the frustration of never perfectly realizing the ideas in the imagination. It's the same "we must carry on" mentality of the people who drew the Neolithic cave paintings. People inevitably get worn down and finally beaten by the machine, but in the meantime you can only earn your dignity and your chops by persevering at the things that you love.
Q: What are you loving/hating about playing in the city right now?
A: This is such an amazing time to live in Toronto, I love to be living in a city that has very recently passed the threshold where more than half the people living here are not from here. It feels like a real port of call of a borderless planet. My feet are itching terribly though, I have a chronic case of wanderlust and would very much like to cash in all of my chips to wander the globe, playing love songs about Xena and food.
Q: Have you ever been stung by a hornet? Better or worse than a bee/wasp sting?
A: They're bastards, those hornets. Have you ever seen that scene in Microcosmos where the hornet is hunting the bugs? They're like the dragons of the insect world. Ornerier than dragonflies, even. The only bug meaner than a crabby hornet are yellow jackets.
Q: Is your band name at all in reference to the Southern Mason, as in the Mason/Dixie line?
A: Bees are an old symbol of French & Merovingian royalty, I was trying to point an arrow in the direction of freemasonry and the whole experience of the cutting of the elm (by the way the 700th anniversary of the roundup and murder of the knights Templar was October 13, 2007). This was way before Richie Cunningham discovered the Da Vinci Code.
Touché, Pickles, touché.