NEEDS: Appetite for Destruction
These hardcore troublemakers walk the tightrope between post-ironic lyrics and songs about death and shit.I think the album runs the gamut from ironic songs to issues-based songs to poetic songs about death and shit.
Vancouver’s NEEDS—which stands for Never Ever Ending Destruction of Society—is a collection of mainstays of the local music scene: Sean Orr (vocals), Glenn Alderson (bassist), Devin O’Rourke (drums), Derek Adam and Colin Spensley (both guitarists). They’re a politically conscious hardcore band that walks a tightrope, balancing ideology and self-effacing humour.
I talked with NEEDS lead singer Sean Orr and let’s see just how far I can push his sense of humor.
Scott Wood: Hello Sean from NEEDS. Let's start off with some music. It's hard not to instantly love a band with song titles like “The Only Good Condo is a Dead Condo.” Please introduce this track.
Sean from NEEDS: Like a lot of our songs, the title comes first. After we played one of the last shows at The (old) Waldorf, which had been rumoured to be torn down to make room for condos, I wanted to make a shirt that said "The Only Good Condo is a Dead Condo." The song itself started as a slow jam and it just popped in my mind to sing "It costs so much just to live in this town." I don't think it's a good show if people aren't throwing beer cans at me. A lot of the themes come from writing about issues related to Vancouver for my column Tea and Two Slices, as well as a book called Exploring Vancouverism by Howard Rotberg. It's about the idea of Lotus Land and how it relates to Alfred Tennyson's poem “The Lotus Eaters.” Someone described this song as anti-gentrification, but that's not accurate at all really. It's much more to do with real estate speculation and predatory bank loans. It's really fun to scream "They say affordable is something you can afford"—which is an actual quote form a city councillor. He actually said that.
Scott Wood: Another website was debuting your track, "We Forgot the Records to Our Record Release Show" and the writer used the title "REFLECT ON THE FUTILE IDIOCY OF HARDCORE WITH A NEW SONG FROM NEEDS." It's a funny title, but it sort of makes me wonder if the writer isn't suggesting that you should be making EDM. What's your reaction?
Sean from NEEDS: I think the writer of that article understood our sense of humour, or at least the importance of not taking yourselves too seriously. We love playing abrasive music, and I love talking about politics, but it's not like we're reinventing the wheel or anything. We've won over a lot of people by how much fun we have on stage.
Scott Wood: Your track “We Forgot the Records to Our Record Release Show” has funny self-aware lyrics like “What am I doing? (No, seriously, what am I doing?) I’m 36 years old (37 in a couple of months) in a hardcore band (although it’s probably more like punk).” I can certainly identify with those words. As a writer, the post-ironic is a hard thing to pull off consistently. How do you keep yourself from falling off that tightrope?
Sean from NEEDS: Yeah, Glenn [Alderson on bass] didn't even like the title of that song because it was too self-aware, but I was adamant. I think the album runs the gamut from ironic songs to issues-based songs to poetic songs about death and shit. There's even a nice instrumental interlude to break things up.I'm sure Andrew WK would have something to say about this, but for me, most of my partying is on stage.
Scott Wood: I'd love you to talk about writing a NEEDS song. Which comes first, the rant (and I mean this in the best possible sense of the word) or do you fit a rant into something the other guys come up with?
Sean from NEEDS: More of the latter. Only a couple of times have I dictated the direction of a song from the onset. It's usually a jam and then we shape it into something. We actually write songs quite easily. Colin will come up with a riff and then Derek will just do some super weird shit over top that none of us understand until way later.
Scott Wood: Sean, I've read that you encourage people to throw things at you onstage. Do you hate yourself that much? Best object tossed at you so far?
Sean from NEEDS: I don't think it's a good show if people aren't throwing beer cans at me. Best object tossed would probably be the mic stand I threw at Devin's head [Devin O'Rourke NEEDS’ drummer]. I'm usually doing most of the damage. I shucked and ate oysters on stage once. I let people spit on my stomach once. I broke my hand once. In Austin, I jumped into a garbage can from the stage.
Scott Wood: Tristan Orchard, the frontman of Vancouver band BESTiE once said that he wanted Sean Orr of NEEDS to talk dirty to him. “Sean Orr of NEEDS. He’s so scary on-stage, smashing things on his head and catching his own spitballs, but I feel like underneath it all he’s a big, cuddly, lovely teddy bear full of sweet nothings and I would probably just melt.” Here's your chance, Sean. Get Tristan in the mood.
Sean from NEEDS: LOL
Scott Wood: Really Sean? You’ve got nothing for Tristan? Ok… NEEDS bassist Glenn Alderson is also a well-known Vancouver scenstar (nothing wrong with that) and the head honcho of BeatRoute, a local indie music magazine. Vice Magazine did a record review of another Vancouver band Tough Age's self-titled debut. In the review, the reviewer talked more about Glenn than Tough Age "...if you’re in Vancouver, say hi to Glenn from Beatroute. His bands are worth listening to, plus he hosts karaoke parties that look like The Apple. HI GLENN"… What's it like partying with Vice Magazine writers? In the world of white dude heavy rock, how important is partying—or being an effective partier—to success?
Sean from NEEDS: Being the oldest person in the band, I don't feel qualified to talk about partying, or success for that matter. I don't think the two are related, but who knows? Glenn does most of the partying, but he also is the guy making contacts and promoting our band. I'm sure Andrew WK would have something to say about this, but for me, most of my partying is on stage.
Scott Wood: I read a review of a NEEDS show in the Discorder (the University of British Columbia's radio stations' magazine) where you got into it (calling the reviewer out) in the comments section. This can be a slippery slope. When should a performer get involved with their own press?
Sean from NEEDS: I'm just that kind of person. I don't care if it's right or not. But as a writer, if you get something so wrong, like comparing us to a dance punk band, then I'm going to let you know. If the critique is valid, then I don't really care....if you get something so wrong, like comparing us to a dance punk band, then I'm going to let you know.
Scott Wood: Sean, you are also a current events blogger. I'd love to hear you compare blogging and being in a (sort of) punk band. In the ideal, both should engage and inform, but at worst I'm not sure which is more despised, the still-living-in-Mom's-basement-blogger or the shitty, derivative punk band.
Sean from NEEDS: I write about the news, so I sort of dissect other journalists. I don't really consider myself a blogger, but that being said, it's much more passive than being in a punk band. There is no immediate interaction. No energy. Even if there are comments it's not the same. I'd say my blogging informs my lyrics, but not vice versa.
Scott Wood: Sean from NEEDS, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! Please introduce your favorite NEEDS video.
Sean from NEEDS: We just made our first video. It follows local photographer Ryan Rose from his home in Surrey to his studio downtown to one of our shows. It resonates with me because I grew up in Surrey and the song is about what it would be like if I wasn't in a punk band; if I had stayed there and got a boring job and had kids and stuff. The video is a perfect complement to the song.
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