Myelin Sheaths mean good impulses

There’s a reason why Myelin Sheaths might sound familiar to you. After all, they’re already in your head and your spinal cord.

From the realms of intelligentsia emerges the aptly titled LP from the Alberta quartet Myelin Sheaths, Get on Your Nerves. Academic garage and surf punk is the name of the game and the Sheaths are hardly newcomers to Alberta rock.

Earlier releases from the group include two seven-inch singles that snagged the attention of Vice magazine and California indie label Southpaw Records.

“Follow-up albums tend to get bigger and technically better, but everyone loves that scrappy first album the best,” says frontman Paul Lawton. “I would hate to think of this one as our magnum opus, [it] feels like things are just starting to heat up.”

Impossible to miss on Nerves is the cheeky scientific trivia behind the song titles and subject matter, a feature that continues to render the Sheaths distinctive from the other acts on the scene.

“Writing science-themed songs as opposed to writing songs about cars and girls just makes sense to us . . . it is a fairly open theme that can go lots of places,” says Lawton.

“The science thing is probably a gimmick, but that sounds kind of cheap because I think that it is more than that.”

This is very evident in “Do the Mental Shake,” a tune Lawton describes as “a love song between a junior scientist and his supervisor” where the young apprentice fails to impress the genius he admires greatly.

The “science thing” isn’t the only quirk that distinguishes Nerves from other recent releases. As local music fans spend their time swimming in a sea of six-song EPs– a format that seems to be the default for Calgary indie outfits nowadays– it’s refreshing to see a local band release a full-length LP. Though the idea for a longer album format was forced upon the Sheaths, Lawton now considers himself a proponent.

“The truth is that our label, Southpaw Records, asked for a full-length so we made a full-length,” he says. “Calgary bands, stop blowing it! Single or LP, the EP must die!”

Lawton is certain that the legacy of his LP will live on after the release party, when Broken City’s floors have been swept of empty beer cans and glitter, even if it’s mainly in local circles.

“We all have pretty normal lives that are dictated by work and school and real life constraints, so big touring is out for 2010,” he explains. “That said, we are going out for a tour for a bit in November, doing some west coast shows with Sharp Ends and then more jabs out to the prairies. We are doing SXSW in Austin, Texas in March, and then a spring tour through the USA.”

This will prove a herculean feat for Lawton, who also happens to be a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary.

“I am desperately trying to wrap up my dissertation, so any road trips will be pretty work-intensive for me,” he says. “My days are spent doing research and preparing for my classes, marking and writing, and a few of my nights are spent playing music and recording or playing shows. I know for a fact that, for a PhD candidate, I do as much non-academic stuff as anyone. It just happens that my non-academic life happens to be very public.”

Conveniently enough, his experiences with the Myelin Sheaths have contributed to his academic goals as well.

“Going to shows and dealing with large groups of strangers has been essential in developing my thinking [and] practice as a sociologist.”

At the end of the day, though, there’s still an LP to be released, hijinks and hilarity to ensue, and a wicked party to be had. Lawton is pretty clear that if you attend their LP release, you will probably wake up the next morning in a stranger’s bathtub with only a pair of socks and a vague recollection of the previous night’s mayhem.

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