By Еvan Osentоn
The Calgary music scene has earned a reputation as a sort of musical
barnyard. Unrefined and stagnant attitudes stemming from a collective redneck
bravado have long kept Calgary oV the musical map. At least one local band
has their finger on the problem.
"Everybody is hanging out in the suburbs; the [Calgary] sound is so suburban. We have only three little
venues downtown and they don’t even fill up anymore. There are only stinky
bands playing there, but I don’t want to slag the bullshit bands. They’ll
probably call us the lazy bastards. Well the lazy bastards are waking it
up; how ’bout you, Calgary?"
So challenges Arran Brownlee, lead singer of Laza Blasta, easily the
most unique new band to emerge on the Calgary scene in years. Their aim:
To not just be part of the scene in Calgary, but to create a scene; to get
people in Calgary excited about the possibilities of a Calgary ‘sound.’
"Calgary isn’t terribly receptive right now," says Brownlee.
"You can’t get people out of the suburbs right now. They’d rather
play their Playstations and watch the World Wrestling Federation."
Enter the anomaly. Laza Blasta is startlingly talented, has rare stage
presence, and is blessed with a keen sense of vision. Stylish, yet refreshingly
humble, their sound is so unique it’s almost indescribable.
Keyboardist Esau Tamura describes their sound as "glorious music;"
classical, rock, electronic, and jungle sounds all converge to produce an
unique and inspirational sound. The band members list a diverse range of
bands as their influences, from Massive Attack and Portishead, to Goldie
and Tricky, to Beethoven and Electric Mayhem. What emerges is a progressive
sound previously unheard in these parts, and perhaps anywhere. Such a combination
of talent and vision is virtually unprecedented in Calgary.
"If you go into some of the better clubs in town, the djs are playing
some really cool music," says guitarist Lochy Sturdy. "There’s
a lot of dub reggae, jungle, and trance going on. You can hear this music
in clubs, but how come no local bands are playing it? That’s what Laza Blasta
is all about… that’s where we come in." Adds Brownlee, "We want
to take Calgary to places it has never been before."
The members of Laza Blasta are optimistic about the level of talent in
the city, but argue that few artists here really take a chance.
"If you want to make it as a band in Calgary, you have to create
a scene," says Brownlee. "We want to shake Calgary up. We don’t
want to stop until it’s shaken. If we can’t make the venues that are here
work, we’ll invent some."
"The Calgary scene isn’t getting much coverage anymore because everybody’s
waiting for something to happen," agrees Tamura. "We want to give
people something to be excited about. We want to give them a name to remember."
Laza Blasta (pronounced with a heavy German accent) was founded by Brownlee
brothers Corran and Arran a year ago following the breakup of the band Hungry
Kitty. Corran, who plays bass, and Arran, convinced keyboardist Esau Tamura
to join, while drummer Mike Bresanutti of El Caminos and Del Montes fame
signed on a few weeks later. Lochy Sturdy, the Brownlee’s cousin and easily
the most outspoken member of the band, was recruited to play guitar. Kelly
McDonald is the most recent addition to the band as a second vocalist.
Laza Blasta has gone from inception to being the buzz of the local scene
in rapid fashion. A December gig at the Night Gallery (with the A-Team)
has become nothing short of local legend. For a band who have enjoyed such
a meteoric rise, they remain unassuming and even poke fun at their current
status of darlings of the Calgary scene. "We’re at the fat bearded
stage ’cause no band that I’ve ever heard of have made it past the fat bearded
stage, so I figure if we start here, we’ll end up somewhere new that no
one has ever been before," says Corran. "It’s all about evolution."
What can you expect from a Laza Blasta show?
"We’re working on an entire show; from the moment we start to the
moment we end, it brings you a variety of emotions, like an entire orchestral
piece," says Tamura. Sturdy adds that despite their Canadian roots,
"…everybody in the band has traveled a bit, and has taken influences
from there. We want to take instruments and make them sound like they were
never intended to. We’re pretty open to taking any instrument on stage."
Sturdy believes great things are in store for the Calgary music scene.
"A friend said to me one million is like a magic number for a city
where it stops looking outside for influences and starts to grow within
itself," he said. "Calgary’s almost at that magic number. Ten
years from now, Calgary will have grown up. If you really want to make a
splash in the Calgary scene, it will be considerably more difficult then than
it is now."
In May, the band is touring England. Several gigs are already lined up
"It’s more competitive over there," says Sturdy. "It’s
the best place for us to grow, as far as learning musical styles. It’s a
cultural experience; somewhere to absorb new styles and bring them back
In the meantime, Laza Blasta will continue to play local clubs. If you
want to be part of something epic before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon,
you can catch them before they leave town. Their next show, with the Earthquake
Pills, is scheduled for Sat., Jan. 16 at the Night Gallery.
Warns Brownlee, "We want to be bigger than the Stampede. No, we
will be bigger than the Calgary Stampede." Surely, a dynamic and unique
music scene such as the one Laza Blasta hopes to create will arouse more
civic pride than yet another shameful pancake breakfast.