Crisis ? What Crisis ? Experiencing Wet Cigarette
There was a short period of time to ramp up the creative process when I talked with Victoria locals Wet Cigarette about doing a Q and A with photos for Absolute Underground. I had photos from 2 or 3 gigs but they were dated so a group discussion began on what we were going to pull off, that represented the band well. This band was great. Five people mobilized quickly and the ideas started being thrown down. Being a young socially aware group, the environment came up in discussions about shoot locations. " A clear cut perhaps "? Certainly the ancient forests on the island had been in the news a lot . The topic stirred an old thought and I started jotting notes. Back in the 70s, Supertramp had released Crisis? What Crisis? as a follow up to Crime of the Century. I for one , liked the album and had always appreciated the cover art. Even back then I was stowing away references for possible artistic visions to be realized in some version eventually.
Wikipedia gives a brief background on the cover art. " Both the title and the concept of the cover were conceived by Davies, as John Helliwell recounted: "It was Rick that came up with the name Crisis? What Crisis? and one day, when we were sitting around Scorpio Studio, he came in with this sketch of a guy in a deck chair under an umbrella with all this chaos going on around him." It appears he was inspired by Yves Robert's Alexandre le bienheureux. "Crisis? What Crisis?" is a line in the film The Day of the Jackal (1973). The phrase was used as a headline in The Sun newspaper during the Winter of Discontent in 1979 to convey a popular impression of the UK government at the time, attributed to then Prime Minister James Callaghan but denied by him. Hodgson stated that the title "came to mean more to us as a title than it did to other people because it was really a crisis album. We learnt how not to make an album, coming right off the road and going into the studio. We really didn’t enjoy making it and in the end it was kind of a patch up job." Artist Paul Wakefield returned after his work in Crime of the Century, photographing the backgrounds at the Welsh mining valleys, which were later composited with a model shot in the studio afterwards. "
The band seemed really into the idea born from this concept from the 70s. Day at the beach with the stark background of recent destruction on our beautiful island. The location search went on over a couple of days and many miles. I was looking for just the right background, and being picky. Sadly there was a lot of destruction to see; endless large patches of land taken down to nothing for homes no one can afford, international interests or just those who liquefy natural assets with no thought to the environment. It was a depressing search. The target location ended up being rather localized as it turned out, set in a path of destruction on Bear Mountain. A fresh cut of trees had been ripped from the earth to make luxury homes for a future gated community. The piles of freshly killed tree roots and soil had yet to be trucked away. It was indescribable feeling to stand astride of it all. We set a fast shoot date . We landed a sunny day with 18 plus temps and the band loaded up for a day at the beach. There was such joy in my heart seeing the band come down the hillside blissfully loaded with beach garments and gear. To me involvement and enthusiasm for a shared vision is a key component for a successful shoot. The juxtaposition of the forest kill to the brightness and joy of a day on the beach was jarring. The image spoke to the short sighted growth of housing without thought to the long term effect on our natural surroundings. I loved the enthusiasm of this band. It was truly a fun shoot. We even drew spectators from above the shoot site, armed with phone cameras. Admittedly it must have been an odd site. Simple wide lens perspectives were used with additional lighting to overpower the sun. Post shoot , I two toned the image to help nail the contrast. See the finished photo at the end of the text block.
**The following is an unedited piece about Wet Cigarette created for the June 2021 issue ( 100th Issue ! ) of Absolute Underground.**
1. Tell us about your band name (and why wet is sometimes spelled with the number 3 instead of an E)
(Evan) I came up with the name in the sweet summer of 16 - I’d been getting more into punk music at the time and had been wanting to make a band. I’m a believer of “build it, they will come”. So, when I accidentally dropped my cigarette into the water and watched it float away in shimmery lake light I said “wet cigarette” and loved how it felt to say. A good band name has to feel good to say. Then I just started telling people “Hey I’m making a shitty punk band called Wet Cigarette… WANNA JOIN???”. We use the three sometimes cause its suuuuper cool to have numbers in your band name these days… and yeah there are at least 3 other wet cigarettes. Although formed in isolation, I guess the name isn’t that original hahaha
(Amanda) I think Evan was inspired by a puddle or something, thought "damn that's a dope name" then the band was based off of that, not the other way around.
(Tony) We use the number 3 sometimes in social media handles and stuff cause the usual spelling of “wet” was usually taken. I wish there was a satanic ritual reason for it or something, but it’s a pretty dumb reason.
2. How would you describe your music?
(Amanda) Evan's unfiltered thoughts, Adam and Tony's sweet licks, kitchen jams that stick, and (for my songs) dumpster fire versions of all my favorite pop punk bands mashed into songs about random stuff. In fact, almost everything we write is about random life tidbits, like ramen, but ramen deserves a song about it, you know?
3. When did you start out?
We started in November 2018, when Evan and I both expressed interest in starting a shitty punk band to a mutual friend. We got together and jammed in that friend’s bedroom while he was out - me on bass and Evan on vocals - and wrote the first song that night for the band: “Everything Sucks”. We still didn’t have any guitarists or a drummer, but after we finished that tune, I called Adam on the phone and basically reproduced that “Back to the Future” scene where I was like “Dude, you gotta hear this shit!” and we played the song live for him over the phone. I was like “wanna play guitar in this band?” and Adam was all over it, and so we had a lead guitarist.
Evan met Amanda on a surf trip in Tofino. There was an acoustic guitar at the hostel where they were staying, both of them played it, and after noticing her FIDLAR shirt, he asked her if she wanted to join the band. Boom, we had rhythm guitar. And Evan knew Alex from university, so he messaged him and he agreed to play drums for the group. We started jamming regularly and played our first show in February in 2019, which was a house party at Evan’s house at the time, filled wall to wall with people. It was seriously like sardines and so hot in there. There are some great photos from that night that our buddy Clayton Ikuta took. We were also pretty drunk and it was a flippin hoot. And we’ve been playing since then!
4. Introduce us to your lineup.
Three of the five of us feature on more than one instrument on our first album. Evan is our primary vocalist, but also makes appearances on guitar and bass for two songs. Amanda holds down the rhythm guitar parts primarily, but features on vocals on two tracks off the first album, and will show up on vocals for the next album too in a few spots. Adam is our lead guitarist, and me on bass and Alex on drums make up the low-end and skins section of the band. I also do vocals for the tune “Bruce is Wearing My Shirt”, which is about when Adam stole my shirt when we were camping together years ago. Adam makes a vocal appearance in the chorus of that tune as well.
5. This is the same lineup since you started?
Yup. The band hasn’t changed, and it wouldn’t be the same if it did. Everyone is a key part of the group. If one of us left, that would probably be the end of the band. Some things’ quality is greater than the sum of its parts.
(Amanda) No subs.
(Evan)....unless it’s for an occasional cover and I forget the lyrics...
6. Tell us about your first album Uncut.
Uncut is a conglomeration of the creative processes of everyone in the band. We had this stewing pot of songs that formed over our first little while as a band, and while there were multiple composers that wrote the initial ideas for the songs, all of them were fleshed out by the rest of the band as well, and it was this sort of blend of everyone’s unique influence, even though each song on the album is so different. There wasn’t really a logical structure to the album - some groups start out with an overarching plan before they even start writing the album, but we just wanted to make sure that we got everything that we had created together persisted in recorded form. The lack of logical structure is represented in the album cover - all the photos in the border are a shit mix of the band’s history from its inception to the time the album was released, and the cigarette photo on the front cover is a photo Evan took one day while walking home in the rain. I did the engineering, mixing, and mastering, Evan made the album cover, and we handled all the promotion and distribution ourselves. DIY is a big part of what we do.
“Uncut” is a reference to the fact that no one in the band is circumcised. We figured that out somehow during a band practice one night (no fuckin idea what we were talking about at the time), and the name totally stuck. It’s hilarious cause most people think that we would be referencing the fact that the album is unedited or raw or something, but it’s really about uncut dongs.
(Amanda) Uncut is an immortalization of the most fun I think most of us have ever had. Creative juices flowing, songs materializing in minutes, previously unstable creativity becoming an album that people liked. Like songs about Adam stealing shirts and a caffeine high and my paranoia about the world going to the dogs. The shows were unreal, I heard some older punk dude at one of them ask "when all these preppy kids got into punk music", referring to our friends/fans who were such loyal show goers. We paused shows to focus on recording in March 2020, ironic since we were about to have all the time in the world to record in the basement over the next year and definitely could have waited.
Also the thing about uncirced dongs is true, we named the album uncut on that day.
7. You have been working on a new record. Tell us about that.
We’re currently doing scratches/demos for our next full length, which has a working title of “God Awful Music”. The title came from Evan’s shitty, grouchy old neighbors who used to freak out when we’d practice in his garage. They made a huge stink one night, and trying to be good people, Evan and Amanda went over to their place to try and smooth things out. But the neighbors just screamed at them, telling them that “no one in the neighborhood wants to hear your god awful music”. Well fuck you, Karen, seems some people do, at least. My personal vote was to defecate on their front lawn, but since I’m not GG Allin, that hasn’t happened yet.
The next record is similar in spirit to “Uncut” in that there wasn’t an overarching plan to how the album was written, but I personally feel that by the time these songs were written, we had settled into more of “our sound”. The songs definitely have the Wet Cig vibe to them. We’re also gonna change things up and use external engineers to record, mix, and master this album, which will allow other artists’ imprint to leave its mark. We’re just tracking guitars for the demos now, and we’re hoping to start recording properly in the next few months, provided it’s safe with Covid and stuff.
(Amanda) God Awful Music is really gonna piss off people with sticks up their asses. We never try to write stuff, it just happens, and then we refine it until it won't destroy 50% of people's ears. The songs on this album include one where the chords and lyrics were decided by the crowd at a house party we were playing at, which we played then and there, and it is my favorite song on the album. Another calls out anti-vaxxers (the kind that don't get their kids tetanus or measles shots), an issue very near and dear to me as a microbiologist. The song I wrote on this album is just me complaining about how much I hate gym bros. Can't wait to mail a copy to those douche bags house, lol.
8. Where do you record?
We recorded our entire first record (save for Amanda’s vocals on “Your New Girlfriend is a Starbucks Hoe”, which we did in my apartment) in the jam space that we practice in, which is in the basement of the house that Amanda, Evan, and Adam currently live in. We did all the instrumentals live-off-the-floor, and overdubbed vocals in post. I have a fully mobile recording rig, which we used to track everything, and I mixed and mastered everything in my bedroom. For our next record, we are currently ironing out the people who are going to engineer, mix, and master it, and where it will be recorded. We’re looking to switch things up a little bit, though, and go the more traditional recording route of recording everything separately with overdubs.
(Amanda) Haha in my bedroom, it's lit.
9. What are your songs basically about?
Yo, whatever we feel like writing about at the moment. I wrote a song about Adam stealing my shirt, Evan wrote a song about drinking coke too late in the night and being wired, Amanda wrote a song about a breakup. It all varies and it's totally dependent on how we were feeling that day. I’m currently working on lyrics for a song about toast crumbs all over the table. I hate that shit.
(Amanda) Evan's are genius ramblings about the truth of human nature, Tony's are beautiful pieces that are actually about very-slightly-annoying things that are way funnier when blown up in a song, and mine are about either about roid monkeys, a bitch named Ashley, or the fall of mankind and how Kurt Cobain was right. So, they are basically about being unstable in your early 20s with too much attention.
(Evan) I think to sing a song loud and raw you have to believe in what you're singing, so all our songs are attempts to convey honest and abstracted personal life stories and feelings... or its just stupid shit that makes us laugh
10. You are known for your wild live shows. Memorable past gigs?
(Amanda) Evan crowd-surfed at the bar he and I both work at (Felicita's) at one of our early gigs, and after a few more shows there that bar banned us from playing there because they "couldn't control the crowd", but later unbanned us because its university.
(Evan) I’ve been particularly nostalgic about house shows lately. As Tony mentioned our first show was in the kitchen of the house I was renting. We called the night HEAT STROKE IN THE KITCHEN cause it was in a quiet neighborhood so we had to keep all the windows and doors closed and when the show was over I’ll never forget watching the steam pour out of the house and thinking damn. We’re a band now. We played a show. My favorite memory from that night was during the break down we do in “Everything Sucks”. We just make loud chaos sounds and id rented a strobe light so as soon as the chaos started we hit the strobe light, I ripped off my shirt exposing all these weird symbols we’d sharpied on my body and the energy was just crazy! No one was expecting it. We were all screaming in tongues and writhing on the floor like banshees. So much fun.
Also idk if you remember but there were a couple really funny moments at the show you were taking photos for at the Intrepid theatre. We’re all uni kids so a lot of our friends that show up to our shows... don't fit the punk look. I remember when the show was first starting I overheard Colton from REK say “When the fuck did all these preppy kids get into punk” hahaha The other moment was outside . Cause there was no liquor license everyone was outside drinking in between sets leaving the stage almost empty. We were on last and I was worried people would leave. The first two bands had a sick mosh pit going and I wanted us to have one too. So I went outside and tried to stir the crowd by yelling something along the lines “If you pussies haven’t blown you’re load on the first two mosh pits get on back inside and we’re gonna get this shit going” I think it kinda worked! We got great photos from that night thanks to you.
11. Any thoughts on the scene losing the Tavern of the Damned?
Man, losing Logan’s was a big blow. Even though we only got to play there a handful of times while we were a band, all of us had been going there for years before we started playing together. Talking to friends since the announcement that it was shutting down, me and a lot of other people are gonna miss it for the inclusiveness that it offered the community. The floors were always sticky, Scott the sound guy was always a hoot to work with, and it ran events for everyone, from drag nights to open mics to punk shows, and everything in between. There aren’t a lot of venues that can say that, much less so since the pandemic started.
I’m also gonna miss the faces that showed up there. Logan’s had this cool deal where you could go to any event there, and you’d see someone you knew. It wasn’t a bar so much as a cornerstone of the smaller communities in Victoria, and it’s definitely going to leave a large gap when shows are in full swing again. I hope someone steps up with a new venue, or repurposes the Logan’s space.
Speaking of Scott Henderson, check out his old label Sea of Shit Records from back in the OG days of Victoria. There’s some rad recordings from decades ago online if you dig hard enough.
(Amanda) Driving down that road and NOT seeing people dressed in funky clothes that appear out of an 80s movie (a sight I remember since I was little growing up here) is Victoria losing one of its last shreds of authenticity. We played our last show there, and I will never forget that.
12. What has the band done since lock-downs began?
We jam when we can and keep hanging from a safe distance. We don’t wanna be the people that make our close ones sick. That being said, jams have been happening less recently, but we’re starting to plan again now that vaccines are hitting our age group. We’ve also refined some songs and written a couple others.
(Amanda) We recorded and released an album, 2 music videos, and wrote 2 new, unperformed songs. Recently the jamming has slowed due to the nature of things, but we still hang out outside and generate big ideas and reminisce about the good times. We are not giving up, are recording the next album and are ready to spread as many germs as possible with the first mosh pit the next restriction-free show.
13. Future hopes for the band?
Man, just to take the world by storm. Play as much as we can and as loudly as possible. Keep making music together and having fun. That’s what it’s all about, anyways - having fun. Hopefully we can start touring sometime in the near future.
(Amanda) I want to play Sled island like we were supposed to. After that, touring has always been a dream of ours since we met and housed so many sick bands on tour who played with us such as Dead Friends and Screaming at Traffic. I want to be shoved in a van with a drum kit and my 4 best friends watching Spongebob on Tonys car TV, get carsick and puke out the window before I die.
Band added question with answer
Favorite sex toy to use with a person ?
Answer: Peanut butter
14. Any last thoughts?
(Amanda) If I could tell my 13 yr old self in 2010 about Wet Cigarette, I would have been stoked that university really would turn out like the movies, and impatiently wait for 2018 when I would meet Evan at that Tofino hostel. That is how unreal this whole experience has been, I have actually fulfilled all my far-fetched childhood dreams of young-adultness, that were all based on movies I watched about American colleges. The shows were that fun, the friends and parties that fun, the creativity that fun.
(Evan) I can’t wait for the first shows coming out of covid. Everyone's ears are going to be so untrained to live music. Everything is going to sound amazing and the mosh pits are going to be a god send. I always go to punk shows to express myself and to get energy out. I think everyone's got so much punk energy cooped up in them and I can't wait to play a show and hopefully help them release it. Plus I bet everyone’s forgotten how to drink at a bar so we’ll all feel 19 again which should add to the fun.