There are plenty Calgary musicians who have gone on to make it big on the world stage — Teagan and Sara, Feist, Jann Arden, and Loverboy, to name a few. Throughout the years, Southern Alberta’s solid music scene has continuously churned out talent, many of whom happily thrive in the underground and some who occasionally peek out from it. So, from the past and present to the legendary and still rising, here are five excellent bands that also call Calgary home.
Comprised of members from bands including Sudden Infant Dance Syndrome and Knucklehead, these Thin Lizzy-Runaways-Status Quo worshippers create slick power-pop that nods respectfully in the direction of the 70s, but is still decidedly modern. Most of the Mandates’ songs, in true rock tradition, are about girls and utilize three-chord guitar, hefty bass, and explosive drums. Their blistering full-length, In the Back of Your Heart, was released in April and the group put out a split 7’’ with Ottawa garage rockers Mother’s Children in the summer.
The Dudes’ infectious combination of soul and punk has made them local favourites since the mid-90s. Led by singer-songwriter Danny Vacon, the indie rockers carved a place for themselves in the hearts of fans through electrifying live performances and their distinct, original sound. The group has produced several releases since its inception, but it was the 2006 album, Brain Heart Guitar (particularly the track “Do The Right Thing”), that catapulted these hometown heroes into the national spotlight. Their most recent release was the 2009 EP, Blood Guts Bruises Cuts.
Chad VanGaalen may be among Calgary’s most internationally recognised acts — iconic Seattle label Sub Pop picked him up in 2005 following the release of Infiniheart, a collection of his recordings made in his bedroom/makeshift studio dropped via Flemish Eye. Combining alternative avant-garde with astute songwriting, VanGaalen has been twice shortlisted for the Polaris Prize for 2006’s Skelliconnection and 2008’s Soft Airplane, the latter of which was nominated for Alternative Album of the Year at the Juno Awards. He is also an illustrator, creating his own album artwork and animated music videos for several of his songs. He was awarded the Prism Prize this year for his work on Timber Timbre’s video “Beach the Drum Slowly,” and was nominated for his own single, “Monster.”
When asked, Heuvos Rancheros say that they formed in the summer of 1990 for the prospect free beer. The four-piece, with their instrumental concoction of rockabily, grunge, and punk, hit it big with 1991’s now-legendary Rocket To Nowhere EP, wearing out Calgary clubs before touring incessantly through North America and Europe. Huevos Rancheros also enjoyed plenty of milestones: before their Juno Award nomination for Best Alternative Album for 1998’s Get Out of Dodge, in 1995 they were the first ever Calgary band to do a BBC recording session with John Peel. Though they haven’t released an album since 2000’s Muerte del Toro, their songs have found a home in many ski, surf, skateboard, and snowboard films from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
The Hot Nasties were part of Calgary’s first wave of punk rock. Bassist and vocalist Warren Kinsella and lead guitarist Pierre Schenk initially formed with drummer Alan MacDonald (future member of another Canadian punk band, the Sturgeons) as the Social Blemishes. They later changed their name (reportedly taken from a XXX film), adding in Wayne Ahem on rhythm guitar and Tom Edwards on drums after McDonald’s departure. The Hot Nasties released their iconic EP The Invasion in 1980. Comprised of just three songs, the album dabbles in pre-hardcore, rooted by influences from the Kinks and Ramones. The band later released a full album’s worth of material on cassette a year later, splitting up shortly after but continuing to influence numerous local punks in their wake. Kinsella went on to become a lawyer and strategist for the Liberal Party of Canada. Rock on!