Jason Setnyk

Interview with The Riptides – New Album titled Canadian Graffiti

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The Riptides

Ottawa Ontario – The Riptides are back with a new album! In case you’ve been living under a proverbial rock, Ottawa band the Riptides have been making waves in the Canadian punk scene for nearly 20 years.

The band gained national notoriety for tearing up an MTV contract, and again when George Stroumboulopoulos played one of their music video’s on Much Music’s The Punk Show. More recently, The Riptides were featured in an Ottawa Parenting Times Magazine article titled “Punk is Dad”.

Over the span of their career The Riptides have shared the stage with notable punk bands including The Queers, The Dickies, Subhumans (UK), Circle Jerks (featuring the bass player of Bad Religion), Groovie Ghoulies, Chixdiggit!, Dwarves, The Mr. T Experience, The Donnas, Frenzal Rhomb, The Methadones, and Moral Crux.

They have also released numerous critically acclaimed albums including “Drop Out” which was a top ten hit on college radio, and a best-selling album on Interpunk.

Now The Riptides, who consist of Andy Vandal (lead vocals), Bob Goblin (bass, backing vocals), Doug Vermin (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dan Lumley (drums), and Corey Omega (rhythm guitar), have a new album coming out titled “Canadian Graffiti” – a great use of oxymoron according to lead vocalist Andy Vandal.

“We thought it was a really great oxymoron. “Canadian” and “Graffiti” kind of contradict each other, so they look great sitting side by side. We also thought it was a good reflection of what crop of songs we had on this record. It’s not one whole group of ‘pop’ punk songs, but things change a bit going from poppy to some hardcore/melodic and back and forth. Tonally, we felt all the songs fit together, but within that context there’s some cool transitions of style that we’ve always done. Topically, the title is a throwback to the classic “American Graffiti” which thrives in classic ‘Americana’ like drive-ins, cars, and girls on rollerskates. We thought, why not take a stab at giving a ‘Canadiana’ spin on this? Why not? We thought the tone of the record and the album title just fit very well together,” Andy Vandal reflected.

The album “Canadian Graffiti” was recorded at Sonic Iguana Studio in Indiana. It was produced by former Screeching Weasel musician and legendary punk producer Mass Giorgini – who has produced music for bands such as Rise Against, Anti-Flag, Alkaline Trio, and of course The Riptides.

“This was our 6th time recording back in Lafayette, Indiana. Working with Mass, the studio, the local hang-outs, and were all very familiar to us. Getting to hang out while we were down there with cool friends also just gives a very relaxed and norm setting for us. Mass has this amazing ear for levels and tones, and his process really fits cool with how we like to record,” Andy Vandal explained.

The album cover art for “Canadian Graffiti” was done by Archie Comics artist Dan Parent who has a lot of recent experience drawing bands. He recently did Archie covers featuring KISS and the Ramones (in conjunction with the Ramones bands 40th anniversary). The Archie style art work was the perfect choice for The Riptides album cover because it has a classic ‘Americana’ feel.

“When we were heading down to record, my brother (bassist Bob Goblin) turned to me and said he thought it would be awesome if Dan Parent might be interested in doing artwork. We were fans of his work for years, we love Archie Comics, and we had met him previously at Comic-Cons where he had dome some sketches for a few of us. So to actually get Dan was kind of a “what if?” pie-in-the-sky kind of collaboration if he’d do our new album cover. Up until then, Dan had only done artwork for KISS and the Ramones so we didn’t think much would come of it. About a month later, I thought “f-ck it, let’s give it a shot” and wrote Dan an email. Surprisingly, Dan got back and said he’s love to do it. Then everything came together from there!

I think his artwork style just fit perfectly with the tone of what we were doing; kind of irreverent, fun, not taking ourselves seriously. Since Archie Comics is etched in the fabric of “Americana” like apple pie, hot dogs and fireworks, we thought getting a guy from this classic ‘Americana’ institution like Archie Comics and doing his own take with a Canadian theme would be really cool. The hockey player, beaver, person holding a cup of “Tim’s” was really funny and purposefully cliché. When he added Archie himself standing front row centre, as well as putting a Riverdale collegiate jacket on me – that just made me warm and fuzzy. We were honoured. Dan is a great guy and at the recent Comic Con he said he was into our music. That was really cool and I can’t wait to hang out with him again,” Andy Vandal reminisced.

The new album has 18 songs, and features a few special musical guests including Bif Naked. Her vocals grace the song “Someone Just Like You”. Sonically it is one of the best songs off the Riptides new album. Her vocals connect perfectly with the Riptides music like two legos. Fans of The Riptides and fans of Bif Naked will likely want to hear future collaborations between the two after this song is released.

“Bif is one of the sweetest, kindest, generous, humble, sincere and f-cking amazing people we’ve ever met. No bullshit. I swear, the person you’ve seen all the years on interviews, etc is no f-cking persona – she is every bit as down to earth and generous in all faucets of her life. I just needed to say all that up front. 110% first class. Okay, so we had this fun, party song kicking around for a few years and we felt this new record was a good place for it to fit. In our demoing last summer, I really thought that my vocals should play off a girl – it really felt like this should be a fun ‘back & forth’ guy/girl sing-along like Sandra Dee & Danny Zucko (Grease).

Bif just has awesome punky vocals that I thought would be perfect. So I reached out to her and she got back and was all like “I’d be honoured! I’m such a huge fan of your band! I love you guys! You guys are legends!” I’m serious. At first I really thought it was a joke and not really her. But, as the emails between us increased, I knew she wasn’t f-cking around – she was legit and committed. It was amazing. Working with Bif and her husband Snake was one of the easiest, collaborations we ever had – after all the bed-tracks were recorded last October, Mass put together a rough mix of “Someone” and sent them up to her home studio in Vancouver. Probably a week later we got an e-mail containing at least a hundred files of her takes in the different pieces. She’s a consummate professional, so artists like her always give more takes so it provides an engineer/producer with plenty of options. So the process was the easiest thing in the world. And we all felt the song turned out awesome. So much fun to do! It was a really cool process and experience. I’m looking forward down the road to do more with her,” Andy Vandal disclosed.

The last time Andy Vandal did a Grease style male/female duet was on The Riptides 2001 album “Appetite for Rejection” featuring Tanya from Spygirl. It was well worth the sixteen year wait for another duet, because this new song with Bif Naked is amazingly catchy and enjoyable.

The Riptides also worked with 88 Fingers Louie frontman and former Rise Against guitarist Dan Precision. He did some jaw dropping amazing guitar work and is featured on four of the tracks.

“We have this really old connection with Dan that goes back 15 years – Dan was working with Mass as an engineer at Sonic Iguana back when we recorded our record “Drop Out”. That one we recorded in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at the Electric Cave in 2002. It was produced by Joe Queer and engineered by the legend Jim Tierney. When it came time to mixing the record, Joe recommended we send it to Sonic Iguana. We hadn’t had a connection to Sonic at that time but I guess that’s where the ‘bromance’ started lol. It was Dan Precision that worked with Mass on mixing & mastering that album. So fast forward 15 years and we had a few songs on the new record that we thought Dan’s solo stuff would be a really awesome fit. Once again, threw the idea out, and he came back super enthusiastic to work with us! So yeah Dan just threw down some solos in his studio in Chicago and that’s how those songs are benefited with his signature solos. I really think his takes on “Wimpy Goes to Washington” and “Eyes Wide Shut” were just perfect. It fits those songs nicely,” Andy Vandal stated.

The song “Wimpy Goes to Washington” is a punk rock take on politics. The song is also a nod to the punk band The Queers. Wimpy’s name also appeared in the title of The Queers song “Wimpy Drives Through Harlem”.

“That one is an obvious nod to our love for The Queers, but also specifically our love for Wimpy. Such an amazing frontman, great vocals, great person. He worked with us on a song we did in 2002 called “The Creature That Ate My Brain” (from the album “Drop Out”) – Wimpy did lead vocals and killed it. We were honoured. He’s a f-cking legend. A few years ago we wrote this “Wimpy Goes to Washington” song. It’s a tongue-in-cheek ominous song. The fact is, we wrote that song probably back when George W. Bush was the President of the United States. When we went to Sonic this time, it was still one month before the outcome of the 2016 election. I’m not kidding! And even then we were predicting/hoping Hillary was gonna win. Honestly, it didn’t matter who was President when this song came out – it wasn’t directed at any sitting President – it was just a stupid, irreverent song that was super fun to write and record. I guess we’re kinda benefiting from the timing of these songs going out – songs like “Wimpy”, “Beam Me Up” and “Eyes Wide Shut” kinda have a timely-ness as to what’s going on in world politics these days. But yeah, that’s not what we set out to do, to comment on the current political climate – it’s about any political climate,” Andy Vandal responded.

“To answer your second question, about whether ‘do ordinary people need to get more involved and take more direct action especially with the current climate of politics in Washington?’ – it is not my place to tell anyone what to do. I think it actually comes across as patronizing when someone like me tells other people to get mobilized. I don’t give a shit what anyone does. Do what you want – do something, do nothing – I don’t care. The reality is, in this age of social media, the fact that people think they’re ‘doing something’ is just re-tweeting an article, or “liking” or “sharing” a post. Louis CK did a great sketch last year on SNL about that exact culture of “armchair activists”. He nailed it. So funny, so true. So those who think they’re out there making a difference by commenting on message boards or trolling the left or right – they’re really doing nothing. For those out there who are rallying, writing songs, creating challenging ART; music, films, paintings, graffiti – actually attaching their names and standing behind their opinions and defending their stances – I applaud the f-ck out of those people. But I’m not here to tell anyone to do anything. Do what you want. Personally, I do what I can, when I can, but honestly I don’t do much outside of being in a band that may say a few things about it. People who know us or know me certainly know where I/we stand on the political end of the spectrum. I don’t need to start preaching shit like that in interviews or whatever. Or maybe I just did rant about it for a little bit. Whatever” Andy Vandal said with a laugh.

The Riptides recently shot a music video at a beach for the song “Goodbye Hawaii”. It was a chance for the band to hang out with bikini babes and a green space alien. Preview photos of The Riptides new music video were posted on the band’s Facebook page.

“We wanted an excuse to play around on a beach for a few days, hang out with beautiful girls in bikinis, and a guy in a green skin-tight suit who left nothing to the imagination. Yeah, we felt the song “Goodbye Hawaii” would be cool to film a video for by using a few things as influence: “Don’t Back Down” by The Queers, and the film “That Thing You Do!” where there’s a scene where The Wonders are posing a cheesy band in the background of a 60’s surf beach party/alien invasion. So we had to do a video with beaches, girls and aliens. Just a fun, fluffy, weightless video to emphasize the fun of the song we were trying to convey. We grew up on Beach Boys, Dick Dale, and cheesy late night drive-in movies so the marriage was inevitable. For anyone out there who cares, we referenced that very scene from “That Thing You Do” almost 20 years ago: one of our early surf instrumental songs of our DIY album “California Reamin’” is a song called “Weekend at Party Pier” – that was the name of the movie they were filming within the movie. Did I just go full “Inception” on you?”, Andy Vandal said with a snicker.

Other songs on the album like “Get Out of My Dreams, Get into My Tardis” and “Beam Me Up” make references to sci-fi television shows like Dr. Who and Star Trek respectively. According to Andy, Sci-fi television is a part of The Riptides DNA.

“Sci-fi TV is inherently part of our DNA. We grew up watching TV shows like “Star Trek: Next Generation”, “Quantum Leap”, “Doctor Who”, and worshipped them. “Back to the Future” and “The Thing (1982)” are hands down my two favourite movies of all time. I grew up wanting to be Marty McFly. Yeah, we go to the Ottawa Comic Con every year. Actually, since we were kids we were going to comic book conventions at recreation centres, small sports arenas, etc. It’s funny, we were going to these conventions back when they were so not cool to go to. Much smaller events that had a small niche group of nerds (like ourselves) collecting those rare comics, toys and t-shirts that you could, like, only get right there, that day, for $35.

It’s cool now how superheroes, zombies, steampunk, etc is so mainstream but 25 years ago when we were going to get a “Night of the Living Dead” t-shirt, or a Tardis coffee mug that shit you couldn’t find anywhere. And we’d pay whatever they asked for it. Nowadays you can walk into your nearest Walmart and get Spidey shirts or into a gas station and play “Walking Dead” scratch lottery. It’s insane. But pretty cool. I can confidently say we’ve been drawing on our love for sci-fi, horror, b-movie shlock, zombies, surf, comic books, etc. since day one. Almost 20 years, and we haven’t changed in that respect one bit. I think every record we’ve recorded over that time has contained references to all that pop-culture stuff we love. We like writing songs about stuff that’s cool to us – so when 75% of a record is about girls, we gotta fill in the rest with aliens, zombies and spies,” Andy Vandal noted.

The final song off The Riptides new album is a Stonewall Jackson cover titled “Waterloo”. That song was chosen for Andy’s mom.

“To be straightforward, and not trying to be corny or anything, but we did that song for my mom. Simple as that. On one of our typical Sunday dinners with all the family, I was playing that song in the living room, and my mom came bouncing into the room dancing, shaking her hips, snapping her fingers and singing along to every word. I had loved the song, but I didn’t know it was one of her favourites growing up in the Ottawa Valley. That kinda sealed the deal for me. If we had an opportunity to cover that song, and it was a good fit, we were gonna do it. I gotta tell ya, my bother and I didn’t tell my mom we recorded it. Once we got the final mixes back a few months ago we were all at another Sunday dinner and I played our cover version for her. Without skipping a beat she just started singing and swaying to it. I knew it got her approval, I knew she was proud. And honestly I was pretty emotional about it. Our extended family and friends have had some rough years recently, and this was just a pure emotional moment that was really special to us. I know it’s just a dumb, fun honky-tonk cover, but that’s the back story to it and what it means to me,” Andy Vandal pointed out.

The Riptides new album is going to be streamed on the website Punknews.org. This will help the band reach an even larger audience.

“The dudes at Punknews.org are awesome and have been very supportive and receptive to getting word out on this new record. They have always been pretty cool with covering us in the past too. I think it certainly helps when cool blogs/zines/websites wanna support bands to get word out on new releases. Surprisingly, since we put word out on July 1st that we were putting out a new record I have had a lot of those places contacting me this summer offering their support to get the word out. Does it help reach larger audiences? Maybe? Don’t really know – our last full-length album was released 8 years ago – A lot has changed in social media since 2009, like with the rise of streaming sites like Spotify, etc (which I think are amazing). Does the support of these sites help get the word out to followers of their sites who may like to check it out? Yeah, I think that’s where it really fits. I think these awesome sites who wanna help us will definitely get their fans/followers to at least be aware of it existing.

Honestly, in this day & age, the only way you are going to reach larger audiences is because you write good songs. And people discover that and wanna tell other people about it. We are proud of the new batch of songs we wrote. I guess the only way things are judged nowadays on ‘success’ is how many “likes” and “follows” you get…so if a few more people check it out because of support online that is great, but we are just as proud of this release regardless of how audiences react to it. If new audiences get into it, that’s awesome, but if not that’s fine – we absolutely continue to have nothing to lose in doing this because it’s just our fun thing to do when we aren’t punching the clock in our day jobs,” Andy Vandal stated.

The Riptides new album is going to be very collectible. Something to Do Records is releasing the album on colour vinyl, and only 500 copies are going to be pressed with the Dan Parent cover art.

“We’re really happy to be working with Matthew & Something to Do Records. That kid is awesome. He’s based out of Portland, Oregon. Really hands-on, enthusiastic, creative dude. That’s what really drew us to him: he’s a kid who’s putting out records just for the love of it. He loves the whole Ramones-pop-punk genre and when he reached out with an interest in working with us all it took was one phone call and we knew this was the route to go. Matthew prides himself on being a ‘record nerd’ so he’s got some cool ideas up his sleeve on this release. First off, the first pressing on this record will be limited to 500 copies. It’s important to note that this limited run will be the only pressing that will feature the album cover Dan Parent designed. That’s the one where we’re all playing in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Those 500 copies are the only ones. That’s it. I like limiting releases, so right now we’re not even looking at doing another pressing. So for now on vinyl, those 500 copies are the only ones we’re looking at.

As for CD’s, I don’t think the label is gonna do them. I think there will be a digital download code coming with the record. In 2017, I don’t think there’s much demand for CDs…..I personally haven’t played a CD in at least 6 or 7 years, so I think it’s all about the wax these days. But yeah, if you want a copy on vinyl there is 500 getting pressed, and I promise those will be the only ones with Dan Parent’s cover. We love that cover, so we wanna make that release special and collectible so it’s going to be limited. In addition I think that there’s a special, limited run 7-inch coming this fall too but I can’t really talk about that right now. I guarantee a related 7-inch will be coming, and it is tied to this record, but I can’t say anything more at this point,” Andy Vandal stated.

Pre-orders of The Riptides new record are available here. Don’t wait to order one, get one now, before they’re all gone.

No album release party has been booked yet, but The Riptides are looking at their options.

“Yeah – at the time of this interview we are currently looking at our options. We’re punk rock dads with day jobs so we’re just trying to map out some cool band stuff in conjunction with our regular day jobs and family stuff. We definitely want to be out there soon sharing these songs live, because we wanna write songs that are fun to play with a live audience. It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to get out there and we really wanna come out and share a beer and sing along to some punk songs we wrote for our friends,” Andy Vandal concluded.

Canadian punk fans will be chanting “Gabba Gabba Eh!” once they can get their hands on The Riptides new album.

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