“It’s kind of scary territory” says Scarlett Rose, bass player for Crosss, when asked about the occult references in their songs. I was curious if the band was indeed down with Satan or if their aesthetic was based in fantasy. I didn’t really get a direct answer but after the interview was over Andy March, the songwriter and vocalist behind Crosss, explained there was an intentional aloofness to their answers and he was indeed interested in the esoteric, specifically Aleister Crowley and Thelema. One could easily argue that the mixing of magic and music is as old as music itself, but recent trends have made us all grow a little weary of bands who have clearly just Google'd the occult and cherry-picked a few words or images in an attempt to appear mysterious.
March moved to Ontario from Halifax a couple of years ago, and after a brief move to Hamilton, decided to settle in Toronto. He remembers Halifax fondly, explaining that the scene there is isolated, forcing musicians to nurture the creative community around them, which leads to a supportive environment for artists to grow and experiment. Upon moving to a larger city like Toronto with a more competitive environment, March was able to bring with him this DIY attitude and desire to build a strong community of musicians.
March’s label Craft Singles is a good illustration of his desire to nurture those around him. Craft Singles' main focus is on up and coming local artists. Originally a cassette label, it has recently switched gears to focus on 7-inch singles. “I switched away from doing cassettes to do lathes—7” lathes—which is fun cause I got kinda bored of cassettes. I have some pretty exciting bands coming out for NXNE, this band from London called Foam that are really sick, and a really exciting Telstar Drugs single coming soon, I would say those are the two really exciting things for summer.” All of the 7-inches are manufactured by March’s company Monotype Audio located inside Sonic Boom at 215 Spadina Avenue. A few years ago March became fascinated with vinyl lathes, he originally produced vinyl records for himself and a few select friends and his sense of wanting to help those around him is something he has been able to turn into a full time business.
In 2013, after moving from Halifax, March was still performing and touring with the original line up Nathan Doucet and Ryan Allen, who were both still living in Halifax which led to a lot of traveling back and forth. In late 2014 they decided to stop touring with Crosss which led March to find new members. He first came across Kris Bowering who would be filling in on drums, and could tell they “were kindred spirits” and could tell “he was the kind of person to drop his life to live in a van, which is not for everyone, so that was important also.” Last to join was Rose who won March over with her obsession and love for music, despite not having a “good bass, or a bass amp, or anything”. So within a few months of getting together they were all crammed inside a van and heading across the USA to SXSW to tour for their upcoming album, LO. Coming out May 26th, on Telephone Explosion, LO, in a sense, is a mirror of their first LP Obsidian Spectre with eight songs on the A-side and a noise composition on the B-side. March described there being a “wider variety on LO, some stuff that was around when I wrote Obsidian Spectre, some new stuff, some weird stuff that happened spontaneously in the studio.”
Noisey: You recently played some shows at South by Southwest, how was that?
Scarlett Rose: It’s like North by Northeast but with more drunk people everywhere.
Do you think these festivals actually help artists?
Rose: A lot of the time, no.
Andy March: I think the best thing that comes out of festivals like that is meeting other bands and getting to see other bands.
I saw some photos of you at Willie Nelson’s ranch, what was that like?
Whole band: It was awesome!
Kris Bowering: His complex was pretty fucking cool. He owns this whole kind of old town thing, that has a really old church and a general store and it’s in the rolling hills outside of Austin.
March: It was like a spaghetti-western but everything is real. You walk by an old building that looks like an old salon, but it’s actually a functioning salon.
Do you find you play shows with other metal bands or do you end up playing with more indie bands?
March: We’ve definitely tried playing with other metal bands. I am definitely really into it, but they never seem into it.
Rose: We’re a bunch of pussies.
Bowering: I think for metal purists this really isn’t metal.
March: I think if we did that too much we would eventually get murdered. I’ve seen other people who aren’t totally metal, but tried to move in metal circles and they just get torn to shreds.
To me you guys sound pretty metal.
March: I don’t think we are anywhere near. If someone else heard you calling us metal, who knew what metal is, they would be mad at you.
Rose: I think it works in the opposite way for some bands like Cellphone, they are like redefining metal crowds.
Bowering: It’s funny how that happens in the punk genre as well because bands like Teenanger have witnessed a lot of the same thing with people who love actual punk, because they crossover into indie crowds rather than just a punk crowd. I know a lot of friends who are like purists when it comes to punk who hate that band.
Bowering: Yeah, I think it’s the same way with us.
It’s like you can’t break out of the sound you’re supposed to be in even a little bit without people saying, “Oh no that doesn’t count anymore I can’t listen to it.”
Bowering: It’s actually really sad. People find a lot of like comfort in like fitting square things into square holes all the time.
March: But they also want the genre that they love to be preserved. And it comes from a sense of really liking that music and they don’t want it to get watered down.
Rose: They don’t want to call it something they don’t think it is.
Bowering: It’s also weird that whatever genre you’re talking about—for example, Rockabilly—came out of other genres merging together. Straying outside of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, and mixing them together. If they think that they have reached the pinnacle of something and they just wanna stop there that’s fine, but you are going to find new and better stuff by pushing. Just keep pushing your sound.
Aaron Cunningham is a writer living in Toronto - @sinsmusik