In life, there are cycles that are constant. Snakes shed their skin four to eight times a year, birds migrate north annually and roughly every two to three years Walter Schreifels starts a hugely influential and underappreciated band and puts out a seminal release.
In Halifax to perform a solo show with friends and collaborators Bucket Truck, Schreifels admits this may not have been exactly the ideal route to take with his music career. While it has earned him a reputation for being a touchstone influence in modern rock music, sometimes having artistic integrity is a real bitch.
“I am sick of starting over all the time but that’s the way its been,” he says. “I come up with an idea I want to do and I’m not happy unless I try it. It’s bad business.”
This trend started almost 20 years ago when Schreifels was a part of the storied New York straight-edge, hardcore outfit Gorilla Biscuits. Moving against many of the rigid confines the movement had laid out, the band found as much controversy as it did acclaim. Over the course of its two-album life span, it proved itself to be among the best hardcore groups of the era. While driving rhythms and screaming vocals centered its sound, at its core was a firm grasp of pop songwriting.
Growing restless, Schreifels soon decided it was time to move on. The next step in his progression was creating the post-hardcore sounds of Quicksand. While the band came along on the cusp of the grunge movement, the success found by similar bands such as Helmet eluded it. Once again Schreifels would record two albums with the group—that would act pave the way for a future generation of like-minded musicians—and decided to move on.
Rival Schools was the next project he found himself fronting. Continuing with the energy of his past work, the band saw Schreifels infuse a new level of pop dynamics into his songs. The group’s only album, United by Fate, was again delivered on the cusp of a similary-sounding movement (the wholly regrettable emo) but failed to be lifted by the wave.
Schreifels’ latest release comes under the alias of Walking Concert. Delivering on the pop promise his music has always held, the album drops the aggressive edge of his past work for a sound more akin to indie-rock favourites Guided by Voices. While he is hesitant to pigeonhole the varied disc, he claims it’s his “classic rock album.”
While looking back on his work’s various incarnations, Schreifels realizes that his artistic trajectory may not have been the easiest to follow, but that has been part of the plan. “There is rebuilding with each,” he says. “I like finding new audiences more than challenging old ones.”
Many have chalked up the changes in his music to a gradual maturing in his approach, but Schreifiels opts to think of it a different way.
“I prefer evolving to maturing,” he says “I am most interested in the raw power or feeling of a song, maturity implies an expertise that I don’t care for. I am interested in writing songs different each time, either that or I am unable to get it right though I keep trying.”
Aside from Walking Concert’s touring duties, Schreifels also plans to release a quick succession of solo albums over the course of the coming year. “I have so many songs at the moment; I just want to get them out as fast as I can until I don’t have anymore, then I can rest.”
From an artist with such a rich past, it’s odd to find such a promising future. While his restless progression may have changed the shape of his music, underneath the surface, the core has always been the same.
“Certain elements change but they are mostly superficial,” he says. “I think when I have a good song it makes sense to me in a way that I recognize and in some way it scratches an itch in my brain and spirit. That relationship has always been the same.”
Walter Schreifels w/Bucket Truck, November 19 at The Pavilion, 7pm, $7 and The Attic, 1781 Grafton, 11pm, $8, 423-0909