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Screech and swagger

In less than a year, The Gideons have erupted on the Halifax scene with their punched-up dirty garage rock sound.


The first time I saw The Gideons, I stopped in my tracks, staring up at five boys in flashy outfits, all hair and impudence, playing dirty garage rock. There seemed to be too many of them to fit on the stage. Is this The Stance, I wondered? No---these boys were too young to be The Stance, although not too young to swagger about the stage with Jaggeresque bravado. They growled and screeched and swapped instruments, popped balloons and sneered at friends in the audience. Then one---the singer---leapt on one of the guitarist’s shoulders and amazingly, stayed aloft. Then the show was over.

“What a bunch of little shits!” I thought. “I wish they had played longer.”

Fast-forward a couple of months and I am sitting with The Gideons in a local coffee establishment. They’re actually not little shits---not entirely---but they are a rowdy bunch. And why not? For a group that’s only been together since last February, The Gideons are reaping the fruits of the local music scene. They’ve played many shows over the past year, recently released their first album, the cheekily titled Hymns for Hers, and are fresh from a quick-and-dirty tour with the not-too-shabby likes of Windom Earle and B.A. Johnston in PEI and New Brunswick. And like all good young bands, they get into trouble. The group shares an example: While on tour, they and a group of PEI “bros” came to blows. As with all their anecdotes, The Gideons tell this story in fragments, finishing each other’s sentences and peppering the exercise with frequent expletives, interruptions and digressions.

“These guys were chasing some girl down the street, and we were all like, ‘Hmm, classy,’” says bassist/keyboardist Cailean Lewis.

“They came up to Cailean,” Salter continues, “and were like ‘What, are you a fag?’”

“And then he punched me,” Lewis says. “I got punched three times in the face. “

“In all fairness, Cailean did say, ‘I love the cock,’” says guitarist Lyle Peterson.

“As they were leaving, I did simulate oral sex on Stephan (MacLeod, lead singer of Windom Earle),” Salter adds. “Then I undid my belt and put my hand down my pants.”

“At that point, they told us we were all going to burn in hell,” concludes drummer Spencer Cantley. “They started getting pretty righteous.”

“But the show was great!” everyone chimes in. “Write that down!”

Amidst this and other tales of drinking, punching and carousing, the band is quick to clarify that they are decent, upright citizens. Salter and guitarist/bassist Caleb Langille are both studying at King’s and Dalhousie. Lewis is known to many as “that cute guy from the Superstore” (he now works at the “much better” Planet Organic) and was recently the recipient of a Coast psst! that read, “I want to steal your virginity.” Peterson says he works at the “biggest law firm in Halifax” while Cantley has had a steady job at Dalhousie for five years. Overall, the band---who range in age from 21 to 29---are disparate in personality and experience, but as they speak, it becomes clear that something between them works. They’ve all been part of the local scene for years through playing in bands and attending shows. They rattle off names of musicians, local or otherwise, with a machine-gun fervour, praising the efforts of friends and idols. In short, they still find music exciting. And that in itself is kind of exciting. But Cantley says it’s sometimes hard to show enthusiasm and still be a good band.

“It’s an interesting debate, the idea of playing with energy versus playing tightly,” he says. “It’s really hard to have both. I think our album is tighter than our live show. But it’s more fun to play with energy. We’re a young band and we need to find a line down the middle. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

In the meantime, the band says they’ll play more shows and try to tour outside the Maritimes. And surely they’ll be having a crazy release party for the album? The boys look at each other. Cups have been drained, bowls are empty. There’s a pause. “Uh...yeah,” they say. “Well, maybe. Are we?”

After some bickering, Peterson responds.

“Yeah, we are!” he says. “We’ll book one in January. You can tell people you heard it here first. Write that down!”

The Gideons w/Books on Tape, A/V, Myles Deck and the Fuzz, Jenocide, Saturday, December 13 at Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola, $6.


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