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Spiralling in all directions

Energetic popsters Spiral Beach return to Halifax, full of mashups and love of Wikipedia.


Spiral Beach's drummer, Daniel Woodhea, has his hands full, so he passes off his cellphone to his brother, guitarist Airick Woodhead, who's like a volcano erupting with energy. The Toronto band is hanging out at the Nanaimo, BC, home of musician Carolyn Mark, relaxing and partying on an off day of their national tour. It's a prelude to the release of their second full-length album, The Only Really Thing, due out in early June. Airick chats excitedly about everything from secret parties to crop circles to mashups---and yeah, their music.

The band---the Woodhead brothers, keyboardist and vocalist Maddy Wilde and bassist Dorian Wolf---started making a name for itself when all the members were in high school, garnering a reputation as a bunch of energetic kids, and the four musicians (still the original lineup) don't disappoint in either respect as they hit their 20s. "We're going to be kids until we're 28," Airick jokes. As a band that eagerly supports the all-ages scene, it can work to their advantage or detriment. "It's great to be young and stand out, like when we were 16," Airick says. "All-ages shows are so's really positive that way. At the same time, some people won't give it a chance because they think it's immature."

The new album is "a huge step for us," Airick says. "Before that it was a very self-produced, low-budget recording." They worked with Toronto recording engineer Mike Olsen, who plays with The Hidden Cameras and has recorded with Great Lake Swimmers and Arcade Fire. "It's a more cohesive sound---we're not quoting genres," he says. They've been spending hours driving across the country with plenty of time to listen to music, so they've been playing a bit of everything and soliciting advice online from friends on bands to check out.

"In the van we'll listen to Tchaikovsky, then Britney Spears, punk rock, then Notorious B.I.G.," Airick says. This melange is essentially his songwriting process as well: "I'll be listening to the Wu-Tang Clan, then 'The Rite of Spring.' I'll have these two polar opposites in my head, coming up with something hopefully entirely unique."

Songwriting is typically a collaborative process; Airick calls it a "compromise between all our different personalities." The music has been referred to as indie rock, new wave, pop, psychedelic and so on, but they're hoping that as they mature as a band, they'll be able to streamline their sound a bit more.

Spiral Beach gets creative with venues, putting on all-ages shows in galleries, warehouses and homes. "I'm really into the 'flash party' idea of shows," says Airick, about spontaneous events in public places, spread mainly by word of internet or cellphone. They're known for using pylons, tents, lights, cartoon speech bubble signs and other props in their shows, and colourful, eclectic fashion sense; no surprise to anyone who caught their Pop Explosion set at St. Matthew's. The current Canadian tour dates are mostly bar shows, but they've been taking the opportunity to play all-ages shows and house shows when possible. Airick looks at the tour as "one long crazy party," so the bar shows don't faze him.

His next target for a show is more out there, though: "I want to play a show in a crop circle," he says. He's been keeping an eye out for them through the prairies, to no avail so far. Airick chatters about doing some more research on crop circles on Wikipedia, a roommate's love of conspiracy theories and updating Spiral Beach's Wikipedia page, with factual or fictional information, before somebody else does.

Kids or not, they're most definitely spawn of the internet age, with a show, fashion sense and hair that's a pastiche of a little of everything. Airick recently watched the mashup documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto (see page 31) and found it inspiring. He praises Wikipedia---"historians can be everybody"---adores mashup music and suggests some more new additions to Wikipedia like "mashup animals."

"It's great, it's the only way to go," he says, when asked for Spiral Beach's take on mashups and copyright. "Steal everything, make something new out of it---that's the way to do things."

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