Sometimes life after art school just isn’t arty enough and that’s when you need to start a performance-art band. Soaking Up Jagged was formed in 1997 by NSCAD grads Mitchell Wiebe, Rebecca Young, Chad Jagoe and James Matthews. Wiebe, a musician and painter who seems to have about nine bands on the go these days, says, “Everyone played in different bands except me---they kind of introduced me. We all liked similar music...stuff with a heavy torque.” Besides bands like The Fall, The Jesus Lizard and The Monks, their other interests included “pseudo-pagan mythology” and costumes: They wore matching outfits, and would dress up to practise then go out afterwards.
The band hadn’t played in years, but after Jagoe returned to Halifax in 2008 after several years in Toronto, they began playing again and writing new material. “I don’t feel like it’s a reunion...we’re just playing music,” Wiebe says. They’ve always performed with a wicker donkey costume that an audience member would wear, which Wiebe calls “kind of like a pagan ritual.” The donkey made a reappearance at their first post-reunion show in December, though apparently the audience barely noticed it---wicker ain’t what it used to be. In the days before The Marquee Club, the band often held shows at their jam space across the street on Gottingen, a place they decorated and called the “Stanley Kubrick Mall;” other choice venues included a country bar on Gottingen and downtown Cafe Mokka, where an incident with the donkey once caused a fire alarm and blackout.
Continuing their tradition of mythologizing wicker, they’re at work on a “comic book rock opera,” as part of the Sound Bytes audio art festival, to be performed at the Roberts Street Social Centre on June 27; Wiebe is stockpiling wicker furniture in preparation.