Continuing the circuit of North by Northeast interviews, I had the chance to sit down with Joel Hryniuk and Levi Soulodre from Saskatchewan’s acoustic-based dance-punk band Volcanoless in Canada.
You read that correctly- the band uses three acoustic guitars on top of bass and drums to create a sound that is not usually heard from acoustic guitars which are often associated with country and folk.
The idea for Volcanoless in Canada first came from Joel and lead singer Mitch Lysak. The two were heavily into punk bands like Getup Kids and Sunny Day Real Estate in their younger days and knew that they wanted to create a punk sound with the use of an acoustic (rather than electric) guitar. Eventually they met with Levi to complete the guitar trio, and they had a rather unique way of putting their songs together.
“We used to go into a pitch-black room and just play our guitars. It had to be completely about just feeling it… It made our guitar playing so much tighter,” Joel said.
Eventually they joined forces with Enver Hampton and Brad Heck, and Volcanoless in Canada was born.
As for the name itself, Mitch got it from a friend who was taking a geography course in university. Her MSN name for a while was “Volcanoless in Canada” and Mitch thought it was a great band name. Joel also recalled liking it:
“When Mitch came to me I was like ‘That’s fucked up! Let’s roll with it.'” he said. Neither Mitch nor Joel cared about the fact that there are volcanoes in Canada or that “volcanoless” isn’t actually a word. It was more about the interest value- it’s a name that will make someone look twice at them.
Levi said that its catchiness wasn’t the only reason they chose the name either. “I think [the name] works in favour with our music,” he said. “Perhaps it’s not so nonsensical as it is uncategorizable. It reflects on the name that it’s something different.” As a three-guitar acoustic dance-punk band is not something you see every day, Volcanoless in Canada fits perfectly in its uniqueness.
As for why the guys decided to go with three acoustic guitars, it’s because acoustic guitars have “a lot of soul,” in Joel’s words. Also, Mitch and Joel had (and continue to have) a strong belief in them.
“We’ve always felt since the beginning that the acoustic band is what we wanted to be,” Joel said. As well, playing an acoustic guitar is a lot more challenging. “When I used to play the electric, the distortion hid a lot of things that you can’t hide with an acoustic. We’re definitely all perfectionists in the band, so it challenges us to keep on top of our game all the time.”
Not that the guys have anything against electric guitars- they do manage to show up in a few songs.
“I think we play [our acoustics] as if they’re in electric guitars in a lot of respects; [we use] the chording and the types of strumming to give it that heavier punk sound,” Levi said.
The heavier punk sound is one you can hear in their insanely catchy track “Mexican Circus” from their sophomore album The Way Forward. I described it as a battle anthem and it was a summary that Joel and Levi agreed with.
The opening notes of the song came to Levi when he heard, funny enough, Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” The song is meant to be a portrait of “the ugliness and the zeitgeist of a home town.”
Joel said that his hometown has a tendency to adopt the “party hard” attitude. “We’ve seen that and we’ve moved away from it a little bit,” Joel said. They even took a live recording of a raucous bar and added the recording to the bridge of the song.
The band have been enthusiastically supported since making their debut and already have a few interesting gig stories. For example, they played a show in Swansea, Wales just as Kings of Leon were becoming huge. A girl in the front row asked them to play a Kings of Leon cover but they insisted on the fact that they’re not a cover band. They also played at the Asessippi ski lodge in Manitoba (outside, in -30 celsius weather).
In the future, you may even see Volcanoless in Canada moving to Ontario.
“Population-wise in Saskatchewan it’s hard to get to a large group of people. The whole population of Saskatchewan is like a million people, where you have that in part of Toronto,” Joel said. “We’re really focused… on getting out to Toronto and hitting up these more populated areas. To expand, progress, move forward.”
The band is certainly doing just that, having opened for Thrice as well as sharing the stage with great acts like Rah Rah and You Say Party!
“We’re still trying to stick to our roots and we’re always trying to create something unique and interesting that people can grab onto and listen to,” Joel said.