Four friends from Victoria, Jordan Minkoff (guitar/vox), Caitlin Gallupe (bass/vox), Luke Postl (drums/cat wails) and Duncan MacConnell (guitar/vox), found themselves in a riotous new formation almost two years ago, when they were asked to do some cover tunes at a cancer benefit show. The four-piece performed songs by the Sonics, Fleetwood Mac and the Traveling Wilburys. The set was so well received that the group decided to take things to the next level by hunkering down and writing some songs of their own. All four band members are already long-time Victoria veterans, even though they’re all still in their early 20s (Postl and Minkoff play in Colourbook, MacConnell is in Cobras Cobras Cobras, and Gallupe now plays in her brother Brooke’s band, Immaculate Machine), and so are well-versed in being in a band. “I liked going back and doing the ol’ punk rock stuff, together with the best buds I had; it made sense. I was sick of doofin’ round!” joked Postl.
At first, the band stayed close to home, playing house parties and small shows for friends, “so they could have a good time on weekends, ” explained Minkoff. Thankfully, Slam Dunk decided that other music fans needed to have fun weekends, too.
“At first we were doing house parties in Victoria and that’s about it. It was only last February when we first played off the Island, because we decided to book a tour to California while Jordan and I still had musician’s work visas from another band. We played Santa Barbara before we ever played Vancouver, squeezed into a 20-band, thrashy bill,” explained Gallupe. “We all just sort of love touring so it doesn’t seem like too much effort.”
They make touring look effortless, although staying in touch while on the road is a little more challenging for the group. I managed to get a hold of Minkoff on a friend’s phone somewhere outside of Brandon, Manitoba in mid-June. Whether the two will still be on good terms once she gets the bill for the call is another story, but Minkoff was happy to wax poetic on the ins and outs of the touring lifestyle and how a joke band can grow into so much more than a joke.
“I wouldn’t say the band is a joke at all. We actually take writing the songs seriously. We want ‘em to be seriously good! But we try to keep a sense of humour about it or else we might end up working at Long & Mcquade. With goatees. And chromatic tuners.” That frightening future is still a long way off, as Slam Dunk is too busy touring our basements to settle down at a day job and groom their wild and wooly facial hair (does not apply to all band members).
Fresh as anyone can be after sleeping in an over-crowded van and standing outside of a gas station in the middle of the Prairies, Minkoff explained that, on this tour, “we’re basically just a shuttle service” for friends along for the ride. Nine bodies crammed into an eight-seater van is, apparently, somebody’s idea of a good time. Before setting out on the road, Minkoff established a set of van rules, the most important of which seems to involve giving the newly-acquired tour saxophonist, Kain Bryson (“He’s really small, so he fits well in the van, and he’s always in a good mood!”) last dibs on driving music choices. As of the Manitoba pit stop, everything was running according to plan.
“We’re all best friends—we all love to eat together and play together,” he continued. The cross-Canada tour is a little different than the band’s Cali tour, as the drives are longer and the sleeps are shorter, but everybody seems in good spirits, focusing on the common goals of rocking some serious house parties and making it to Sled Island to perform on a bill with Les Savy Fav, a band with similarly outlandish stage antics and terrifyingly devoted fans.
Slam Dunk fans can get a little unruly at times, but that’s all the better, according to the group. Minkoff said that “playing Victoria has gotten kind of crazy lately. For small people at least. Last time we played in Victoria people started pushing before we started playing. It’s usually a nice kind of happy pushing but falling over and get danced upon don’t feel too good.” Duncan MacConnell thinks it’s great when fans get up and in their face, “as long as they don’t steal the mics and never return ‘em! All our friends know all the words because they hear them all the time and usually they’re crowd surfing even when there is no music.”
According to Caitlin Gallupe, “the only real diehards we get are usually 40-something-year-olds who tell us they haven’t felt so alive since they saw so and so in 1980- whatever.” That’s a compliment if ever I’ve heard one, and the band seems pretty stoked that they’re winning over so many people so quickly.
While it’s undeniable to anyone who’s seen Slam Dunk play that they are the rockingest, it must be said that the band’s recordings are excellent, too. The band’s got a 7” out on Old Life Records that Minkoff said “sounds nice.” There are other songs available online, but they’re apparently not up to snuff.
“We just re-recorded everything because we couldn’t stand it. It was pretty unlistenable. It took a while to get tight enough,” Jordan said, explaining the band’s need to redo some tunes. “It was pretty sloppy before that.”
Sloppy doesn’t do Slam Dunk justice, though. True, they seem like a goofy lot, but they know how to get shit done. “So far we’ve done everything ourselves,” explained Gallupe. “Tour, shirts, demo CDs, a 7″. We built a whole table on my back porch for silkscreening everything. We did the 7″ ourselves with some help from our friends’ labels, Old Life and Fan Club Music Club.”
Hopefully, the band’s hard work will pay off. Gallupe said “it would be nice to have someone release our full-length,” but there’s nothing stopping the band from going the d.i.y. route a while longer.
“It would all be a whole lot easier if someone just gave us a big pile of cash!” joked Minkoff. “It’s just hard when ya broke! Maybe we will put an ad up on Craigslist for a pile of cash. Maybe a missed connection with a pile of cash, we could meet the pile somewhere and take it home.”
Apparently dreams like these are what great bands are made of. “I’m trying to convince everyone to go on tour again [after the cross-Canada tour] so I don’t have to find anywhere to live,” said Minkoff, and, for once, I get the feeling he’s being serious.
That seriousness doesn’t last very long around Slam Dunk-ville as Gallupe is quickly bringing up their plans to start “a travelling burrito stand called ‘Slam Dunk Burrito Stand.’ Available for any kind of function.”
“We offer this as a stand-alone catering affair, sans music, or as an edible compliment to our live show,” joked Luke Postl. The four friends, when not busting out great party anthems on stage or in the basement, like to play in Gallupe’s backyard to the chickens.
Slam Dunk had a really positive experience at Music Waste, but can’t see the same thing working on the Island. “I definitely appreciate the venues Vancouver has right now. Victoria is super dry—all we have is Caitlin’s backyard and Logan’s, which has a great Sunday brunch menu, but that’s only talk radio, no bands,” said Postl.
If you want to get in on the fun, Slam Dunk will be rippin’ it up at Glory Days on July 17 and can probably be found fueling their burrito-driven antics down the street at Budgie’s before the show.
Viva Slam Dunkus!