At the magical hour of 5 p.m., on the corner of Hastings and Renfrew, it didn’t take me long to recognize the trio I had never met nor seen, yet was assigned to interview. Christine B., Ben E., and Katie E. walked, or should I say, were dragged towards me by the unofficial mascot for their band Genderdog: a two year old black-and-white pooch named Heffer.
The dog immediately jumped me, contrary to the orders given by his owners, Ben and Katie. The band offered me a beer afterwards, perhaps to make up from Heffer’s enjoyable assault. I carefully contemplated the ethics behind the offer — as a responsible journalist, I surely shouldn’t accept. But every man has a code, and mine would be sorely violated by turning down an ice-cold bevy. I sat down and enjoyed a drink with Genderdog. Getting to know them, and how they formed, was easy.
“I think we were always surrounded by friends who played music in their bands and we just wanted to do it ourselves,” said Katie, bassist and vocalist for the group. “We thought there was no good reason we shouldn’t do it.”
We’ve all had those drunken conversations at parties about starting a band, but very few put the pedal to the floor and actually get it done. Genderdog is one of the more driven bunch: a group of good friends who thought about making some music, but actually had the added spice — I think it’s called determination — to get their poop in a group and start doing it. They’re relatively green, and some cases, picking things up as they go along.
“[We] really wanted to start a band and we had a lot of energy but didn’t know how to play instruments,” says Christine, Genderdog’s resident drummer, as she sits beside her bandmates.
“The whole run of the band has been us slowly learning more and more how to play music,” adds Katie, the band’s vocalist and bassist.
The three-piece has been chipping away at their musical talents for the past three years. To date they’ve recorded an album’s worth of material and have toured across the U.S. Their musical career is in it’s infancy,, and in Christine’s case, she’s had to build her drum skills from the ground up.
“A lot of it at the beginning was me learning to be confident enough to play the drums,” she says. Christine was forced onto the drums after her bandmates picked up a kit for her.
“I was afraid to play it. They would let me sneak into their place when no one was there so I could play it alone,“ she says.
“She eventually overcame her fear of the drums,” says Ben E., the band’s guitarist and spiritual leader. “She still doesn’t like the loud ones though. She’s not a fan of the snare.”
Ben is the most experienced musician in the group, and also plays for Industrial Priest Overcoats. His attitude and his ear helped bring the Genderdog together in its early stages.
“Ben had the patience, he could deal with us learning,” says Katie. “At first we couldn’t explain things in musical terms, he really brought it all together.”
After the group formed and put on a handful of live shows, they did what all great musicians do: hit the road. A cross-U.S. tour featured some their most memorable shows, stretching all the way from New York City to Los Angeles. Of course, the trip was made possible by a rickety van.
“We were in a van with nine people with windows that don’t open,” laughs Katie.
“No air conditioning either. It was fantastic because we were really hot and sweaty,” adds Christine.
It’s easy to pick up, just by hearing the trio interact with each other, that they’re all really close friends. And their chemistry comes out in their music. Their style has elements of minimalist punk with a psychedelic tinge. But the band doesn’t set out to produce any particular sound.
“We all have ideas that turn into songs, and depending on who it was or what’s going on, it’s always something different,” says Christine. “It never sounds the same, and we’re not trying to make it sound any certain way. But we all have our particular way of playing our instruments that make it what it is. It’s just us, together, that makes it what it is.”
Christine is credited with penning Genderdog’s hit “Uhhsexual.”
“Uhhsexual is my experience going out into the world and falling in love with everybody all the time, and always becoming so frustrated,” says Christine. “No, no more. I’m not asexual, I’m uhhsexual.”
Uhhsexual and six other original tracks can be heard on Genderdog’s upcoming tape, Neurosis Party, being released by Hockey Dad Records on May 1.
“We’ve been working towards this tape for a long time,” said Christine, adding that the low-cost tapes felt like the best way to get their music out there. “The moment we got [everything] recorded was when I felt like we finally had accomplished something.”
Genderdog’s Neurosis Party release party is on May 1st at Avenue Upstairs, followed by a West Coast tour that stretches all the way to San Diego.