“Being in a band in general is just constantly about survival… For me, the biggest achievement was that the whole thing didn’t cave in on itself.” It wouldn’t be hard to blow off Kirby Fisher’s statement as melodrama, an exercise meant to conjure up images of ’The Starving Artist’ slaving away for his love of music. With a band like War Baby, however, a group that’s so visibly ecstatic to have survived its own challenges, the only word Fisher’s sentiment evokes is ‘genuine.’
Ever since the release of Jesus Horse in 2013, War Baby’s presence in Vancouver has been nigh inescapable. “For an independent band that had no help — not a scrap of help, no one was interested — we did quite well,” Fisher explains, without any sense of exaggeration. From winning CiTR’s Shindig 2013, to headlining the inaugural SnailFest, and even opening for the legendary Eagles of Death Metal at a sold out Commodore performance, the past two years have seen Fisher and his cohorts Brock Allen and Jon Redditt thrust to local notoriety. It’s why War Baby’s prerogative to simply survive is so poignant— their sound may seem ubiquitous now (a healthy blend of grunge, punk, and hardcore) but when they started they weren’t an easy band to bill. Amidst a sea of other acts, the trio was frequently considered too tough for some audiences, and not tough enough for others. Having worked their way up as an “underdog band,” as Redditt puts it, is something they’re immensely proud of.
While War Baby is certainly relieved to have made it this far, their ambitions don’t stop there. With a future tour of the United States looking promising, and their newest effort, Death Sweats coming out at the end of the month, the trio are looking forward to the future as much as they’re contented by past successes.
“We started making Death Sweats almost the second Jesus Horse came out,” reveals Fisher. The new album has been nothing if not a labour of love (and, as its title would suggest, sweat) for the band. Despite their aforementioned victories these past few years, the new record is founded upon feelings of depression, isolation, and anxiety. It’s a common thread felt among the three rockers; for every award and every gig, the pressure to do more and to be more magnifies.
“There’s something to me that’s so dramatically different about desperation versus survival,” Fisher posits. “[Survival] is a dog at a rescue shelter, and desperation is a dog at the show. It’s gross. This, the album, is so much more important.” For Fisher in particular, the decision to leave his native Australia and come to Canada in the hopes of finding a more diverse and successful music scene was fraught with challenges.
“I come from a place where, you know, you don’t do this,” he laments. “[People say] what are you doing? Be a carpenter, be a bricklayer. So when you think everyone is against you, that’s a horrible feeling. But all of a sudden, when you begin to turn against yourself? That’s worse— that’s Death Sweats.”
As the lead singer and songwriter for the band, Redditt couldn’t agree more. “It’s anxiety, we all suffer from it. [The title] came out in conversation randomly and we said ‘that’s it!’ There was no hesitation about it. I’ve had panic attacks my whole life, and a lot of our lyrics are along the lines of meaninglessness,” Redditt explains, with his characteristic grin. Despite the fact his cheery disposition invokes laughter from the rest of the band, he stands firm in his response: “Well what can you do except smile?”
It’s this type of juxtaposition that keeps War Baby excited and active. Death Sweats is rich with the stuff, arranging claustrophobic songs like “Master Blaster” and “Swamp Kunt” next to broader ones such as “Spell” and “Throw Them in the Fire”. As far as War Baby is concerned, the orchestration of the album in order to achieve its desired sound often winds up being more difficult for them than coming up with material in the first place.
However, this theme of juxtaposition goes much deeper than track placement, highlighted most prominently in Death Sweats’ ridiculous bonus feature— a fully functional board game included on the back of every record.
“It’s so weird for us because we have all these ridiculous ideas that never, ever come to fruition because we have no money… But this one we actually managed to pull off,” Fisher says with a great deal of excitement. Due in large part to Allen’s dedication and creativity, Death Sweats: the Board Game includes cut-out pieces with which up to four people can play at a time. As if that wasn’t enough, the entire game possesses an interactive element where players must follow instructions from a special video as their time to complete the game runs out.
With the new album mastered and their release party lined up, War Baby is itching to get on to promoting their next noisy triumph. Who knows, if the last two years have been anything to go by, the next time the trio decides to sit down for a chat those feelings of self-doubt will be all but sweated out.
Death Sweats will be available on Halloween, but if that’s too spooky for you head down to the Hindenburg on October 23rd for the album release party, featuring performances from local heavyweights Twin Crystals, Dirty Spells, Invasives, and more!