Not Just Jazz

“It's been a really great opportunity to sort of experiment with stuff, to kind of try different things and see how people react."

Sick Boss || photo by Konstantin Prodanovic
Sick Boss || photo by Konstantin Prodanovic

“I think people see us as musicians who have a certain amount of training, a certain amount of technique, a certain amount of ability, and so they say ‘You play jazz,’ but I don’t really like to think of it as exclusively jazz,” explains Dan Gaucher, drummer and one third of genre-spanning local band, Sick Boss. With a weekly event showcasing improvisation, formidable musicianship, and albeit, a respectable dose of jazz among other genres, Monday nights at the Lido revolve around Sick Boss.

With the energy of a technically astounding and musically riveting performance still lingering in the air, Gaucher, along with bassist James Meger, and guitarist Cole Schmidt, sit down with Discorder in the lively Lido directly after one of their impressive Monday night sets to discuss their band, their shows, and their views on Vancouver’s music scene.

While the Lido has only had its doors open for a little over a year, Sick Boss has had the Monday night time slot booked solid for nearly nine months. “I think I was drinking a beer, and then I thought, this would be a really good place to do something like this,” explains Schmidt on the origins of the weekly shows. “Then I went over and talked to Matt [Krysko, owner of the Lido]. He pulled out the calendar, and said, ‘When do you want to get started?’” Ever since, the trio has explored new musical ground every Monday night.

“It’s been a really great opportunity to sort of experiment with stuff, to kind of try different things and see how people react,” imparts Gaucher. Having a secure gig every week with the freedom to play what they want, Sick Boss are free to venture off the beaten path with their music. “We’re pretty comfortable up there,” says Schmidt. “Another big part of what’s going on is Matt encourages us to freak out.”

Running analog psychedelic video projections overtop of the band performing, Krysko keeps the trio striving to move further and further into noise and freakiness. “Matt kind of said to us, the freakier the better,” explains Gaucher. “And we’ve basically been trying to break him ever since… He still hasn’t complained yet. He’s still on board.”

While some nights settle into more rehearsed, composed pieces of music, oftentimes, Sick Boss dives deep into improvisation and noise, matching the paranoid, hazy, and nearly hallucinatory projections that accompany them.

Sick Boss || photo by Konstantin Prodanovic
James Meger || photo by Konstantin Prodanovic

It’s hard for both the audience and the band to ignore the visual aspect of the Monday night shows. “Especially the nights that are all improvised, there’s something about the visuals that allows us to access a certain momentum,” says Meger. “It kind of provides a sort of through line… Matt is always keeping things in motion.”

In addition to the striking and surreal visual show that accompanies their sets, Sick Boss often has some help with their musical exploration through a diversity of accompanying artists. “The three of us play every Monday with different guests,” says Meger. Varying from internationally renowned jazz musicians, to local independent music icons, Sick Boss is rarely without a guest feature in their lineup. In the month of June alone, the trio has been joined by Tony Wilson, notable Vancouver jazz guitarist and composer, and Colin Cowan, member of Vancouver’s Dada Plan, the Elastic Stars, and Acid Witch.

And because of the constant flow of people through the stage, Sick Boss has developed a certain level of comfort and poise playing together. “There’s a confidence you get playing with all those different kinds of people. I mean, I have the feeling when I get up there with you guys that we can make something good,” reveals Meger to his bandmates. It’s a sentiment that is shared by Gaucher: “Everyone’s different personality brings different things out of all of us… I don’t think we’d be where we are with [Sick Boss] if we didn’t have all those guests.”

With a torrent of styles, sounds, and guest musicians at their disposal, the trio move far beyond what is commonly called “jazz” with their live shows. When one uses the word jazz to describe the sound of Sick Boss, entire aspects of what they do are ignored. While characteristics of the genre are certainly identifiable at times within their music, the band traverses a much wider musical scope.

Sick Boss || photo by Konstantin Prodanovic
Cole Schmidt || photo by Konstantin Prodanovic

“In one set, we might reference jazz and folk and rock and even electronic music and noise and soundscapes,” says Gaucher. Though the three of them all share a history of jazz training, jazz performance, and esteem for the genre, Meger calls themselves “a bit of an anomaly” within the jazz scene, as well as the city’s music scene as a whole. On their weekly shows, Meger explains that “It doesn’t feel like it has much to do with the jazz scene, or even the rest of the scene, to me.”

For Gaucher, “There’s a lot of great things about [jazz], but it doesn’t really explain the whole thing.” Despite their Monday night shows often being labeled as jazz nights, “it’s easier to sort of talk about it as improvisation and that’s what we do, really.”

Regardless of whether or not you choose to view them as a jazz trio, Sick Boss consistently delves deep beyond musical boundaries, blurring borders between genres, and scenes. A big part of their ability to cross those musical lines is the venue, according to Gaucher.

“You can talk about Sick Boss all you want, but we wouldn’t really exist without the Lido.” A hub for independent Vancouver music and culture, the venue gives the band the freedom to play what they want, and the atmosphere enables the audience to become fully immersed in what the band is going to be. And, as Gaucher aptly puts it, “The exciting thing is that we literally have no idea what it’s going to be.”