Dream Visions and Straight Secrets

Photo by Lindsey Hampton
Photo by Lindsey Hampton

Picture this: A wild troupe of half-nudes tromping around a roaring blaze of flames, systematically stomping out primitive beats and flailing their arms in the air with complete abandon. Realizing that conservative clothing has no place in such an orgiastic gathering, they strip down to their drawers. And then there’s the paint: buckets of the brightest colours known to man are being hurled and splattered all over random faces and limbs. It’s a celebration of nothing in particular. It’s a vision that at least half the members of Abbotsford-based rowdy rockers GSTS would like to see come true.

“We had a vision that we wanted our shows to be really animalistic and primitive,” Drew Riekman tells Discorder over a three-dollar breakfast at Bon’s Off Broadway. After revelling in this would-be dream for a few moments, he snaps out of it, “I don’t know. It’s just this thing that I have that I would love to see come true!”

Fittingly, GSTS (pronounced “Gee Es Tee Es”) used to paint themselves up regularly before shows in the hopes of making a reality of the above mentioned vision, but now they aren’t so sure. “I just don’t like the idea of people expecting it,” bassist Rubin Houweling says of the one-time ritual. Vocalist Caleb Campbell and drummer Tyler Corbett seem indifferent about the paint. Riekman, however, holds a little more affection for the practice, but admits the fact of the matter is that “we don’t want people coming to our shows to see us get painted up. We want people to come and hear our music.”

Put simply, GSTS just like to jam. Currently, they have ten new tracks recorded and have also planned a summertime tour to Montreal with fellow Abbotsford natives, Oh No! Yoko, but as always, funding these endeavours is a reality that can turn dreams into nightmares.

“We’re just trying to get some money together to support this tour,” Riekman explains before slurping down his eggs, sunny-side up.

Despite sitting on some newly recorded tunes, GSTS and “spiritual advisor” Stephen O’Shea, formerly of You Say Party, have decided to put off releasing a new album just yet. But don’t you fret: a three-song promo to the upcoming full-length is available on the GSTS Bandcamp page, paving the way for the full album’s release in September. Riekman’s plan is to release the promo album, and hopefully raise enough money on the road to support the release of the full-length.

The as-of-yet unnamed album’s opening track, “Hot Damn! Snake On My Gun,” starts off with a distorted mix of frantic guitar picking and a manic, driving rhythm. There are more than a few tasty little licks spliced in, but the main feel seems to be one of pissed off enjoyment. The GSTS sound leaves an anguished and apocalyptic impression, but not in a depressing kind of way. Screaming until your throat is useless and making a lot of noise is downright fun, and that seems to be what GSTS is all about. Just don’t tell them that.

“We don’t play obnoxiously loud,” Riekman insists. “We all bought our equipment to make sure it would sound good.” And to be fair, it does. There’s almost nothing obnoxious about a song like “There’s a Triangle in All of Us,” another track from the upcoming full-length. By far the slowest song on the album, it takes its time before it explodes. From its gradually evolving entrance, you’re struck with a sense that you might be in the wrong place, like the first steps into a friend of a friend’s house party. When the bass suddenly cuts through to make way for our first taste of Campbell’s screech, you start to think these hooligans might be worth a listen. And when the boom finally does come, the sudden crash of cymbals, deep pulsing bass and rolling licks are running at full bore. Campbell’s spine-tingling shriek, “I’ve got it all!” punctuates this yarn of hullabaloo to the point where you just can’t help but get physically involved. Whereas a song like “Break Your Fingers High Five Jam Time” immediately smacks you in the chops and takes you through a maze of disorienting twists and turns, “There’s a Triangle in All of Us” shows us how well the band can work together, creating a lengthy and almost seamless number that should appeal to the headbanger in us all.
That’s the kind of enthusiasm these songs inspire.

Even with all of the chaotic changes, there are moments in each of these songs where you can’t help but bounce along. It doesn’t matter that you can’t understand what the hell Campbell is screaming about in “My Gay Friend and Our Straight Secret.” His piercing vocals scream for recognition in a most intrusive way.

GSTS still have a ways to go, though. While their upcoming album is something they ought to be proud of, they’ll have to work hard to get it out there. That’s what their summer tour is all about: taking their Abbotsford music scene on the road. As for the body paint and debauched antics, you’ll just have to wait and see.