Friday, September 22, 2023

Of HUMANS!, Bats, and Cover Art: A Night Court interview, apropos of this coming Wednesday's gig with the Pointed Sticks and San Francisco's the Avengers

IMPORTANT: Night Court has had to drop off the bill for tonight's Pointed Sticks/ Avengers show. Their next scheduled show will be Nov. 10th at Green Auto! 

So a few months ago, I wrote a piece about a gig at the Smilin' Buddha/ the SBC/ Buddha's. Invasives (interviewed here) was by far my favourite band on the bill that night; Rong was second; but in my role as witness, not counting the friends I was there with, my favourite PERSON on the stage or off was Emilor Jayne, the singer for Pet Blessings. Pet Blessings was fun, too; I didn't entirely do them justice, since the gig was just starting and I was settling in, but they certainly generated an enthusiastic response from the pit. But without fully feeling that I necessarily grokked them as deeply as one might, Emilor's exuberance was unarguably deep, sincere, infectious and truly a joy to behold. When I snapped this photo, Pet Blessings wasn't even onstage -- this was how Emilor was reacting to Rong. How can you not love it when the frontperson for the first band is right down in the pit for the second and third acts, dancin' and cheerin' and whoopin' and being an all-round kickass (if unofficial) cheerleader, raising the mojo as high as she could? Every opening act should be so enthusiastic. 

Now, Emilor is the drummer for Night Court, not the frontperson, but virtue should be rewarded, so (with the recent release of HUMANS!, the band's new album), I wrote the band (via her) to ask to do an interview. In the process, I snagged the album, praised by Big Takeover as "loose and crazy indie punk-pop with solid drive and inventive style," and set to thinking up questions. These are in italics, below; answerers names are indicated. Check out the Night Court website here (including an EP that wasn't out when this exchange happened!), and note that this is all by way of introducing them to the audience at the Rickshaw, some of whom will no doubt be seeing them for the first time when they open for the Pointed Sticks and the Avengers this Wednesday. (It will be my first time too). 

Note: if you want to check out Pet Blessings after reading this, you can see them TONIGHT, as a matter of fact, at the Red Gate...

Allan: Who are the members of Night Court, exactly, and what do you play? And what other bands do we know you from? (I know Pet Blessings is still active, since I saw them not long ago... do you all have competing projects?). There seems to be a bit of an age difference between members -- how did you get together? 

Jiffy Marx: I play bass and sing in Night Court. I also play synth and sing in Autogramm. Dave-O and I also play in a band called Jiffy Marker. Jiffy Marker hasn’t played live since before COVID but we still jam and will hopefully release some of the many recordings we’ve done since then one of these days..

Emilor: I play drums, sing and am indeed the baby of the band, a child of the 80’s! I’ve known Jiffy for almost 20 years through mutual friends and music. At the beginning of the pandemic, he reached out to me, then about 6-7 months later they sent me the demos and I was IN (because they were all killer songs!). It's true, I am in Pet Blessings, (we're playing September 22nd at Red Gate with Selfist, The Thing & Warmbelly) and I might have a couple surprises up my sleeve…
Dave-O: I play the guitar and I sing. Jiffy and I have been best buds since we were kids so this is just the latest of our many projects together, but Emilor definitely provides youthful panache ;)

What was happening/ exciting to you when you each first really started getting involved in music? What other bands - especially but not necessarily local bands - do you credit as direct influences? (Obviously I know my Guided by Voices but I actually do not really know Tony Molina or Marked Men, whom your label namechecks... I can hear it... but are there other bands we should mention?).

Emilor: I grew up basically ignoring current music and ensconced myself in the 60’s so when I started playing drums, Keith Moon was a big influence, total coincidence that I was rocking Moon hair for most of my childhood. My dad was a musician so it was natural that I would want to do it too. When I started getting into ‘current’ bands I also started playing and have never really stopped. The best thing for me now is meeting new killer musicians that keep me inspired!
Dave-O: The 90s DIY punk scene was very influential to me...too many bands to name but that's where my love for loud and shittily-produced music came from.

Do you have any history with the music of the Pointed Sticks or the Avengers? Any thoughts about the fact that you're going to be playing to a maybe slightly older demographic than was at the Lido, say? Do you change your presentation at all with such things in mind, play different songs...? (Do you ever do covers? I poked into "Kill the Poor" on bandcamp but it's not a Dead Kennedys song...).

Jiffy: We’ve done a few but usually we learn a song well enough to record it but sometimes never well enough to play it live. I was just saying on our last tour that we should learn to play "S.O.S.", our ABBA-via-The Favourites cover, so it can be a set opener. I think it is weird to open a set with a cover but in a “just crazy enough to work” sorta way!

Emilor: As a born and raised Vancouverite, playing with the Pointed Sticks is an honour, they are the nicest people and we love playing with them. Over the years, playing with bands that have more history have been some of the most rewarding aspects of doing all this, it's certainly not for money! I’ve had a few moments where I think, “15-year-old me would be losing their entire mind right now!” Very much looking forward to The Avengers!
Dave-O: I was introduced to the Avengers via a Circus Lupus cover of "We Are The One" - I'm sure this should tell us something about demographics and covers but I'm not sure exactly what...

Who is the cover artist for HUMANS!? These are fun, skillful doodles! 

Jiffy: All of the drawings are from the archive of failed artist/illustrator Jeffry Lee. He works very cheap so it was sort of a no brainer.

I am curious about a few of them. Is "Surface Licker" a COVID reference? Why is the surface licker depicted as a clown?

Jiffy: “Surface Licker” is a sort of play on words, maybe a pun? The clown drawing depicts a neon sign belonging to a store in Los Angeles called ‘Circus Liquor’. Is that a pun? Anyway not intentionally a COVID reference but as a COVID band I would think it’s fair to say it’s open to (that) interpretation!

Are there any recognizable people on this?

Jiffy: Yes but definitely no serial killers (unless you count Dick Cheney)

Who is the grimacing guy in the top right?

Jiffy: Dick Cheney.

Who is the band at a restaurant booth beneath the title?

Jiffy: Vancouver band from the early mid-00s called Big Nothing.

Is that based on a real restaurant?

Jiffy: Not that I’m aware of.

Why does one person at the table have a much larger head?

Jiffy: It was based on a dream the artist had.

Whose knees are those in the pic on the back and how did they get bloodied?

Emilor: those are my knees! I took that photo to get a better view of the damage and thought that it was a pretty great photo for a not-at-all badass incident.

You actually have a song, "What Is It Like to Be a Bat, Man?" I want to let you know here that I have a song I co-wrote with David M. of NO FUN called "If I Was a Bat," and I have another lyric about a dream I had in which I was actually Batman, but was rejected by society because of a scandal involving my LSD use (the headlines read "Batman Falls From Grace Over Drugs," that kind of thing). I pulled up the A&W in my Batmobile but they wouldn't serve me, even hid behind the counter, because I had been outed as an acid-user and my Batsuit and Batmobile suddenly seemed weirder to people, vaguely scary. I was a sad and lonely Batman... I have had other dreams of literally just being a bat, flying around. So I would like to know everything about this song. Please give me a copy of the lyrics. What inspired it? What are the themes? What are your bat stories? (There used to be a lot more bats in BC when I was a kid, but they've grown as scarce as bees).
Dave-O: Hahaha wow that is a wild dream! I've always loved watching bats...blind flying mice that eat flies using echolocation? That's fucking crazy. The lyrics are a riff on a paper by Thomas Nagel that says no amount of objective information about bats could ever give us (as humans) the subjective experience of what it actually feels like to be a bat. I believe it was intended to show that conscious experience is something more than just physiological processes (Nagel's take, not mine) but I like that it shows the limitations of what is even possible for us to 'know'.

You also have a song called "Clearcut," and that's the name of a movie I have had some involvement with and deeply love [planned screenings early November at the Cinematheque, more deets TBA]. What are the lyrics/ inspirations?

Dave-O: I just Googled 'clearcut movie' mean the one with Graham Greene? [Yep!] I'll have to check that out. That song wrote itself in my head while hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail. The trail skirts several large clearcuts and I realized that from certain vantage points, I found them to be quite beautiful - an unpopular opinion and for good reason! To be clear - I detest the practice of clearcutting but I do happen to find some of them aesthetically pleasing and that dissonance helped inform the song.

"Fuck Art School" is a fun song. Did you all have art school experiences? Was this a bonding point for the band? (Have you seen the film Art School Confidential, directed by sometimes-Crumb-collaborator Terry Zwigoff...? I kind of love it).

Jiffy: Yup, true story. Lyrics are based on a conversation I had with a friend of mine who didn’t go to art school and we were discussing who may or may not be better off for it. Agreed, great movie. Also based on a great book.

Why the name Night Court? I know this primarily as a not-great sitcom from my younger days, but surely this is not the source...? I like the idea of a punk show being a sort of "court," however, and they do tend to happen at night...

Dave-O: We had a long list of possible names but kept coming back to Night Court. Our buddy Jake thought it had to do with the length of our songs - like an actual night court would quickly issue fines for jaywalking and loitering with production-line efficiency - what's next on the docket?! I like that (and your idea of punk shows being a court) but honestly I think the name just felt right.

 Curious if you have a relationship to Maple Ridge theatrical hardcore band the Judges, by chance? Is there a theatrical element to what you do? (The Judges have actually staged trials!).

Emilor: I have not heard of this band but I always appreciate it when performances bring any element of augmented theatrics in all of its iterations.

Calling the album HUMANS! brings punks of my age to reflect on Nomeansno's song "Humans," but I think there has been a whole BAND since that song was recorded called Humans. Why HUMANS!? Which humans do you mean?

Emilor: All the humans!
Dave-O: Every single one.

You have some fun videos for your previous releases but I'm not seeing a video for HUMANS! yet. Is one planned?

Jiffy: No we decided to do less singles and no videos for the album as a sort of experiment.. possibly a failed one.

Emilor: Jiffy, it’s not too late to whip one up!

Anything else we should say about the Rickshaw show, the Rickshaw, or current live plans?

Jiffy: We are hoping to have enough downtime to start recording demos for the next thing but also in the meantime we have a limited edition lathe-cut 7” coming out on Halloween.

Dave-O: Can't wait!

Emilor: So excited to play the Rickshaw, best venue in town! Happy Halloween!

More to come with Nick Jones of the Pointed Sticks. Tickets to see Night Court, the Pointed Sticks, and the Avengers here! More information on the Pet Blessings Red Gate show (tonight!) here

No comments: