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Local Band Feature – Port Noise

Local rockers will fix everything

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Port Noise by Brett Nielsen

Local Regina band, Port Noise, have been rocking the city’s live scene since 2008. Members Angus Livingstone (vocals/bass), Andrew Strilchuk (vocals/guitar), Andrew Brandt (vocals/lead guitar), and Chris Johnston (drums), describe their music as hard rock/alternative, but don’t feel it fits into one specific genre.

“We like to think we have our own sound,” says Johnston.

Their sound is loosely influenced by each of their favourite bands, even though they can’t come up with a single band that they all like.

“So, collectively, Port Noise hates everything,” said Brandt, laughing.

“It’s all terrible. We’re here to save it all. We’re gonna fix it,” promises Livingstone, jokingly.

“We’re doing a terrible job,” Brandt responds, and all the band members laugh.

It was Johnston who came up with the band name.

“I was thinking of my favourite bands and favourite songs, and my favourite drummer at the time was Mike Portnoy, and somehow I just got the play off his last name. Portnoy – Port Noise, so that’s how that came to be.”

They currently have one self-titled album, but are currently working on a second in between solo projects.

“We’ve been making some real headway, so with any luck, we’ll get all of the stuff recorded by the end of the year, but the actual release will probably be sometime next year. There is no set date, but when it’s ready and when it’s awesome is when it will be released…it will be worth the wait,” says Livingstone.

“And, we’re always welcoming donations to head into the studio, and you know, two week’s time, done!” says Johnston.

“If someone wants to give us a couple grand, we’ll take it, “ jokes Livingstone.

“Also, some musical talent,” laughs Strilchuk.

The members of Port Noise have a very diverse musical background. Livingstone joined his church band as a drummer, then switched to bass when the drummer returned. He and Strilchuk were also in a high school band for a while before forming Port Noise.

“I’ve been performing since I was four [in my parents’ living room while watching Fred Penner], then I didn’t give a shit for ten years after that, then I did it for the greater good of God, then said, ‘fuck that. God is good and all, but metal is better,’” Livingstone joked.

Brandt played in the school band and went on to get a degree in guitar here at the U of R. He currently teaches guitar at the College Avenue campus.

Johnston became interested in music in high school, when the music teacher told him that he had a natural talent for the drums. He’s been playing ever since and hasn’t looked back.

Strilchuk was inspired by his sister to get into music.

“She would sing all the time walking around the house and dancing around, and I guess I got jealous or something and wanted to be better than her, so I started singing. It’s really just to spite my sister.” (Editor’s note: Strilchuk’s sister is now a triple threat in Toronto, with a successful career in singing, dancing, and acting. Strilchuk is currently living in his parents’ basement and is probably unemployed.)

The guys have a few funny stories to tell about some of their performances, but their favourite is when they were playing a gig at the Distrikt.

“This guy was SO jacked to see us. It made the whole night of playing to essentially an empty room. But, this guy was just like, “YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME!” and he’s headbanging, and he smashes his head on the corner of the monitor and he’s bleeding like a stuck pig everywhere. Part of me is, like, we should call security and get this guy out of here just because I’m afraid he’s deranged, because he’s bleeding everywhere and he’s still rocking out. Finally, we ask him if we should call him an ambulance, and he’s like, ‘No, it’s fine! Keep playing!’ Come to think of it, I don’t think we saw him again after that. I think he probably went to the bathroom and died,” Livingstone said.

Of course, there are some obstacles they face as a local band, including lack of venues and lack of interest.

“There is a certain amount of apathy toward the live scene. There’s a lot of people who assume that the music scene here is dead, and it isn’t. We’ve been a part of this scene for seven years. It’s not dead. It’s there; it’s just people don’t give a shit, and that’s really the biggest problem,” says Livingstone.

There is a lot of turnover for new bands. This makes it difficult to find bands to play shows with, because they either can’t commit, or they’ve quit altogether. This is a constant struggle for established bands in the live scene. New bands see the scene as dead, and question whether there is even any point to starting, meaning that bands that have only been around for two or three years are considered to be the “old” bands.

The amount of shows played in a month can also be a downfall when it comes to getting people through the doors.

“It’s a pretty thin line to walk between playing so many little venues and oversaturating the scene,” said Strilchuk.

As Livingstone points out, doing more than two shows in a month will exhaust your audience. A decent fan base will bring in a good number of people to both shows, but getting into the three-to-four-show range can become problematic for filling seats at shows, because the Regina live music scene just doesn’t have a large enough following. Metal has a large following, but other types of music are struggling to get people to come out.

“It’s one thing to have 430 Facebook likes, and it’s another thing to have 430 people come to a show. You’re lucky to get 43,” says Livingstone.

Recently, the Tea Party passed over Saskatchewan, and Livingstone points out that larger acts skipping over us is becoming an unfortunate trend in Saskatchewan. He believes this could be because they couldn’t find a promoter that would settle on a price they had set or they couldn’t find a venue that would carry them.

“I feel like there are a lot of bigger acts that are going to go someplace where the turnout will be better, they’ll get a better crowd reaction, and they’ll make more money doing it. I think that unless we can turn that around, and unless we can start motivating people to see the bands that are making the effort to come through, [these bands will continue to pass us over].”

“The bands know that the people will make the drive [to other cities], so they don’t want to book two or three shows in the same area. If they are going to do a show in Saskatchewan, they are going to do a Saskatoon show, because they have statistically the higher attendance. They know the Regina people are going to drive the two hours to see them,” Johnston said.

Strilchuk also pointed out that the really large acts like Slipknot, for example, who recently played Edmonton, will pass over Saskatchewan to do shows in bigger cities, because they know Saskatchewan residents will travel to see those shows.

When bands are just starting out and they can see that no one is coming to shows here, they won’t stop here when they become a large act.

“Unless we support the local acts, and the acts that are traveling when they’re starting, they’re not going to care later on,” says Livingstone.

They also say that Regina needs some mid-sized venues that seat a couple thousand people, and this may prompt some of the larger bands to start performing here. Right now, we have large venues like Conexus Arts Centre and Brandt Centre, and small venues like the Exchange and the Club, but nothing in between, which makes it difficult for more popular bands to book shows here.

You can start supporting Regina’s live band scene by checking out a Port Noise show. I promise you won’t be disappointed. They are playing Thursday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. with Beautiful Thieves and Zuko Rocks at McNally’s. This event is sponsored by Student Energy in Action for Regina Community Health (SEARCH). Advance tickets are $15 or $20 at the door. They are also playing at the Exchange on Sept. 18 at 7:30 with Bones to Dust and Lest We Fail. Tickets are $10 at the door, and Oct. 2 at the Club with the Faceplants, Almost Alien, and Newera. Advance tickets are $12 and $15 at the door. Doors open at 7:45.

You can download their music on iTunes, or pick up their CD at any of their shows, Just Gifts at the Victoria Square Mall, and B Sharp Music. You can find the band online at www.facebook.com/PortNoise.

About Michelle Jones

Faculty: Graduate Studies/English Major: English Year: M.A. Student About me: I’m an English M.A. student, President of the English Students’ Association, and the Carillon Grammar Nazi. I love fine wine and anything pink, and hate intolerance and closed-mindedness.