The two genres, at least in title, seem inextricably linked. Yet in 2012, four decades after both debuted, post-punk has little to do with its punk rock roots: In 2012, anything with baritone vocals, a dash of Kraut attitude or fake-goth posturing is labelled post-punk.
But that isn’t to say the link between both genres is dead: Cold Cave emerged from Boston hardcore act American Nightmare. Merchandise, for their part, emerged from Cult Ritual and Tampa, Forida’s punk scene. And perhaps the buzziest of the next-gen post-punk cohort — we’re talking about Vancouver’s Peace, who released one of the year’s best LPs in The World is Too Much With Us — cut their teeth in Vancouver’s east-end, post-Emergency Room punk scene, the home of White Lung, Defektors, the Mutators and Nü Sensae, their Suicide Squeeze labelmates.
So no, Peace, despite earning the post-punk tag, aren’t above punk itself. In fact, we catch up with singer-guitarist Dan Geddes as he’s gearing up to play Toronto’s Not Dead Yet, a festival featuring names such as Negative Approach, Hoax and the Omegas. “I mean, we also just finished a tour with Nü Sensae,” adds Geddes. “We all grew up as punks, and the fans of our music in Vancouver are all punks. And still, a lot of what I listen to in my daily life is early punk — Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell. Punk definitely informs our music and the scenes we’re a part of.”
But Peace’s native music scene wasn’t in Vancouver. Rather, they’re Edmonton ex-pats who developed their craft alongside some serious talents — Mac DeMarco, Purity Ring and Born Gold, all of whom moved to Montreal, but were incubated in the Dirt City. “I find [the growth of Edmonton’s scene] more bizarre than watching Vancouver’s [growth]. Guys like Mac — we’re all old friends,” says Geddes. “In retrospect, it was a really talented place, even if we didn’t realize it at the time. Maybe Edmonton had the Galapagos Island effect.”
Maybe so. But Peace’s music has little in common with Edmonton’s ex-pat scene or the Vancouver community of which they are currently a part — which is to say they don’t play blissy electro or blistering scuzz-punk. Rather, The World is Too Much With Us is straight-up post-punk virtuosity: Geddes’ silky baritone earns easy comparisons to Orange Juice-era Edwyn Collins. (“Who I love,” he adds. “But I never considered them an influence.”) Their atmospheric guitars, which paint Peace’s surprisingly addictive hooks in equally brooding, menacing and sunny tones, earn favourable nods to Neu! And the band’s literary penchant — Geddes has admitted to a Rimbaud addiction in his youth, though he says he’s currently obsessed with Dylan Thomas, “because I like the way he thinks about mortality; he didn’t believe the soul was connected to the body” — ensures that Peace’s music is consistently rewarding.
Surprisingly, though, Geddes said that despite The World’s braininess, its genesis was largely unstructured.
“The album was more about creating a mood, creating something messy,” he says. “And I wrote most of the lyrics while walking around and singing them in my head. I wrote the lyrics more like mantras than poems [unlike their 2011 LP, My Face]. And I lived in an apartment where I couldn’t play the guitar — so a lot of those guitar parts were conceived in my head without being able to work them through. In a way, I think it connected my guitars more to my singing.”
Then, Geddes said that Vancouver itself — specifically his east-end digs — helped sculpt the tone of his music. “I like the contrasts [of East Vancouver],” he says. “There’s quite a bit of poverty and drug problems, but the natural world is always present. And it’s always beautiful.”