The new Raganomics

Bad Habits Die Hard finds victories in gruff, anthemic punk rock


Jeffrey Caissie with The Tall Ships & Bad Habits Die Hard
Ironwood Stage & Grill
Thursday, April 7

More in: Folk / Country

The Hold Steady might have called for Joe Strummer’s canonization, but for a new generation of punk rock upstarts, patronage is found in less likely places: Namely, the beard-ified grit of Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan. Count local combo Bad Habits Die Hard amongst his disciples.

“We went for an old punk rock style,” says drummer Jeff Towers, also professing his love for Social Distortion. “But [Ragan] is our No. 1 influence…. Feast and Famine is by far my favourite of his work.”

And like Ragan’s music, the fisherman-type will find plenty to like here, too. “We have a bit of a following in Newfoundland,” says Towers. “That’s thanks to [guitarist] Mike Pardy. He used to have a band called Molotov Smile — they played with everyone who came through. All 10 or 15 bands [laughs]. But there should be more bands going there. It’s an incredible place.”

Indeed, Towers is transparent about Bad Habits’ love for Raganomics — Pardy sports a tattoo sleeve inspired by Hot Water Music's Scott Sinclair-heavy artwork, while the group covers one of his nouveau-country classics, “The Boat.” (A song that, incidentally, Ragan bolstered at last year’s Sled Island with the backing-band efforts of Toronto alt-country act Cavaliers!)

But to borrow from Vancouver songsmith Dan Mangan, outwardly, that’s “about as country as they get.” Gearing to release a brand new, six-song digital EP, Victors of None, its songs compare easily to Hot Water Music’s late-game Epitaph offerings — don’t expect to hear the treble-heavy post-punk of, say, Forever and Counting or anything from its No Idea era. Instead, Victors is a slab of insta-memorable, mid-tempo chant-a-long punk rock, driven by the tri-pronged harmonies of bassist Josh Jones and co-guitarists Ryan Glover and Pardy.

Still, Bad Habits’ musical remedy isn’t all diesel and dust — in fact, Towers isn’t familiar with the term “orgcore,” a blanket genre used to name plenty of Ragan devotees (and named for influential website That it’s playing at the folk haunt the Ironwood — where the band was initially slated to open for Ron Sexsmith last week — might seem like a curious choice, but it’s apt. As Towers explains, there’s plenty of common ground between folk and punk rock.

“This record we put out, we did it completely ourselves from start to finish with people who were close to the band,” says Towers. “A lot of punk is that way, because for years, that was the only way you could get anything going. Folk is very much the same way, too — it’s not all glossy and finished.”

That no-nonsense authenticity — Towers repeatedly affirms that Bad Habits simply writes “about life” — has also perked plenty of Calgary ears. While Victors has been nearly two years in the making, the band was also chosen for a seven-month residency at the Radio Park, and performed a live set last week on Chad Saunders’s CJSW show, My Allergy to the Fans. That, and he’s thankful for the plenty of gigs the band’s played at Broken City and The Palomino.

“It’s awesome,” he says, in his typical effusive manner. “I mean, we’re all fathers, we all have full-time jobs — music is our outlet. And it’s real. It’s from the heart. That’s where we’re coming from.”



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