Despite what you think, The History of Gunpowder is not an educational band on how gunpowder was brought into existence. Instead this (currently seven piece) band will educate you on the bastards of the world.
Somewhere between dirty blues, indie rock and all around freak-out orchestra, The History of Gunpowder is a rather new powerhouse on the Montreal scene. The band has had around 25 members, always fronted by Alex James Morison, and in Montreal is currently a seven piece featuring Quinn Dennehy on drums, Henri Rabalais on keys, Aleksi Campagne on violin, Stephane Krims on bass, Chris Maskell on tenor and Shawn Rikenbach on bari.
Their latest album, released May 6th and titled Stained Glass, Rye and Wax, features over 17 musicians. From Vancouver to India to Montreal, this album is not only a compilation of talented musicians but tells a story or two throughout.
This isn’t your everyday indie rock album full of love ballads. Inside you’ll find something a little more profound (though it might take you until the third listen to figure it all out).
The album cover proudly boasts a hand-drawn Ostrich (by Eric Brunning) squawking right in your face. That’s kind of what the band feel likes whether you’re listening to their latest album or at one of their in-explicably chaotic live shows. Alex Morison explains the un-explainable nature of their re-occurring aesthetic choice:
“The ostrich doesn’t warrant a proper explanation because absurdity is too inextricably involved in my music. The ostrich is just a potent symbol of something that you hate; it represents a lot of the screeching on the album and a lot of the chaos. You couldn’t represent that shit with a humming bird. It’s taken on a symbol of it’s own.”
Symbolic nature is just the foreplay of the album with potent and compelling storylines running through it. One of the main themes is “about the bastards that exist,” tells Alex James Morison. “Your way of dealing with them and repressing them or rather finding some sort of mechanism of reciprocity towards them. They oppress all of us and they better know what’s coming to them in the end.”
Picture a helpless creature in the middle of the desert. Picture that same creature trying to kill those vultures that pick him out every damn day. This is what one of their songs, The Ditch, feels like with lyrics such as “playing dead in the desert, catching vultures with my butterfly net.”
The Ditch is one of the songs on the album that might hit a particularly intense emotional string for more than one reason. It starts with a schizophrenic man commenting on his illness and what happens in mental institution.
“Quinn was on the street on Saint Catherine,” explains Alex “and the thrifty mother fucker that he is he heard an inspiring voice. It worked perfectly because that song is about being prayed on, being the prey of something. This individual has been the prey of a system that has led him to escaping it. Though I can’t understand his level of oppression and trouble, the ditch is my own song for escapism.”
You won’t just find escapism in their music either, their live set is prone to boughts of theatrics, with a voice that breeds power. It’s not only Alex James Morison’s voice that brings the power. When these performers step to stage, expect more than just their music because here you’ll find a spectacle you won’t easily forget. This even includes a little burlesque including artists such as Aria Delanoche, Frenchy Jones and Fifi Fantôme.
Alex explains what he brings to their live sets: “I want people to come in and not be able to leave the focus of the stage. You paid your good money to see us we’re going to give you as much as we can. You won’t be able to just come in get a beer and not be captivated by the stage. When you come to see The History of Gunpowder live, you’re going to walk away going what the fuck did I just see.”
Check out their latest album, Stained Glass, Rye and Wax, on bandcamp.