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All Hail Theee Retail Simps

Fusing rollicking rock 'n' roll with KBD-worship garage punk that's loaded with ramshackle party stabbers and rupturing guitar flares, Theee Retail Simps have been quite ruckus in the Montreal punk scene for the last year to the point they even have some enemies. Following up last year's skronky debut LP Reverberant Scratch: 9 Shots in tha Dark, Theee Simps have officially announced their follow-up album, Live on Cool Street, out September 1st on the always-reliable Total Punk Records. Ahead of the release and their concert in Rochester, New York next Friday, we caught up with the band's mastermind and Celluloid Lunch label head Joe Chamandy to get the inside scoop on the upcoming Simps LP, how it's a more accurate depiction of the current band aspect, and how he got connected with Newfoundland's first punk band Da Slyme for a new album.

Before I placed my pre-order last year for Tha Retail Simps' debut LP Reverberant Scratch: 9 Shots in tha Dark, its press release read, "What if the Velvet Underground had written 'Wooly Bully' and Sam The Sham 'Sister Ray?' If Ron House picked up some bongos and joined CCR or If Half Japanese and Hasil Adkins started a Meters cover band?" Thinking back to this a year later with now the Simps tearing it up in the Montreal punk scene and seeing them live at Gonerfest 19, the description couldn't be any better. Made up of Montreal punk regulars Joe Chamandy, Thomas Molander, Chris Burns, Zakary Slax, and Obediah Anderson, Theee Retail Simps mash foot-stomping rock 'n' roll with KBD-worship garage punk that's loaded with ramshackle Gizmos-styled party stabbers and fuzz-drenched freakouts — loud, loose, sweaty, and 100% total punk.

Following up last year's skronky debut LP, Theee Simps have officially announced their follow-up album, Live on Cool Street, out September 1st on the always-reliable Total Punk Records. Ahead of the release and their concert in Rochester, New York next Friday, we caught up with Chamandy to get the inside scoop on the upcoming Simps LP, how it's a more accurate depiction of the current band aspect, and how he got connected with Newfoundland's first punk band Da Slyme for a new album.

Paperface Zine: What's been happening over at Celluloid Lunch HQ? It's pretty sick you got connected with Da Slyme!

Joe Chamandy: Busy times. Just got finished with the Da slyme records and have a few projects cooking. New 7" by Montreal hidden gems American Devices and probably the best rock record of the year by Surveillance out of Halifax. Around ten years ago, I went to Newfoundland to play with an old band called Astral Gunk, we were brought over by a gentleman named Chris Hamlyn who introduced me to Da Slyme. Fast forward to about five years ago, the last time I was there, Wallace Hammond (aka Kirt Sic-O-Via), who is Da Slyme's lead guitarist, was doing sound at the bar/venue we were playing at. We soundchecked "I'm A Piss-Eyed Sleazoid" and tried to get him to come up and perform it with us, but he declined due to health issues. I proceeded to punish him about Da Slyme and ply him with pints for the remainder of the evening, much to the confusion of friends who weren't aware of his past. A couple years later, I got in contact with him through a game of phone tag starting with the bar he works at, The Ship, and then he put me through to Peter Morris (aka Stig Stilletto) so we could figure out how to do a release and get it right. Initially, I was just aiming to do a reissue of the self-titled double LP, which they weren't so interested in doing, but then through a series of communiques, we started to plan something new. They sent another proposed double LP of unreleased early recordings and live performances. I basically just made a compilation of the best stuff from all these sources or what I thought would have the best flow/represent the most left-field and inventive parts of the group and they made some tweaks and we were in agreement. I especially love that earlier version of "I'm A Piss-Eyed Schizoid" compared to the ones on the double LP and the odd duck "Fail Safe Videogames" and the radio ads, just priceless stuff!

PZ: How did it feel being one of the only few people in the world having these archival recordings at your disposal?

JC: Oh it's always super exciting to check out stuff that almost no one else has. It feels like an archaeological dig or just a chance to assess the past with fresh eyes and we all know that many of the best things don't fit the trend of the day, get passed over or simply are never given a fighting chance. It's a special gift to be given access and I do not take it lightly and try to do right by the artists in any instances further relaying. My friend Chris [Burns] who plays guitar in Retail Simps is also always sending me recordings of bands he’s had over the years and stuff that’s gone unreleased. It's really a pleasure.

PZ: How exactly did Theee Retail Simps start and what's the story behind the name?

JC: The project started with me and friend Thomas [Molander] who plays keys and sings in the Simps in it's current state (although not always). We were playing in a few different bands together and I was sitting on unused material/half baked sketches and he had a basement studio at the time so we just started recording some of these tracks home recording style. We would just learn a song on drums and guitar (or bass for some) for a half-hour, play it, and then hit record. Pretty unremarkable, but there was a great energy. We recorded all the main parts to the songs on the first Retail Simps record in two days. Later on, we tracked our vocals and got Chris to play on it. It was mainly just the three of us plus my friend James "Gogo" Goddard plays saxophone on a few of the tracks. Shortly after, we started doing a few shows and it turned into a full-band, as it is today. The name of the band is abstract at best and I didn't even know what "simp" meant when I came up with it (I'm not super plugged-in), but once Thomas explained it to me I thought it was pretty funny. I kind of see it more like "simpleton" and "retail" has the obvious association with selling. I sorta see the band name as a loose concept of a band not ashamed to sell themselves and totally devoid of the ego or self respect it takes to consider yourself an artist. On the other hand, we're just playing whatever instruments plugged right into the tape machine and rickety practice amps, so "retail simpletones," ready made consumer grade weapons if you will, is another extracted meaning.

PZ: What have the live shows been like?

JC: The live lineup rotates occasionally — it's so loose and disorganized since not everyone is always available. Lately we've played as a three-piece which has gotten way better, but I would say the lineup people might have seen at last year's Gonerfest is the fullest lineup to date although sometimes we have sax too. As three, we are bass (Obediah Anderson), drums (Zakary Slax) and guitar (yours truly) all belting. Add in Chris and you get the 2 guitar version, the most powerful. Add in Thomas and we have more groove potential, more harmony potential, more musicality and less room for error. Add James and we dial back into extreme chaos. I would love to do a show with our backup singers the Simpettes and the Horny Boys who supply all the horns (obviously), but we have enough trouble getting together at all.

PZ: What's the lineup fans can expect at the Rochester, NY show on June 30th?

JC: That will be the four-piece that will include two guitars and bass and drums. Without taking any other member for granted, it's currently our most powerful and lubricated formation, with more (read some) discipline, I feel we can accomplish great things with a stretched out cast, but as of now the organizational feat involved is paralyzing. This formation gives enough space for everyone to play at their highest level and loosen in the right ways. It's been working very well especially since we're not a band that gets together to practice consistently. We're pretty like-minded and open and I believe, deluded as I may be, that the resulting chemistry is special.

PZ: What can you tell me about the upcoming Retail Simps record without giving away too much information before the first single drops next week.

JC: I'd say the record cover says it all [laughs]. The record is a truer representation of the group aspect of the band than the first for all the obvious reasons. There is no concept implemented to get different results or attempt to change, but maybe a bit to widen the scope or try some new stuff. I think of little ways to do this all the time and it makes me want to start working on the next one. When or if that runs it's course, we'll have to rethink this and come up with a new dumb idea altogether.

PZ: Talk to me about these visuals you guys put together. I love the videos you did last year for "Rock n Roll" and "End-Times Hip-Shaker Pts. 1 & 2." You got any crazy stuff planned around the new record?

JC: Yeah we've been working on some funny commercials as well as super8 videos! As a fan of rock and pop, I feel compelled to take the extra musical parts of band culture to their naturally extravagant and ridiculous ends. It is a fun exercise and another creative avenue to waste way too much time on goofing around with.

PZ: I would love to get Armand Schaubroeck in on one to promote the upcoming Rochester show [laughs].

JC: I love those old House of Guitars commercials. My brother is an academic and he spent a bit of time in Rochester so when I'd visit him, I'd always take a trip to the House of Guitars. That Norma guitar I'm using as a pool cue on the cover of the first Simps record was actually purchased at the House of Guitars!

PZ: This will be your first time playing a show in Rochester right?

JC: Yep! I tried to get one of my old bands in at the Bug Jar eight or so years ago but the guy booking was not impressed, he proceeded to explain "the biz" to me in layman's terms before ultimately turning me down sight unseen, so that was a dead end [laughs]. It will also be our first true bar band gig, where we stretch out over two sets. I think that might be our best format. I have played in Buffalo several times with various groups, once at a cool DIY space that had skate ramps and a huge stage with some Rochester bands. I crashed the car on the way there and for the rest of the tour the key was stuck in the ignition, so i had to sleep in the car. When the Simps played Buffalo last fall, I asked John Toohill (Science Man) the name of that place and he couldn't even remember the spot so perhaps it was all a strange dream.

PZ: Aside from the Simps, Itchy Self, Kappa Chow, and the Protuders, what other bands have you been a part of?

JC: I played in Astral Gunk which also featured Zak. That was a truly democratic young man's boy band. We all wrote songs and switched instruments, many came from jams. Much of it was not great, but a few recordings still hold up. We only lived in the same town for one year, setting the stage for every band I've done since. After was Kappa Chow, and that was rotating and cool and fun. I played guitar in Black Leather Jacket when I was living in Toronto, we played a couple shows and made a tape. Protruders was a continuation of Kappa Chow and my collaboration with Ilse [Kramer], the drummer in the big city with some refinement. Before all that, I had a dumb band called The Beatles. We spelled it the same way because we thought it was funny. I play with my partner Hélène Barbier in her very cool band. She's been recording some new tracks so I've been working on a couple of those with her. I play in this other current band called Feeling Figures. That band also has Thomas, Zak and his wife Kayley [Moon]. We put out a 7" back in 2021 and we have a record coming out in November. The end of 2023/early 2024 should see big things for Feeling Figures. Also I play in Chris' band, Chris Burns and His Going Concerns, which has me and Zak on guitar and drums respectively and our friend Kate [Erickson] on the bass interpreting Chris' tunes. That record will come out on Cell Lunch soon/TBA. I have a lot of faith in CBGC, FF, and Hélène's music and I love the opportunity to play in a support roll for the true talents behind them.

PZ: Talk to me about the origins of Celluloid Lunch. How did it expand from being a zine to also now a record label?

JC: I did some art zines in the past, courted a life long fascination with fanzines and eventually upped my involvement incrementally. I wanted to do something with more writing, community and music-related content and something that mirrored the energy of fanzines I grew up with and from before my time. I'm not really a writer so I asked the ones I knew to lend some style and credibility to the mag. About the label part, I had pressed some 45s for Kappa Chow on my own fake label Kiss the Void which was a learning experience before all of this. For the last seven years, I've worked for two distributors and a record label, that proximity to the biz and what I learned in those jobs really got my brain thinking about this more and got me over the first hurdle. The label came about in collab with Hélène, who was really encouraging about it and since she also plays music and has great taste, it just made sense to join forces.

PZ: The last zine you put out was Celluloid Lunch Issue 7 that included an interview with Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts. How did you get in contact with him?

JC: I got his contact through Craig Bell of Rocket from the Tombs and just sent him an email around the time the last Parquet Courts record came out. A while back when Termbo gave their first records the attention they deserved, I got into those. I reached out for a promo for the small community radio station I was involved with at the time and they obliged. Mainstream success got it's hooks in them and I lost interest. With the new record I was drawn back in and made aware that my snobbery was unfounded and they remained a pretty damn interesting band! I later saw them play Montreal. The last time we played in NY, Andrew came out so it was cool to meet him. He was very nice and couldn't get over how young Obe our bass player is.

PZ: What else is on the horizon for Celluloid Lunch?

JC: The aforementioned American Devices 45. They've got two new songs that I think are really great that make up the single that just got sent to the pressing plant. Hopefully that'll be out in the fall. They morphed out of the ashes of a group called D-Vices (we put out an archival 7" Adequate/Modern Boy last year) in 1980 and have been going strong ever since. The 2 original members and chief songwriters have been playing since the first wave of punk in Montreal (they were in the Normals and the Electric Vomit), but AD take a more labored and altogether bizarre approach to their tunes. A very unique angle on the guitar and melody. I also have an LP in the works for the band Surveillance out of Halifax. Just an incredibly underrated band. A band that has gestated and built up an insane prowess, but not compromised any sort of soul or grit.

PZ: Lastly, what are some good current Canadian sitcoms you recommend?

JC: There's not anything exceptional in Canadian TV at the moment that I am aware of. I do like that sketch comedy show Baroness von Sketch Show that's been on for a few years now. It's less far out than the CanCon sketch stuff of yore, but it's pretty funny. I've been watching episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati after being turned onto it by a friend.

Live on Cool Street is out September 1st on Total Punk Records. Pre-order the wax here.


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