Calgary rockers Napalmpom prove that pun’s not dead

If you believe their sharp-tongued bios the Pilsner-swilling beard-toting truck-dwelling ruffians in Napalmpom are about precisely two things: booze-drenched fun and dicks-out rock ’n’ roll. No really. When we ask singer P.J. Lavergne who came up with the band’s colourful descriptions — “smile rock” “celebration rock” and music that’s “so rock ’n’ roll that when we hit the hospital they hook us up to Led Zeppelin IV” — he says they’re courtesy of guitarist Shawn Petsche. But as it turns out such descriptions are uncannily apt.

“Internally there’s not much else we use to describe ourselves. Smile rock delivered via celebratory engine is what’s in our Facebook bio” says Lavergne. “And it fits what we’re trying to do I think.”

What Napalmpom is trying to do then is grow a specific corner of the Palgary zeitgeist: They’re lords in the “Radtown” fiefdom over which Danny Vacon reigns and they’re not afraid to hide it — the band for example sells T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of Mission’s beloved diner the Western Coffee Shop. They’d slot in neatly on any bill helmed by The Palomino’s van-loving beardo Spencer Brown. Or any party-riffic bill dreamed up by ex-Sled Island musical director Lindsay Shedden (Petsche for his part works for the summer fest). Heck even former Broken City booker Craig Evans is in the band along with Lavergne Petsche and music-scene vets Ian Baker (of the Martyr Index) and Beija Flor’s Matthew Bayliff.

But the band isn’t just a supergroup of sorts. In their short existence the combo has emerged as one of the city’s hardest working live acts — including an impromptu house show at last year’s flooded-out Sled Island that the band counts among its finest. “There was about 300 people in this tiny house and everyone just felt like they had all this energy pent up from being evacuated or whatever their situation was and we all just partied together and made the best of it. It was pretty unreal.”

Beyond their penchant for partying — the band’s love of Lucky Lager and Pilsner is so legendary that Lavergne has a Twitter account for his druken persona @drunkpeej — the band’s live show is nothing short of devastating. For fans and the band alike.

“There’s absolutely been days where the five of us wake up and try and figure out what happened. You earn lots of strange bruises playing in Napalmpom” says Lavergne. Napalmpom’s precedent might be set by Petsche whose divebombs onstage were perfected in Montreal’s The Adam Brown band (whose namesake eventually would briefly join shoegaze staples No Joy). “Shawn’s still just as bendy and adventurous onstage for sure. I have no idea how he pulls off some of those moves.”

Check Napalmpom’s Bandcamp and you’ll find plenty of EP-length offerings many of which detail which beer was drank when they recorded it — it’s almost like a pairing guide to the band’s music. The only thing that’s missing? A full-length offering from Lavergne and pals though it’s coming. Last fall the band holed up with local legend Lorrie Matheson at Arch Audio to complete the LP tentatively titled The Unconditional Love of Napalmpom . The band is waiting on the final mix before it’s sent off to be mastered and Lavergne is hopeful that the album will be released in April.

“It’s going to sound big. That’s totally what we were going into the studio thinking about. Just something that was a little more refined than the live shows but still had this grandiose rock ’n’ roll feel to it” he says. “There’s a line in our song ‘Get With Me’ that straight up tells folks we’re paying homage to Thin Lizzy Tricky Woo the MC5 and AC/DC…. We’re all big fans of those bands and stuff like Cheeseburger or the Hellacopters and anything really that’s just fun and loud.”