The downtown core

Calgary’s hardcore punk bands are pressing records and booking tours

The Garbage Daze festival is returning to Calgary for its second year this weekend and with it another crop of some of North America’s best hardcore punk and post-punk acts (including Boston hardcore greats The Rival Mob New York punk cretins Crazy Spirit and Montreal’s Thee Nodes among many others). While there’s certainly an impressive amount of out-of-town talent descending on the city it also serves as a celebration of our city’s local punk musicians.

In fact Calgary’s punk and hardcore scene is going through something of a renaissance with a growing number of groups making magic in sketchy basements throughout the city. They’re not just weekend warrior one-offs either — these bands are releasing vinyl booking tours and garnering an international reputation. In short these are some of Calgary’s most promising musical exports.

As such here’s a guide to the local punks making a racket at this year’s Garbage Daze.


“Everyone’s bitter they can’t be Glitter” says Danny the band’s bassist. The quartet is one of Calgary’s most unique groups playing outsider hardcore that’s at once tongue-in-cheek and confrontational.

Alongside Danny the band features drummer Jay a guitarist who strangely asks to be called by the name Janitor Scum and frontman Devon. Whether it was the violent mosh pit that erupted during the band’s Sled Island set last year or the time Devon wrapped his genitals around the microphone at the Wonder Emporium (“It’s actually a hairless rat I keep in my pants” he insists) their live shows are can’t-miss experiences.

Formed between er Janitor Scum and Garbage Daze organizers Jason Scharf and Elijah Carnat-Gronnerud in 2012 the band used to be decidedly more straightforward. Since then the band has changed drastically.

“Some lineup shuffles happened and now I’m in the band because I like the spotlight” Devon says. “And you know what my friend? The feeling is mutual.”

Ever self-aware Jay sums up their musical evolution (or devolution) nicely saying “Glitter’s early incarnation as a ‘Clevo-style’ hardcore band was an utter failure and now we sound like a third-rate Flipper.”

As evidenced on their forthcoming seven-song 12-inch (via the delightfully named new imprint Pee Blood Records) the group know exactly what they’re doing. The release was recorded by the band in their jam space and offers up a fine mix of snotty punk woozy rock ’n’ roll druggy psych and explosive hardcore. “At this point we feel we’ve hit our peak and it’s all downhill from here” Janitor Scum says. “Every day I’m in Glitter is a constant disappointment.”

While Glitter’s music is the perfect soundtrack for consuming various illicit substances Wong is actually straight-edge. That said his lifestyle choice isn’t a theme in the band itself. “Everyone in the band says I’m mentally challenged but I don’t know how that relates to straight-edge” jokes Jay.

“I gotta say I don’t get this straight-edge shit” Devon adds. “But drugs and booze aren’t cool either. At the end of the day everyone shits their pants and is a loser.”


When he’s not taking the bass for a walk in Glitter Danny fronts Exotic Functions. The group plays blown-out frankly terrifying hardcore with plenty of harsh noise and esoteric psychedelics. Featuring guitarist Zach bassist Adam and drummer (and occasional Fast Forward Weekly contributor) Sam the band’s members have been in groups including local heroes Flaccid and Vancouver d-beat destroyers Unlearn. But Exotic Functions don’t need resumés to prove their merit — the music speaks for itself.

That said Sam has plenty to say about the group. For him the band and extreme music writ large are an ideal vessel for communicating artistic ideas. “As far as my own conception of the band there are certainly specific ideas at work” he says. “I would say some of the main precepts at work in Exotic Functions would be to produce loud and abrasive music that makes an attempt to convey a fairly bleak worldview and to produce this music in a way that is at least somewhat unique relative to the work of our peers.”

It’s all about finding new methods of artistic expression in a genre that’s been played out for nearly as long as it’s existed. “Punk and hardcore are very formulaic — not entirely a bad thing — and largely quite boring in their approach and execution” he says.

Sam has spent much of his life performing and touring with hardcore punk bands. While he admits that it’s easy to get tired of the genre and all of its tropes he finds inspiration in its limitations. “I know how to work creatively in those parameters and aesthetics. It appeals to me and probably always will” he says. “I am not interested in making commercial art but I’m comfortable working within something as insular as ‘punk’ or ‘hardcore.’ I think it’s an effective medium for conveying ideas.”

Calgary’s hardcore punk scene has also proven to be a welcome comfort for Risser. After a terrible experience growing up in the city he lived in both Vancouver and Montreal. When he moved back to Alberta last year he was expecting the worst. “When I decided to come back to Calgary I can honestly say I was dreading it. Adolescence here had soured me greatly. [I thought of Calgary as] a fucking prairie waste-heap” he says.

Thanks to regular punk and hardcore shows a smattering of new local bands and a bustling community of like-minded individuals Sam admits that he’s happy to be back. “In places like Vancouver or Montreal or either coast of the U.S. I feel like people are spoiled in a lot of ways by having access to a well-established scene and being located on what I would consider major ‘tour circuits’ for a lot of bands” he says. “Luckily the dark days of my teenage years are only memories as there are a lot of very intelligent and talented people here making great music booking shows and taking good care of the bands creating works of art and generally making a legitimate name for this fucking dump of a town.”


Exotic Functions will soon embark on a North American tour with like-minded hardcore brats Skin Colour. The local group shares members with Exotic Functions — Zach plays bass while Adam takes on the role of frontman — and features half of the pop-punk act Unfun with Declan on drums and until recently Tyler Wilson on guitar. “A few years back Declan moved back here from wherever the hell he was [editor’s note: it was Vancouver] for a while” Zach recalls. “We spent a lot of time in that place playing Tony Hawk . Eventually we started fuckin’ around with riffs and came up with some mean shit…. LSD also had a pretty big influence on the band but I’m not going to get into that.”

The band’s MO can be summed up best with the opening refrain on their track “More Girls for the Slime God” (the “slime god” whatever the hell that is is a recurring theme throughout their work) as Willett belts out “I am ignorant.” They’ve also got a song called “Manners Suck.”

In fact their willingness to embrace ignorance has ruffled some feathers in the North American punk community. While booking their upcoming tour they’ve run into a few roadblocks as would-be promoters conflated their band name with racism.

“Some people should put more energy into actually thinking about shit like that rather than being reactionary little wireheads trying to sniff out anything to get offended by and fulfil their duties as proper punks or whatever” Adam says. “None of us are sketchy guys politically speaking. We are just dullard white boys and pretty much void of most other redeeming qualities.”

“There were some people who had some reservations about booking us on this tour but I think it was mostly because they didn’t know us or what we’re about” adds Declan. “I think everyone can agree that the name isn’t really that offensive… maybe offensively stupid. If people have any problems with the band it’s probably due to our poor behaviour and total lack of judgment or character.”

That said Wilson decided to opt out of the North American tour. “Tyler decided a month in a van with me Declan Danny Adam and Sam would be a little too much on the old ticker” Sigouin says.

When asked for his side of the story Wilson references another recurring Skin Colour word. “I’d say the zang is a wild animal unable to be caged and disciplined” he says quickly adding “and Zach is annoying.” What is the zang you ask? “The zang is the power of the slime god embodied within all of us.”


In March of this year local act PMMA released their debut 7-inch All She Wanted via Imminent Destruction Records. The label which has worldwide distribution has garnered plenty of attention from all over. And for good reason — it’s not often particularly in the played-out punk genre for a band to stumble across a sound that’s truly unique. But PMMA are packed with personality performing a loud raucous hybrid of hardcore and synth-punk that’s both aggressive and melodic.

The band who answered interview questions via email as a group are now focused on booking a full North American tour and completing their debut full-length.

“So far we have had a great response to the EP” they say. “It took a while to materialize but we are very happy with how it turned out…. However for the last few months we have been focusing on new material and moving forward.”

The band is nearly finished the writing phase of their first album which they plan to record in synth player “Dutchie”’s basement later this year. “When we return from tour and summer ends we will once again descend into Dutchie’s oven” they say. “Can’t wait to spark the broiler and stoke those fucking flames! 420°F.”

PMMA’s full-length album will again be released by Imminent Destruction. The band hopes to tour Europe in 2015.


Luis Ergon is not only responsible for recording all of these local bands at his Lemon Studios (he’s worked with every band on this list in one capacity or another) but he’s also the brains behind the anti-social noisy punk of Putos. The band which is rounded out by Ryan Loyer Dustin Fleming Mark Licuanan and until recently Zach from Exotic Functions are another worthy addition to Calgary’s spectacle-heavy punk scene. That said they’re facing a lengthy hiatus.

“Unfortunately we aren’t too active currently” Ergon admits. “Me starting a new job sort of killed the jamming streaks as well as Ryan and I being in other bands so we have slowed down a lot.” What’s worse their drummer is about to move to Vancouver for school. “Our future looks bleak — we are playing a show in Vancouver in June which I hate to say will probably be our last show for a while. I’m thinking we will be on a temporary hiatus.”

Ergon says he still plans to work on new material while Licuanan is away and promises that Putos will be “bigger louder and faster” when they come back.

For now you’d be best to check them out when they play Garbage Daze this weekend. “We’re playing the Sunday show” he says “so if you’re not too busy icing your boner come down and watch us awkwardly stand onstage.”


Speaking of boners Luis also moonlights as the bassist for Sperm yet another loud mean hardcore band popping off in Calgary. Rounded out by The Chain’s Nolan on guitar and drummer Stuart on drums plus frontman Joel the band released their impressive demo For Men last year which they’ve quickly followed up with the My Body is Diamonds cassette.

Luis initially passed on the opportunity to play in Sperm. “We asked Luis to join but he ‘cool-guyed’ us” Nolan says.

“After he recorded us he decided to break up with his girlfriend so he would have time for Sperm” Stuart adds.

Sperm was initially conceived as an entirely different idea. “The band formed two summers ago when we tried to start a band that sounded like Nirvana and it didn’t work out” Nolan admits. “I wanted to start my own thing something pissed and different that didn’t sound like The Chain.”

Ghanam who describes Sperm as a “straightforward stupid hardcore punk band” explains that the band’s moniker fits perfectly within that theme. “The name Sperm was chosen because I don’t know why not? It’s stupid and uncomfortable to say yet somehow sounds proper.”

“We made a joke about it then we started the band and here we are” Hernandez adds. “I’m an idiot.”

My Body is Diamonds the band’s second cassette will be released just in time for Garbage Daze via Stuart’s own Mind Control Records label. From there the band plan to tour America’s west coast and will likely press some vinyl in the near future.

As Luis sees it the city’s diverse batch of bands are like different planets in one vast universe. “You can almost put them all in their own little bubbles” he says. “The Garbage of the World crew with Skin Colour and Exotic Functions. The Blunt Wizards [Ryan Kostel’s booking concern] with PMMA Skabiis Intercoarse etc and the Mind Control dudes with Traumatized Sperm and Putos. There’s lots to listen to and we all get along and hang out.”

That said he admits they could use some more youngbloods on the scene. “We need more young 15-year-olds with West 49 wear playing something on the cusp of shitty punk.”


Stuart and Nolan actually play their respective drums and guitar together in three bands — aside from Sperm and The Chain they’ve recently started up a raw d-beat project called Traumatized.

Though it seems impossible to write music for three bands Nolan has them broken down into simple categories. “It’s pretty simple” he says. “Dumb caveman shit goes for The Chain. Sperm is when I’m feeling feelings and Traumatized is when I listen to fast shit and decide to write stuff like that.”

Sperm and Traumatized are also different thematically. “Sperm is all about Joel’s struggle with his sexuality Traumatized is about riffs and playing fast and chains and leather” Stuart explains.

Rounded out by bassist Ryan Loyer and vocalist Cam Shook Traumatized are the newest local hardcore group at Garbage Daze. Though they’ve only played a handful of shows they’ve got big ambitions for the project including a professionally recorded full-length album.

Hernandez says he’s planning “better longer and faster songs with decent solos” adding “I’ll never be good at guitar or even consider myself a ‘musician’ but I do want to make something decent with this band.”


Which brings us to The Chain the straight-edge hardcore group that Stuart and Nolan perform in alongside bassist Braydan Rodwell and frontman Dereck Burns. After two cassettes the group topped themselves with their fantastic debut 7-inch Steppin’ Out of Line earlier this year.

The release proves why The Chain are an important force in Calgary’s scene — the production is relatively raw and blown-out keeping it in line with the aesthetic of their local punk-scene peers but it’s also unapologetically straight-edge and a throwback to the classic New York hardcore bands.

The Chain’s plans are currently up in the air — their summer tour was recently cancelled — and the proper cover art for Steppin’ Out of Line is still forthcoming meaning those who weren’t at the record release show have yet to hear it. That said everyone in the band is proud of what they’ve accomplished so far.

“I have really only heard what my friends think” Stuart says regarding reception of the 7-inch. “Most of the reviews have been positive. We are really happy with how it turned out though — that’s what really matters.”

“We will see how it is received though” he adds laughing. “People might be too punk now to care about a straight-edge NYHC band.”

That’s why The Chain are so easy to love — while they may not be playing the hippest hardcore on the block they’re doing exactly what they want. Or to misquote Gandhi they’re being The Chain they want to see in the world.

Still Stuart echoes Luis’s earlier statement saying that the future of Calgary hardcore rests on the youth. “Calgary has a good thing going — it’s competitive and fun but also fragile” he says. “The fact that we don’t have many younger kids at shows could mean that there won’t be that new generation of bands. We will see what happens though. Right now it’s a good time.”