Calgary hard rock act In/Vertigo find the groove and hit new heights

Next time you’re at your local and some guy or girl is in the corner plunking away on American Pie or Piano Man or any of the other contemporary standards, take a second and maybe appreciate them.

Hell, buy ’em a beer. Or at the very least stop talking for a second and clap at the end of a song.

Shaddy Elsaghir would appreciate that.

He’s been there banging out about the day the music died when he felt like the crowd in the room couldn’t have cared less if he did.

“American Pie was one of the cool ones we did,” Elsaghir says with a laugh, sitting on the sunny patio of the Wild Rose Taproom.

It was a period after the guitarist had left popular metal act Lucid Scream — an amicable, or as he calls it, a “civil” parting of the ways for the hard-partying band he founded over three years ago.

“It was getting kind of crazy, it was getting a little out of control,” he admits of the quintet.

“We were just having more fun than we were writing music, almost … It just reached the point where it wasn’t growing and other members wanted to do other things.”

For his part, he wanted to make a little more money, gig more frequently, so he and the band’s bassist hit the pub and bar circuit as an acoustic duo.

Elsaghir laughs about how terrible they were when they first started, eventually getting much better at it over the course of a year.

But still, as good as they got, the indifference of the pint-supping, chit-chatting audience was always something that had to be contended with.

“You’re playing bars where no one gives a shit that you’re playing,” he says.

“It’s savage. Going from screaming audiences … of 100 or so people to playing a pub where you’d finish a song and no one would clap. It was agonizing. And it brings you back down to earth. It humbled us.”

It also wore on him, something that his friend, mentor and local legend Reed Shimozawa saw, the former Zuckerbaby guitarist pushing him to get back in the electric game.

So he did.

He put together In/Vertigo, another hard rock happening featuring vocalist Reed Alton, bassist Duncan Mccartney and drummer Keaton Byfield, with Elsaghir masterfully providing the tastiest and raunchiest of ’lectric licks.

The quartet just released their first four-song, self-titled EP, which was helmed by noted producer and engineer Ronnie Champagne, whose credits include everything from The Dream Syndicate to Alice In Chains and Jane’s Addiction.

And, fittingly, In/Vertigo’s sound is a tuneful, heavy groove which runs the gamut of radio-ready-made-metal to Seattle’s starring days, more Mother Love Bone than, say, Mud of Honey.

Elsaghir admits it’s a sound that “came out of nowhere” and did so organically.

“We didn’t know what music we were going to make,” the axeman says of when they first got together and began jamming, with only shared influences and tastes in common. “It just started coming out. Every song turned out a little bit different. Til this day, almost, we don’t even know what direction we’re going in.”

He points to new tracks they’ve been working on, one which recalls “old ’70s Van Halen and another song sounds like Soundgarden — it just makes no sense.”

That said, already In/Vertigo have made their mark, with their first gig an opening spot on a local show for Todd Kerns’ latest project TKO.

Since then, they’ve also shared the bill with Pop Evil and on Monday, Aug. 28 they’ll warm things up for influential English metal icons Diamond Head at Distortion — some pretty sweet gigs that prove they’re doing something right.

Elsaghir says that, unlike those pub crowds, he’s enjoying seeing the reactions and responses from the audience to a sound that he says is “confusing … but not overly alienating.”

As he says, you either get what In/Vertigo are doing or you don’t.

And those who do are easily recognized, with them simply getting into the groove of what the band is laying down.

“Groove is the thing. If it’s missing a groove we scrap it,” he says of their music.

“It’s just this groove — it’s slower, it’s chunkier and it’s less noisy and more about the song, making the band sound like one person almost, but with four individual characteristics.”

In/Vertigo perform Monday, Aug. 28 at Distortion.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at