Music

Calgary scene vets in Des Arcs rock for all the right reasons, ready to release debut

No pressure. No expectations. Just for the sheer joy of it.

Oftentimes it’s the best way to live.

Too often, though, that’s a lesson we learn much, much later in life.

We have to mature, grow, and get out of our own way, get out of our own heads, and discover that the best reason to do something is because we want to.

That includes creating. And even building a band.

It’s a lesson and a realization that the members of Calgary rock-punk quartet Des Arcs have finally come to after decades in the scene, and it’s what’s behind their almost accidental (immaculate?) conception.

“We didn’t even know we were going to play live,” says vocalist-guitarist Travis Davies.

That they have, with their sixth or seventh gig — by Davies and bassist Mark Rudd’s recollection — being a Saturday night show at The Palomino, where Des Arcs will release their debut full-length Take Me to Your Island.

Another big and unexpected step in the brief life of the band, which formed a couple of years ago merely as four friends wanting to get together and jam — Davies, Rudd, guitarist David Anderson and drummer David Alcock.

All are veterans of the indie rock world, having performed individually and together in such acts as Matt Masters and the Gentlemen of the Rodeo, Falconhawk, Chixdiggit, The Parkades and The Ekseptions, and all had, over the past several years, put down their instruments due to the real world — family, kids, jobs, etc. — shoving their love of playing music into that box in the basement.

But. Things change.

Actually, one of those things was the birth of Davies’ daughter, with him writing a song for her, the jamming friends bringing it to life at local rehearsal space and studio SlaughterHouse.

“It was just, like, super, no-pressure, doing it for fun and we kept getting more and more songs,” says Rudd, sitting beside the singer in the Ramsay taproom of The Dandy Brewing Company.

So they kept working when they could make the time until they had played enough shows, had enough tracks — written mainly by Davies, with Rudd tossing in a couple — for an album.

They then headed to OCL Studios just outside of the city limits and worked on it over weekends, able to take their families out and have Alcock record them.

“Dave had been out of it for awhile,” says Davies of their producer-drummer, who for 15 years owned legendary local studio Sundae Sound, where any and every Calgary act recorded, before he shut it down in 2010. “So it was his first time back on the knobs.”

For the most part, though, he just got out of the way and let them do exactly what they do — bash and pop and blister and punk in a wonderfully noisy, happily hamfisted, sloppily rocking, fun and frenetic manner that lets you hear exactly why they’re back at ’er.

The two admit that it was recorded mainly live and off the floor, with a couple of overdubs added after the fact, but only to enhance and not obliterate the raw energy of the four players and pals in a room together doing what they love, for all the right reasons.

“Dave was always that he wanted to get a band in the wild,” says Davies. “That’s what he was after, he wanted to capture a band in the wild.

“Which I think we did.”

Rudd agrees. “That’s what we wanted — we wanted to sound like a band playing loud, rock ’n’ roll music.”

And those songs — part Ramones, part snotty, gobby ’70s Britpunk, part every other project they’ve been part of — are about everything from that aforementioned tune about Davies’ daughter and having to get dirty and dig to get to your happy place in life to the true tale of the French slave ship Utile, which wrecked off an island in 1761, the surviving crew members abandoning seven of the female slaves, who were rescued 15 years later with a bonus child (a boy) born during that time.

Des Arcs are happy for fans to hear it, to be able to pick it up Saturday at their show on gorgeous vinyl.

After that? More local dates and, perhaps, a few quick, easy roadtrips outside of the city.

“We’re too old to drive across Canada,” Rudd says. “We’ll just fly.”

He laughs. “We’ll use all of our Visa points.”

“We are not going to go on a big tour, I’m not going to take a ton of time off work and go across Canada, but there’s lots of cool places to play in this world,” Davies says.

“Four best friends and their families, we can go down to Portland or Austin or wherever, play a couple of shows and hang out for a week — we’d do that.”

Which brings us back to the original point, about being mature enough to understand why you’re doing it and how to do it.

Sure, the foursome are mature enough to get it, but are they too mature to be doing it?

“At first I was a little self-conscious about it,” says Davies. “But at the same time, our songs are much different, I think, because we’re fucking different. And it feels a lot different than it did, like the reason you’re doing it and what it means to get together with your pals and make this music, trying to play in front of people that are a lot younger than you and still be relevant.”

No pressure. No expectations.

All of them already exceeded.

Des Arcs release their album Take Me to Your Island with a show Saturday, May 26 at The Palomino.

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