Vancouver is a city that boasts one of the highest costs of living in Canada and has more musicians trying to make things work within its boundaries than there is room for. NEEDS is a five-piece hardcore band facing the seemingly impossible task of carving out their own space within the city’s disparate music scene, writing songs that reflect on the issues of economic and social justice that plague their daily lives. But judging by the band’s acronym (Never Ever Ending Destruction of Society) and song titles like “We Forgot The Records To Our Record Release Show” and “The Only Good Condo Is A Dead Condo,” it’s safe to say that NEEDS knows how to tease their audience. They’re another politically conscious hardcore band, sure, but they’re not spewing bile and ideology. Instead, NEEDS are just trying to point out how endless the downward spiral of injustice and subsequent hypocrisy really is. I spoke with frontman Sean Orr, bassist Glenn Alderson, and guitarist Colin Spensley about their forthcoming debut album and the many intricacies of the Vancouver music scene. Listen to NEEDS’ latest single “Rescue Don” and read the Q&A below.
STEREOGUM: What bands were you all in before, and how did NEEDS get started?
SEAN ORR: Glenn asked me to join NEEDS after he saw me play in my old band Taxes. We had met before. He was in a Calgary band called Corta Vita, and I was in a band with three 18 year old girls called GoGoStop.
GLENN ALDERSON: I just remembered watching Taxes play their last show and it was so amazing. I knew I had to play in a band with Sean. Sean is an exceptional frontman.
STEREOGUM: What year was this?
COLIN SPENSLEY: 2011.
STEREOGUM: Why did it take so long to release a full-length?
SPENSLEY: The other two current members were in a band called Eek (Devin and Colin), and we lost two original members of NEEDS, so we asked them and they said yes right away.
ALDERSON: We have been writing and releasing music the whole time, but never a proper full-length.
STEREOGUM: Where did you record NEEDS?
ALDERSON: We recorded the album at The Noise Floor on Gabriola Island. Our producer, Jordan Koop, just got back from some sound camp thing with Steve Albini.
STEREOGUM: When you write songs, do you work it all out in studio or ahead of time? Is it typically music before lyrics, vice versa, or simultaneous?
SPENSLEY: Simultaneous! I have some stuff written down — notes, poems, rants, etc.
ALDERSON:: A lot of our songs start as riffs and then are shaped by Sean’s lyrics.
STEREOGUM: There’s an obvious political edge to this album that, after reading a VICE’s post of your second single, made me unsure whether or not the songs were a critique or just a joking prod at a common hardcore aesthetic.
ORR: It’s a bit of both.
ORR: I write a column that critiques the news called Tea & Two Slices, so I read the local news every day, and I make jokes about it. It’s all so overwhelming, and NEEDS is a good outlet.
ALDERSON:: We aren’t an obnoxious political punk band that takes themselves too seriously though. I think that NEEDS as an acronym for NEVER EVER ENDING DESTRUCTION OF SOCIETY was actually an afterthought.
ORR: It’s like, at this point, [the news] is all just so absurd.
ALDERSON:: Exactly. We just have fun taking the piss out of a lot of different things.
STEREOGUM: So these are issues that matter, but the dialogue surrounding them is getting ridiculous?
ORR: For me, absolutely.
STEREOGUM: How do the rest of you feel about the lyrics, the attitude behind the project?
SPENSLEY: Derek loves it, he told me once.
ALDERSON:: I believe in everything that we stand for as a band. Sean is a very socially and politically aware person. And we all live in Vancouver, a city that is being very gentrified, so we are all sort of reacting to that on a daily basis.
SPENSLEY: Vancouver is a very difficult city to a band in, yet everyone does it, and that challenge — cost of living, struggling venues, etc. — makes us all better. Vancouver bands are good, in spite of and because of Vancouver.
STEREOGUM: Are there a lot of hardcore bands there? How is the scene you’re a part of threatened by gentrification, cost of living, venue closure, etc.?
ORR: We’re not really in the hardcore scene.
ALDERSON:: Illegal underground venues are few and far between and threatened with a very limited life span. I feel like the cops try to turn their heads on underground venues but eventually they get shut down, just like every city.
ORR: There is a very small independent music scene in Vancouver. We’re a small town, so we play with everyone!
ALDERSON:: Gabriela, when you think of Vancouver, what comes to mind?
STEREOGUM: Honestly, I think about White Lung. But I also think about how Vancouver doesn’t seen to have a particular genre stamp on it.
ORR: Good answer, haha.
STEREOGUM: Now you are interviewing me!
ALDERSON: I’m just interested how our city is perceived by people in the U.S.
STEREOGUM: I do think that in terms of how people in the U.S. perceive Canadian cities as they relate to music, Calgary and Montreal come up in conversation far more often. We’re premiering “Rescue Don.” Of all the songs on the album, this one seems to be the least tied to a specific question, issue, conversation starter. It doesn’t even directly reference your community. What’s the song about?
ORR: It’s about mortality, aging, resurrection, with a Joy Division reference thrown in for good measure.
STEREOGUM: That seems like an appropriate entry point for this record: start broad and whittle things down.
NEEDS is out 5/12 via File Under: Music.