Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Despistado’s “The Emergency Response” is the first release for a non-US band for Jade Tree, the label that ought to apply for a patent for bringing in new sounds to our community. This band resides in Saskatchewan, an area high up north in Canada, where days in winter are cold and don’t have a lot of hours of sunshine.

Thankfully, these 6 songs have nothing frozen in them. I’m not sure if post-hardcore is the description to use for their sound, but I can’t really give it a better description than being a quirky mixture of early At The Drive-In, some Fugazi inventiveness and a slightly Refused experimentational weirdiness. Starting off “A Stirstick Prediction” with a genuine scratching intro in conjunction with a soft bassline and spastic singing, the song suddenly bursts open with stoccato guitars, the coolest basspart I heard in a while and potent vocals with accompanying backings. It all sounds pretty lo-fi, although they manage to keep more drive into the song than we’re used to in this category. A really good opening song indeed, and what follows is not bad either. The next 2 songs show more of unusual tempo-changes in the percussion, and although you always have the impression that this music is a non-flowing sound experience, they manage to insert very recognizable parts of powerful and grabbing tunes in these songs. “Bubbles” is the more laidback song of the 6, with only the drums maintaining a galloping pace and tingle-tangling guitars all through the song. But the best is yet to come. “Hi/Fi Stereo” has a softer part at the start but than gradually has the guitar breaking into first fuzzy and hard-hit strokes, while the vocals first twist themselves into some kind of Rage Against The Machine style, but then later on in the song scream and shout in full distortion. “Lipstick” is at first minimalistic sounding guitars and vocals accompanied by some handclapping, but later on evolves into some nice multi-layered vocals and a rather catchy guitarded song.

I’d have to warn that this is a pretty unusual album, in a sense that it doesn’t sound anyway near anything you’re used to lately, unless aforementioned bands are still fresh to your memory (but even if they are, this is something that doesn’t sound like a replica of them). And although I often dislike elements of experimentation in music, there’s still enough power and flow all through the songs to make me look out for their next full-length that should be coming out soon on Jade Tree.


For most bands, Regina is a stop between Winnipeg and Calgary on the grueling trans–Canadian tour route. For Despistado, however, it’s the place they call home. The guys—Dagan Harding (guitar, lead vocals), Leif Thorseth (guitar), Joel Passmore (bass) and Brenan Schwartz (drums)—have remained loyal to their hometown pedigree instead of making the jump to a more urban centre.

It wasn’t a tough decision., either. Despistado aren’t shy about their political leanings—a strong belief that puts relationships and community above all else. “Our sound probably comes from the scene we grew up in,” Thorseth said from the highway as the band made their way into Toronto for a NXNE showcase. “The local community has a Washington DC kind of feel to it. The whole early ‘80s or ‘90s influence. I love all those
bands. There are so many words to describe it, but those words just don’t have meaning anymore. How I perceive it is punk music. If someone wants to see it as something else, that’s cool too. It’s not Minor Threat punk and it’s not disco punk, but you can dance to it.” Despistado are the first Canadian signing to Jade Tree, the Delaware-based label that has maintained a fiercely independent punk rock attitude since its inception in the early nineties. Fortunately for Despitado, calling Jade Tree home also guarantees them a wide reach, especially in the U.S. and Canada through Jade Tree distributor Mordam’s extensive network. Although the band were fans of the label, they had only joked about how great it would be if they were signed.

“We were shopping (the EP) around and our friend and manager sent over our CD to Jade Tree,” says Thorseth. “He just sent it and said, check out this band.”

Then at the end of January, Jade Tree co–owner Darren Walters came to Regina to hang out with the band.

“He froze his butt off,” laughs Thorseth. “We didn’t even talk business, we just hung out and then a week or two weeks later, he called and said I’d really like to work with you guys. We freaked out. We were extremely bewildered, but it’s awesome.”

Despitado made it down to SXSW earlier this year, to participate in the Jade Tree showcase and the trip helped to solidify their friendship even further. Since signing, (and even pre–signing) the band had spent most of the time in the van, touring around Canada and converting fans with their furious angular sound.

“Our tour is going awesome,” says Thorseth. "It’s been a lot of fun. On the western half of our tour we were touring with Statistics. We’ve never really toured with a band constantly for that long. It was great to hang out with two new people. To make it more of a community, not just something I’m in with four friends. It’s hectic, but it’s been easy.

“Our van is running fine, now that we’ve spent a lot of money on it. I love it. I remember last year we were touring and I looked outside the van and realized, ya this is amazing. It’s a test just like any other life test. Some people do things they love and I realized that I’m in a position right now where I’m doing something I absolutely love, there are struggles and everything, but it makes me really happy to do this.

“We’re expecting to tour as much as possible and that’s it. We’re just living in the present and trying to meet new people and have new experiences."

With a new record slated for October release, Despistado are excited at the opportunity to spread a new gospel. The EP was a re–release teaser by Jade Tree that was
re–pressed after the initial independently released version went out of print.

“I’m really excited to release that record,” says Thorseth. “I would like to tour our new stuff, which we are; I mean we do play new stuff now but… I think the new album has the same feel as the EP, (The Emergency Response) but we’re more in your face, which I really like.

“I think it’s a good album. There’s more oomph. The songs are what they are, I guess.”

Punk rock has a history steeped in politics, so where will Despistado show their support in the upcoming election?

“Our politics are all individual, but they are on the side of for the people. I really want to know the person that will be in my community is the best for my community. I’m going to have a week to go home and study, and I will do that.”

Most importantly, Thorseth encourages everyone to “support your local scene and anyone who’s coming through town. Go out and have some fun.”

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Canadian prairie-rockers and Jade Tree’s most recent signing, Despistado, are as much a mix of WIRE’S artful passion as MODEST MOUSE’S steadfast quirk. With "The Emergency Response," they finally make their spastic and raging debut worldwide. Squelching guitars, yelping hooks, and a stabbing rhythm section unfurl with the subtlety of a steamroller. Angular, driving, and thoroughly commanding, Despistado are just out the gate and ALREADY are the band to watch in 2004.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

It seems as of late, the focus on bands from Canada has been one of pure experimentalism: noise drones, instrumental theme albums, and bland musical obscurity.  Then come Despistado, from Regina, Canada, touted as the coldest place on earth.  Like a knight riding a fiery horse, they’ve galloped in with a glowing sword to slice through the thick ice of Canada, and bring a brighter, bolder, tougher sound.  Their 6-song EP, The Emergency Response, is a shining beacon of what’s to come.

Despistado combine the sharpness of Q and Not U with the dark undertones of Fugazi to create a unique blend of their own.  Every song on the EP is a gem.  One could easily mistake them for a Dischord band, and I have a feeling that anyone on the Dischord staff who catches Despistado will almost immediately regret they hadn’t found them first.

Their sound is infectious, and with the promise of a full-length recording waiting in the wings, I look forward to hearing what they bring to the table next.  And, I might add, they scored an opening gig for the Pixies at their Canadian show.  Bring on the warmth.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Though the Spanish to English translation of Despistado is “confused,” this four piece are all but that on their debut EP that rocks like hard in a post-hardcore sound that defies any true genre. “A Stirsticks Prediction” sounds like the Operation Ivy/At the Drive In collaboration that never was, with its upbeat rhythm and frenetic vocals. Latin influenced percussion and angular guitar riffs flow like wine on these six tracks, one of which was recorded live in the studio in one take. Rhythms will keep your body moving (I dare you not to dance to the intro to studio jam, “Hi/Fi Stereo”) and the lyrics are sharp enough to keep you from ignoring them completely. Brazil should take notes, this is what an ATDI-influenced band is supposed to sound like. Los ventiladores de At the Drive In no desearán faltar hacia fuera en esta gema de un EP.


DESPISTADO’S THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE (JT1096) is now available. After bouncing relentlessly from club to club, harnessing their sweltering live show, the boys finally settled into the studio and came out with six tracks that are as spastic as they are potent – as much a mix of Wire’s artful passion as Modest Mouse’s steadfast quirk. Angular, driving, and thoroughly commanding DESPISTADO are just out the gate and already hold court as the next Canadian band to watch out for.

In other Prairie news, DESPISTADO are fresh off a full Canadian tour, where they dropped all the hits from THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE while debuting new tracks from their recently recorded full length, now slated for a fall release. A full US tour is in the works, but in the meantime check out some links to what the press has been saying.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

In late 2001, four young musicians, determined to break out of the isolation of the Canadian tundra, formed Despistado as a creative outlet. Since then, the band has been touring non-stop around the Saskatchewan area, fine tuning their live show, and now, their debut EP, The Emergency Response will be released in the United States by Jade Tree Records.

Upon the first listen to The Emergency Response, the music of Despistado (the Spanish word for "confused"), seems to be very reminiscent of a more upbeat At The Drive-In (without the made up words). Especially on the track, "Can I Please Have An Order of Girl With A Side Of Confused?" The last thirty seconds of this song sound almost identical to ATDI’s In Casino Out years.

Despistado’s light, mathy guitars combine with the drummer’s interesting percussion stylings to form six songs that clip along at a quick pace, and clock in at just over 20 minutes, which is just enough to keep my attention. Anything much longer than that, I think the vocals would begin to irritate me because of the singer’s slight identity crisis with At The Drive In.

As a whole, The Emergency Response is a fantastic debut from a young band, but I’m hoping their full-length will showcase a little more of what this band is capable of.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review (8 out of 10)

This four-piece hailing from Saskatchewan will appeal to the fans of angular and harmony filled songs ala At the Drive-in, and this six song EP is just the beginning. I found that upon first listen I was a little skeptical of whether or not I liked this record, but after repeated listens I knew that it was a truly unique and indispensable first effort by a band that is not afraid of challenging the boundaries of indie rock. The Emergency Response will strike you the way that Milemarker does and aggressively move you like At the Drive-In used to. A rhythmically complex and melodic record that will hopefully show up some of the new and supposedly "amazing" bands out there posing.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Mix early At the Drive-In flavors (circa Acrobatic Tenement) with in-your-face indie-rock like Brooklyn’s Pilot to Gunner, and you kind of get a rough idea of the musical framework Despistado constructs on their EP The Emergence Response.

Regina, Saskatchewan’s Despistado attacks by cutting indentations into the listener’s inner ear with saw-toothed, jagged sounds and emotionally astute lyrics: "That’s very anti-patriarchal of you to accuse that man of rape." Their energized jangly drive is pulled by dynamic, quirky guitars and great dual singing. Dargon Harding’s vocals roll off his tongue in a manner akin to Cedric Zavala (At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta), which is probably why Despistado always gets the ATDI influence thrown at them. These Saskatchewanians succeed at ignoring the unbearable coldness of their hometown (one of the coldest places on the earth) by playing rocking waves of red hot heat in defiance.

Joel Passmore describes the hesitance to escape their small-town surrounding as: "The isolation of Saskatchewan lends itself to creating a cohesive, supportive community." And this mentality is definitely found in Despistado’s highly-energized, tight-knit delivery.

Refreshing, lively, and just downright rocking, Despistado’s The Emergency Response is a six song adrenaline shot that shouldn’t be passed up. A hand to Jade Tree for picking a damn fine group from the Great White North and exposing this boisterous rock outfit to a broader audience.

The second song, "Can I Please Have an Order of Girl with a Side of Confused?" is probably one of the most infectious tracks I’ve heard so far this year. Rock!

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Well, geez…At least one band recognizes it’s about time for a post-punk revivalist, anthem-cluttered debut.

And the crowd yells: "Bring back the Fugazi-glory days, with a touch of Beatles-like anthem for us!"

And someone has answered. "They have come! What will you do about it?"

Most would wager the term ‘independent-music’ (or indie for short) is often used loosely, but denotes a band unique in style and persona, yet true to whatever genre they’re building. If this is still a true statement, consider Despistado one of those on the right track.

Listening to the Emergency Response EP, I tell myself this is not deja-vu. I think, "I know these guys, I liked guys like this…or maybe I just heard this on the radio". So few times, however, do I catch my breath adapting to the reinvention of the quirky-guitar bravado or the as-of-late newborn politically-aware vocals, so cluttered with heavy meanings.

Despistado formed in 2001 in the coldest of Canadian regions- Regina, Saskatchewan. Their debut EP, the Emergency Response, forms the oddest hypothesis about them. And it’s not due to the fact that they have released an impressive true punk-esque EP in the spirit of anti-relenting…..But, Despistado are certainly not jaded, despite what some may say about their resuscitation of music so often thrown under the bed – to be used only when everything has gone wrong.

Despistado have riddled the post-punk/rock-fusion with new meaning. Hand-clapping parts, throaty scream-alongs, words that make you think…and the infamous jumping percussive flow (always heard with a pair of low-top Converse-chucks). The fuel I needed in my stereo to bring my pulse in sync with an engine has been revved up again.

Those familiar with the Ian MacKaye-fronted Fugazi or the now-broken-up Refused, could compare Despistado loosely with those bands. Not a very off-base comparison in my opinion. The break down: Opening riff that wails loosely, over-driven and distorted? Check. Singing- inventively anti-stereo-typical and a rhythm-section that rolls from place to place? Check. Raucous vocals that chime in eager floats of quasi-political and social matter, searing with (for example) "…that’s very anti-patriotic of you." (lyrics by singer/guitarist Dargan Harding)? Check! Well, then we’ve got the right antidote to the question of independent music don’t we?

Sure do.

Despistado were signed to Jade Tree records in 2002, and since then the band has slowly stirred more talk. It’s no surprise that their infectious side-stepping trademarks lend them all the right responses and energetic participation-repertoire, and have prominently given them a heedful record to move to, whether you fancy yourself as more a Ska than Punk or vise-versa.

Credits will, in-time, be given to Leif Thorseth’s back-bending guitars, Joel Passmore’s infectious bass-riffs (my favorite opening bass line starts with Despistado’s "A Starstick’s Prediction"), Brenan Schwartz’s energetic, percussion backing – passionately finding middle-ground between simple and intense – and finally, Dargan Harding’s guitar and vocals that involve being zealously in-tune with a Bob Marley-rock-group side of things while staying leniently post-revolution-happy at the same time.

Unquestionably, the Emergency Response has something audacious and high-spirited for the unmixed-matched, seasoning-pool of ska-troglodytes (bad conjunction, I know), and London brass-tuners for the aesthetically politically oppressed. In fact, while this release comes off as a superceding independent punk release in Jade Tree record’s recent signings, it’s a given that this indie-band has recognized that it’s about time to rejuvenate the shadows of post-punk’s 2004 hotfires, and hang on as heavy as an important group could ever wish to, all the while remaining influential and transcendental concert-stage-rockers in your CD collection.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Despistado, hailing from Saskatchewan, Canada, have their first Jade Tree album in this 6-song EP titled ‘The Emergency Response’. Their sound has the raw energy of a vintage rock n’ roll band and the quirky stylings similiar to a band like Modest Mouse. The guitar playing is melodic at times, and more ‘static’ sounding at others. The drumming is very note-worthy, as the rhythms drive several songs. The vocals are a bit raspy at times, and almost always at a lower-tone than the music. The lyrics pull the songs together, with some references to economies and constitutions and such.

"A Stirsticks Prediction" opens up the EP. This song is your basic Despistado song with odd time changes and an overall fast-paced feel. It has a driving guitar riff that can inspire some head-bopping, as well as several catchy lines like ‘that’s very anti-patriarchal of you…to accuse that man of rape’. The band displays a very good instrumental side in the song "Bubbles". This has become my favorite track on the album, mostly because of the opening drum rhythm. It’s totally different than the usual drum-intros. It almost has a tobano-drum feel to it, which is used all the way through, to drive the song. The quirky, melodic guitar riff also adds some catchiness, and the few bass pluckings top it off. The next song, "Hi/Fi Stereo", was recorded live in one session in the studio, and brings much of the same musical style. This song is driven by the drums yet again, and they throw in a lot of cool guitar sound effects in as well. The final track, "Lipstick", is probably the most catchy song on the album. Here they use another quirky guitar riff that is complemented by a nice bass rhythm. The vocals are sung a bit faster than normal, and the pattern of ‘that’s just an observation’ and the backing yells of ‘lipstick’ give the song a fun feel.

Although these guys are from a somewhat secluded area of Canada, they still get the job done. Exposure may be an issue, but their music deserves some attention. Their mix of basic rock influences and indie quirkyness make for a really catchy and enjoyable sound that doesn’t let down in terms of musical talent. In short, these guys really surprised me. They have a great sound going and with a full-length due out later in 2004, show a lot of promise to become a staple in the scene.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

I do believe this is Canada’s first break into the indie-anomaly that is Jade Tree Records, and what a break it is! Despistado hails from the chilly Saskatchewan ice plains, yet their music is the hottest thing since sliced bread. So much energy spills forth, creating beautifully dissonant melodies, laden with trebly guitars and tight drum assaults.

Spastic song structures allow for the attitude of the music on The Emergency Response to feel like a slap in the face. Some light screaming isn’t overdone, but appears more to be an emotional thing, only breaking when the song is hitting its peak. Jangly guitars scream through each song, creating the perfect mix of dance and rock, blending the head bobbing with the moshpit.

The ep begins with A Stirstick’s Prediction, notably the most dancey track on the album, which kicks off the rest of The Emergency Response. Each track seems to blend into each other creating a seamless album from start to finish even when each track stops and ends just like a normal track would. Hi/Fi Stereo appears similar to other Jade Tree releases, most notably These Arms Are Snakes, but cuts out leaving the space-core of TAAS behind, ending as more music to dance violently to.

Quarky and unique is the debut release from Canada’s break into the American dominated dancey post-punk scene, perhaps perfectly representing Canada into the market of imposters. The Emergency Response is different, and its place on Jade Tree is going to get it the attention this wonderful Canadian band needs.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Canada isn’t known as a powerhouse of anything, let alone music. I doubt very many of us can name a handful of great Canadian bands in less than a minute. I know that I can’t. So when I heard that Jade Tree has signed their first Canadian band I was very skeptical and also very intrigued. I know the standards that Jade Tree has for bands that they sign. They very rarely put out anything that wouldn’t get a three to four star rating in my book.

Despistado is one of the newest bands to join the Jade Tree family and they live up to the Jade Tree standards. Despistado carries a flavor of folksy poppy punk and old school emo.They have a mixture of Against Me!, The Promise Ring and Embraced. There isn’t a drop of monotony in this record and there is nothing but rock and roll ruling the sound waves. I regularly don’t like EP’s but I think this is a great step for an up and coming band like Despistado. This is a great debut album and another solid statement by Jade Tree.

Meet… Despistado


The hottest thing from Saskatchewan since, well… ever. Inspired by Fugazi, Wire and plain ol’ Prairie boredom, childhood friends Dagan Harding (guitar/vocals) and Leif Thorseth (guitar) teamed up in 2001 with high school pals Joel Passmore (bass) and Brenan Schwartz to stir up spiky, spidery post-punk agit-pop that all but guarantees we never snigger at the word "Regina" again (unless you’re still in Grade 2, of course). "It’s not like we’re totally isolated here," a groggy Harding says over the phone from his home, minutes after my wake-up call. "People like to take that angle, because they’re retards."


The band’s recent signing to Delaware label Jade Tree Records — who recently re-released the band’s debut, The Emergency Response EP — may set off your internal Emo Alert, but it’s a false alarm. If anything, Despistado are closer in spirit to another US indie institution with whom they came into recent contact — the Pixies. Despistado were tipped to open the Boston noise-pop legends’ recent reunion-tour stop in Regina, and though the artistic debt isn’t immediately apparent, like the Pixies, Despistado can assume seemingly contradictory forms — intense yet playful, spastic yet danceable, cryptic yet melodic — without ever being defined by one.

"I love rock ‘n’ roll," Harding says. "Everybody’s doing that dance-beat thing nowadays — which isn’t a bad thing; I like Gang of Four and New Order — but it’s going to end eventually. I think rock ‘n’ roll is the solid state, and everything else is peripheral."


No, just a little worried. Harding does admit to being an early Rage Against the Machine fan, and the band’s website, includes a link to the John Graham Defense Committee, an activist organization seeking a fair trial for a Yukon native charged in the US last year (under dubious circumstances) for committing a murder in 1976.

But the six songs on The Emergency Response take a more abstract political tack, employing lyrics and imagery whose meanings have been cut up like letters on a ransom note, and it’s up to you to paste together their unifying logic. The disc proffers an impassioned yet detached perspective befitting concerned citizens living in the relative serenity of Central Canada, while the world burns in chaos thousands of miles away.

"We were actually just talking about that last night at the pub," Harding says. "About the how the world appears to be in shambles, at least in the big urban cities — people there are constantly being confronted with stuff — and at some point, in the smaller urban centres or even rural centres, it’s going to trickle down.

"We’re not a preachy band, but lyrically I try to create imagery that is interesting, and expose people to ideas and images and contradictions and policies, creating dialogue or thoughts around things that haven’t really been discussed. That’s important in any scenario, not just music.


No — because , as Harding points out, everywhere is the new Seattle. "There’s always been a lot of great bands here," Harding says. "We’re trying to push the idea that, circumstantially, there are bands all over the planet and just because a certain number of them get exposure doesn’t necessarily mean they’re proportionally that much greater bands. There are great musicians everywhere."

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

It often seems like most of Regina’s musical talent has moved to somewhere bigger to take advantage of a less isolated scene. Depistado haven’t come to their senses in that regard, but in signing with hot U.S. indie label Jade Tree their election to stay in the Prairies has worked out anyway. Saskatchewan, Schmakatchewan – this foursome’s sound could easily be confused for the manic, danceable punk coming out of Brooklyn, and it’s a sound they pull off effortlessly. The opening track, A Stirstick’s Prediction, is a standout, sounding live and fast and dirty, and with a tightness that feels like it could come undone at any second.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

With a full length debut coming later this year, fans of eccentric hot blooded punk maybe somewhat excited by young Jade Tree foursome, Despistado. The foursome has only been together a mere four years but already they have been signed to one of the major ‘indie’ punk labels and you can tell the Canadians love it. Their music comes across as a kind of sombre Blood Brothers mixed with the aggression of ATDI and although it may not be to everyone’s tastes, they have a good stab at something different and with that sort of drive, it is hard to find faults.

‘The Emergency Response EP’ is opened strongly with arguably the best track of the six in the shape of ‘A Stirsticks Prediction’ as it begins with cracking melody laden guitars and samples before throwing you into the heady world of the band. What follows is a variation of this biting formula and although some tracks can become grating, you still admire what the band try to do. While the tongue twisting ‘Can I please have an order of girl with a side of confused?’ is out of the pop-emo name pot it darkens the feel but strong harmonies and vocals save it, along with ‘Taste this Picture’ which also suffers the same fate. ‘Bubbles’ ups it a notch in a sweeping song that builds the snare drum and chinking guitars into a frenzy, while it ends on a relative high with ‘Lipstick’ which is more than familiar to the opener on the EP.

Despistado prove that sending demo’s to a record label does work (Jade Tree co-owner Darren Walters owner went to see them in Canada after hearing their CD) and it is testament they have crafted something different but with a familiar sound in the six songs. Whether they burst out of the blocks with the up coming album is yet to be seen, but this will serve them well for the time being.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

The town of Regina, Saskatchewan is perhaps better known for mounties, bison hunting and some of the coldest winters on Earth than for any sort of rock ‘n’ roll activity. As Jade Tree’s first international signing, Despistado acknowledge the desolate, frozen waste-scapes of these surroundings by way of a sweltering, dynamic strain of sweaty, high-octane basement-punk. As a result, The Emergency Response has a sweaty, brattishly discordant sound that’s more redolent of El Paso, Texas (in the late ’90s) than the Vermillion Hills.

Reassuringly, Despistado make a wholly convincing go of it. Originally released last year on the Bedfordshire, UK punk label Boss Tuneage, their debut EP marries fervent punk-rock energy to leftfield pop hooks in a triumphantly breezy manner. Case in point — the hyper-caffeinated opening salvo of "The Stirstick’s Prediction", which whips up such a mighty sonic bluster that it often seems as though it’s kicking and screaming its way through the speakers. The subsequent song’s title might seem suggestive of truly ominous things, but the brisk, bruising "Can I Please Have An Order Of Girl With A Side Order Of Confused?" recalls the frenzied gush of hormone-addled youth and twentysomething angst. In addition to its punishing, hyperactive restlessness and jagged, arms-wide-open scream of a chorus, "Can I Please…" flexes the dual-vocal muscle of bassist Joel Passmore and guitarist Dargan Harding, who trade staccato yelps and yearning melodic howls with an infectious, moshpit-ready zeal. Then there’s "Bubbles", which works a melancholy guitar refrain over a galloping clatter of drums, veering between clipped, jagged alertness and a soaringly cathartic wail. It’s the kind of structural shift that so often falls flat in the hands of lesser bands, but here it seems effortless, natural and, frankly, downright exciting.

Emerging with a twenty-minute slab of artful punk rock that is emotionally resonant without ever seeming mawkish, Despistado display an artfulness that doesn’t rely squarely upon discord or dissonance. Instead, the band exude punk rock as a unifyingly potent, terrifically impassioned life force, as well as a party to which we’re all invited.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Like the Deftones, Yes, and Jimmy Eat World, At the Drive-In made wonderful music and inspired legions of listeners to make terrible music. Relationship of Command can’t be beat at its own game, but plenty of 20 year old guys seem to think it can be. It made me wince a bit, then, to see that Despistado cite ATDI as a main influence, and indeed, once I put this EP in, it was difficult to get around the vocalist’s Cedric Bixler-isms and the all-too-familiar labyrinthine guitar leads. Despistado manage to succeed where countless others have failed, though, but taking most of their ATDI crib notes from the band’s earlier, janglier period. All of the songs on The Emergency Response have a gloriously unfettered feel that doesn’t just recall that one band who I keep mentioning, but also a number of other spastic, bewilderingly catchy ’90s emo bands. There’s not a single weak moment during the entire 20 minutes — in fact, some of the stunts Despistado pull are downright riveting, especially on the first and last tracks. This is dynamic, unstoppable music that’s scrappy enough to fit in at a house show but far too competent to stumble about in obscurity.

Despistado is the Band to Watch for in 2004.

Despistado is the band to watch for in 2004. Though The Emergency Response, its Jade Tree debut, is only 20 minutes long, the six songs are bursting to the seams with dance-rock energy. The EP opens with the single, “A Stirstick’s Prediction.” The guitars and drums here are hyper, and the vocals are delirious. After one listen, the infectious tune will be cemented in your brain. Thankfully, the rest of the songs are just as contagious. “Taste This Picture” is a jumble of mathy guitars. “Bubbles” is a hypnotic mix of pounding drums and ominous riffage. “Lipstick,” the closer, is a melodic song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Fugazi record. Despistado plans to follow up with a full-length in October. For now, this nearly flawless EP should keep its quickly growing legion of fans salivating for more. —J.L.
Sounds like: Isaac Brock fronting Fugazi, with a dash of At the Drive-In—yeah, it’s that good
Fascinating fact: Despistado is Spanish for “confusion”
Artist anagram: Toad Piss Ed

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

There’s a very good reason this EP is titled The Emergency Response. If you’re ever at a dull office party, and everyone is bored to tears, just slap this EP in the stereo system. The masses of formerly non-moving schmucks at the party will be shakin some booty and bustin’ a move on the dance floor, and that emergency will be solved! Despistado’s debut EP is also brings a jubilant ray of hope to rainy days, bad moods, bad grades, breakups, and/or just about everything else that makes you sad or angry. A band that captures punk’s intrinsic upbeatness and the Rapture’s unavoidable danceability definitely has the power to cheer up the depressed emo kids of today; thus, given the right opportunities, Despistado could rid the world of ‘emo-kid’ syndrome.

Despistado’s erratic, chant-along vocals paired with jumpy, jittery guitars contribute to the punk feel, but it gains its groove from drummer Brenan Schwartz’s unique drumming style and bassist Joel Passmore’s extremely adept and powerful command of the bass. Passmore’s thumping, pulsating lines bring a character to Despistado’s sound whose absence would render Despistado hopeless; Songs like “HiFi Stereo” and “A Stirstick’s Prediction” would be absolutely nowhere without the fabulous, funky bass work. Schwartz’s drumming is also essential to the sound, as the hopelessly endearing groove on “Bubbles” comes straight out of the nearly tribal drumbeat he delivers. He also pushes Despistado along at a brisk clip, keeping everything together nicely.

That’s not to say that the guitars or the vocals suck – those two elements do deliver the meat of these songs – but the bass and drums are much more important than in most bands. The guitars here are choppy and dissonant, delivering just enough rhythm and melody to catch your ear, but not enough to keep you rapt in listening. The two guitars add a hectic, frenzied feel to the music more than they actually add melodic value, and that’s perfectly ok. To continue with the hectic feel of this six-song montage, we have the vocals. These are virtually all yelled/sung, reminding me heavily of the Rapture, as well as a higher pitched Jack White. They explode with aggression and punk mentality, while still remaining playful and dangerously catchy.

The best explanation of Despistado’s sound would be in the opener “A Stirstick’s Prediction,” where the bassist delivers a bouncy moving line, the guitars clang away, the drums act punchy, and the call-and-response vocals demand that you sing along. I’m pretty sure that the graveyards of the world would be exciting places if Despistado were played for the deceased, as all the dead would get up and dance along with these punked-out dance grooves. I just can’t get enough of Despistado’s music….it’s happiness in a can, and who doesn’t like to be happy?

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

It is amusing to think that the majority of quality music produced has been the result of some sort of hardship that in one way or another has befallen said musicians. Poverty, social segregation, supposed “lack of current relevance,” geographical isolation – all can play a part in a musician’s crafting of quality song. Perhaps it is because their situation presents them with greater experience, or that maybe their circumstances provide the necessary drive to provoke change in their surroundings (because lets face it, when you throw a million bucks at someone with a guitar, what follows is more than likely to be a piece of shit). It has been the foundation of all great music revolutions, and while Despistado are far from sparking a neo-uprising, they once again prove that reaching a destination going uphill is far more rewarding that plopping on to the summit from the industry’s silver highway.

If a group of musicians were to write a great song in the remote locale of Regina, Saskatchewan (where apparently there are more hand-planted trees than people), would anybody hear it? Indeed, if geographical isolation were a tough hill to climb, try being musicians in a far-off part of Canada. Thankfully, Regina has been blessed with modern discoveries like the mailbox and with the blessing of such advancement, their music wound up in the hands of longtime purveyors of quality-above-profitable music Jade Tree, who promptly snatched them up from the wintery freeze of creative seclusion.

So what does less than 3000 hours of sunshine a year do to able songwriters? Well for starters Despistado demonstrates a high level of energy not usually reserved for hibernating weather. The Emergency Response is very much built on spastic high-octane treble guitar strums and machinegun snare strikes that is very much up-and-go from the onset. And while the release is unapologetically lo-fi, the snazzy pitch does add plenty to the appeal.

“A Stirstick’s Prediction” very much paves the way for the rest of the tunes. Highly flamboyant (that opening bass line is killer), frenetic, and unabashed about just how damn catchy it is; it could easily parade itself on the dance floor before skipping over to any scummy back alley. Before you scream “Dance?!” put away any notion that they may pogo-along to The Rapture or Gang of Four; they’re more likely to garner comparisons to Wire’s spindly build or early At The Drive-In (both are inescapable references). Nonetheless the songs do envelope certain body-shaking vibes, but they’re more disorganized flailing and less routine steps.

There is hesitance to shove them in to the post-punk caste; but if the need to do so should arise, it would perhaps be the most accurate labeling. “HiFi Stereo” is another fine example of how they tend to skirt around these more accessible means with passionate disobedience. The band’s inventive instrumentation is extremely solid, shown here to breed rhythmic structures with chaotic dissonance; all before longtime neighbors Dargan Harding and Joel Passmore wail in with their beautifully obnoxious vocals.

While the EP isn’t complete by any stretch, it demonstrates a set of songs worth exploring. If anything, it provides a daring thirst for more. And with a full length sure to follow, one can hope that Despistado will take what The Emergency Response has so proficiently shown, douse it with kerosene, and then light the son-of-a-bitch. Pay heed world! Regina, Saskatchewan is about to put itself on the map.


Canadian prairie-darlings DESPISTADO are gearing up for the June 22nd release of their urgent and driving The Emergency Response CD EP (JT1096). After bouncing relentlessly from club to club harnessing their sweltering live show while developing an unflagging notoriety as one of the top young Canadian bands to look out for, the band finally settled into the studio and came out with 6 tracks that are as spastic as they are potent – as much a mix of Wire’s artful passion as Modest Mouse’s steadfast quirk – angular, driving, and thoroughly commanding DESPISTADO are just out the gate and already hold court as the band to watch out for.

The band recently took some time out to perform upon the Canadian version of NPR, dubbed innocently enough as CBC, to produce an . They split their time in the studio recording five tracks and being interviewed about the influence Regina, Saskatchewan has had on their music.

Please consult the Despistado for current dates.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Borne out of the harsh climes of Saskatchewan, it’s no wonder Despistado’s music oozes intensity. Borrowing a little from the Fugazi camp, their EP The Emergency Response is equal parts social and political in the lyrics, and the rhythm of guitars and drums takes you to the frenzied edge before easing slightly to twist you back in. Impressive for a more seasoned band let alone this foursome who have only been together for a couple of years.

Despistado [I]The Emergency Response[/I] Review

Borne out of the harsh climes of Saskatchewan, it’s no wonder Despistado’s music oozes intensity. Borrowing a little from the Fugazi camp, their EP The Emergency Response is equal parts social and political in the lyrics, and the rhythm of guitars and drums takes you to the frenzied edge before easing slightly to twist you back in. Impressive for a more seasoned band let alone this foursome who have only been together for a couple of years.


Despite the fact that it took me 2 days to correctly pronounce the their name (and the first day doesn’t count because I was drunk), Despistado definitely left an impression on me. Having heard and seen them for the first time at Canadian Music Week, I was pleasantly shocked at the way they impacted me.

There have been a lot of impressive comparisons thrown around this band. International Noise Conspiracy, At the Drive In and Interpol have all been sited in trying to decipher a description of the band. I’ll throw another wrench into the mix and let you know they are opening for the PIXIES?!!? Their sound can be described as…well…let’s ask the band. “I’m REALLY bad at that,” admits Leif Thorseth, guitarist for Despistado. “Post punk with…I don’t know…” Yes even they can’t do it. Nor would they necessarily want to.

It may have something to do with where Despistado’s from. An apparent hot bed of music, coming from Regina has it’s own influences on the band and it’s music. “Regina has it’s own sound, not always this straight up pop punk sound. Not at all,” Thorseth says. With all the interest in playing music, the community is a tight one. “It’s not a challenging place to be a band, there are tones of bands in Regina,” Thorseth acknowledges. “We’re all really close friends and we are all very supportive. And I actually think Regina has a thriving scene. It’s a great place to be a band.”

But Despistado’s story is an unusual one for a Regina band in the fact that they are recently signed to Jade Tree records, who will re-release the Emergency Response EP in June and will be releasing a full length to follow in the fall. Thorseth continues, “One of the challenges [in Regina] is getting out there, getting your music heard elsewhere. There are no labels. It is pretty much a DIY kind of place.”

Having had the opportunity to play around town, tour most of the country, and most recently SXSW, Despistado have electricity to their live show (though the tour archives are just hilarious, even if you weren’t there: They are able to incorporate their interesting harmonies and timing with basic danceable rhythms. It’s quite interesting to see people confused as to why they are dancing yet they cannot help themselves. “Our lyrics can be serious and I hope people can hear them. I also hope people at our shows do hear the seriousness but can let go of whatever and enjoy and have fun. It really moves us,” says Thorseth. “Even if it’s like two people, oh I love it. I’ll just look at them and it’s like these two people are gonna like it … or not. Just have a good time.”

Despistado produces some of the most interesting music I’ve heard in a while. And after speaking with them, I’m reassured that they deserve all the success that comes their way. I highly encourage anyone interested in being challenged by music to check out Despistado; live if possible, on record when available. Keep your eyes and ears open because you don’t want to be THAT person who missed the band playing a small club before they explode…