June 23, 2004
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 â€˜80s or â€˜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 butâ€¦ 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.”
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