Disbanded Saskatoon group releases their debut album for download
It’s sort of hilarious, but no one from Saskatoon’s From Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z can remember what year the band officially started. I send out a flurry of texts to several of the ex-members to no avail. The joke’s probably on me – I was living with guitarist Jared Beattie when he first started writing those songs with Levi Soulodre on our couch. And I can’t really remember either.
Too many parties, back then.
Collectively, we finally agree that it was roughly a decade ago when J, Levi, along with Tim Arsenault, Elsa Gebremichael and Jordan Schenstead got together to form one of the most awkwardly named bands to ever hail from Saskatoon. From Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z came together when Jared moved to Saskatoon and began playing music with Jordan under the name of Loaf. They met the others at the pre-renovation Louis’ of old at ‘open jam Sunday’. Levi was playing in Liberated Noise, Tim in Sparky and Elsa in Surface.
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“We bonded over our mutual love for Weezer and our mutual distaste for the Wheat Monkeys,” recalls Beattie. “When Loaf finally disintegrated, Liberated Noise and Surface were also gearing things downward. So basically, I came to town and raided the music scene larder for promising co-conspirators and then proceeded to choose those who were most attractive.”
And that name? Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Troy McClure plays the lead in the Planet of the Apes musical? Crucial watching. And screw the haters – From Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z is still a good name for a band even if it is clumsier than a drunken Charlton Heston.
The group recorded their debut album, Designs, with SJ Kardash, in a studio that was literally 30 seconds away from the Yard & Flagon, recalls Beattie.
Combining elements of punk, rock and shoegaze, along with plenty of dramatic breakdowns, Designs is characterized by the rich vocal harmonies throughout. But while the sound is primarily rooted in heavy guitar hooks there are several odd instrumentation flourishes throughout, says Beattie.
“We took our time. We spent way too much money. But I’m proud of it. We got to do a lot of extra studio trickery and chicanery that we feel paid off in a pretty diverse set of sounds and moods.”
They also toured their asses off, making it out to New York, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Which was awesome because I would get the house to myself for several weeks at a time.
“We got around fairly often. At one point, I think we were on the road every three or four months for a few weeks at a time,” says Beattie. “Being dirt poor is fun as fuck if your happiness is only hinged on a tank of gas and as much beers as you can drink. We were a reckless, get-in-the-van, drive-all-night, sleep-in-the-morning kinda crew.”
From most accounts, it was a good time.
“To be honest, I don’t have many vivid memories of ‘shows,'” admits Beattie. “I remember being the opening act to the 700B Epic Lawn Fight. I remember going to a water park in Western Ontario and Levi seeing Tim’s remarkably football-esque penis in the shower for the first time. I remember camping somewhere between Ottawa and New York and peeing in pristine lakes. I remember the most pungent smelling of strip clubs from Kelowna to Yonge Street. I remember inventing games in the van to pass the time, namely Zoomers and Boner Race.”
Playing across the country also netted them the attention of James Spooner, a filmmaker who was documenting the experience of black people in DIY-music culture through what eventually became the film Afro-Punk. This connection got them on the Afro-Punk compilation alongside Kimya Dawson, Mcrad and Yaphet Kotto.
“The first time we were in New York we were able to attend the initial screening and talk-back sessions,” says Beattie. “We slept on the director’s floor in a classic Cosby-esque brownstone in Brooklyn.”
Not surprisingly, but still hilarious, no one can seem to remember when Chimpan-A officially disbanded.
“I’m bad with dates and timeline, but LiveVictoria.com reports us as ‘broken up’ as of October 1, 2009,” offers Beattie.
“Long story short we were approaching a period where we seriously needed to consider if we were able to produce another recording, book another exhaustive set of tour dates and afford to continue living this fast ‘n’ loose lifestyle we’d been developing. In my opinion, then as now, we couldn’t. We had to cancel a full tour we’d booked. We started turning down shows. Practice and rehearsal became more infrequent as we were all on our personal grind to just eke out a living. Jordan decided to move to Alberta for his own reasons. That was tough. We then evaluated whether we wanted to recruit a new drummer and spend an eon getting them up to speed. The answer was ‘no.'”
Since then, all the members have moved on to other projects. J now plays in Haunted Souls, Levi in Slow Down Molasses and The Pxrtals, Tim kicks it in Adolyne, Elsa in We Were Lovers and Powder Blue, and Jordan spends his time in America playing with Rough People.
“We’ve reunited once or twice since. I’m sure we will again. We’ll always be the same line-up. We’ll always be on extended hiatus. We’ll always be friends first. And we’ll always have the dumbest motherfucking moniker in rock n ‘roll.”
– Huge thanks to Ryan Jackson/Punkoryan.com for the photos, and for diligently documenting a bygone era.