We found Toronto's Dragged In, Choices Made, and The Slime about the same time last year and were impressed with the new releases each had put out. Dragged In have the most seniority having been in existence for about 6 years now with Choices Made and The Slime being more junior at about 2 years each. All 3 bring something different to the table stylistically and I'm pretty confident that those who listen to the latest by all 3 of these bands will walk away with at least 1 new band to get hyped about. Group interviews that ask the same questions can be fun and this is one of those times. Read on and find some new music while getting better acquainted with what's going on in the Toronto underground music scene. Check out them links at the end of this article to dig in deeper. Noise From The North graphic by: Andrew Wright.
DRAGGED IN is: Patty O’Lantern- vocals, Bruce Headley- drums, Marty Poulin- guitar, Ryan Cox- guitar, Dave Fenton- bass. Formed in 2015 they released two EP’s in 2016 (“EPI” and “EPII”). In April of 2020 they released their first full length titled “LPI”. Upcoming is a track on an SNFU tribute record as well as the release of a live video set that was recorded in November when lockdown restrictions were not as limiting. Look for the live video set to be released in the next month through Cursed Blessings Records.
CHOICES MADE is: Josh- vocals, Steve- guitar, Andrew- bass, Mike- drums. Formed in June of 2018 they have released the “Don’t Settle For Them!” EP (September 2018), the “Convince” EP (February 2020), a track on a Cursed Blessings compilation as well as 4 singles between June of 2020 and January of this year. Up next is the “Reason For Conflict” 7” which is due out in April/May of this year.
THE SLIME is: Robert Pasiak – guitar, CD – bass, Andy Mc – vocals, Derek Stewart – drums. Formed in July of 2019 they have released a demo titled “Rough Cutz” (July 2019), the “Bitter Dream” EP (January 2020), a single in “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and their latest which is “Coming Soon To An Alley Near You” which came out in December of 2020. In addition they have been featured on compilations on River Monster Records, Lockdown Records and Cursed Blessings.
IE: For people who have never heard of your band give a brief description of what you guys are all about stylistically as well as with your message.
Dragged In: We aren’t really trying to sound like anything in particular, but we draw influences from a lot of things and it unintentionally finds its way into the overall sound. A mix of all kinds of punk and hardcore, too many to name really but definitely a lot of influences from the 80’s and 90’s bands. Definitely some metal as well, like more on the stoner metal side but at the same time we have to acknowledge Black Sabbath and Motorhead as there can be similar elements at times. We have been compared to Dag Nasty as well, which we don’t get, but appreciate the comparison nonetheless. Black Flag, Bl’ast, and Gorilla Biscuits are comparisons from some folks as well. There are elements of Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu at times too. Sometimes riffs get inspired by a certain tune or vibe from whatever we may be listening to and our own interpretation and representation of that comes out. If there had to be a name assigned to it we would say hardcore punk rock and roll. We have more of a classic hardrcore sound versus a more modern tough guy/breakdown type of thing, but we are happy to hang with that crowd any time. The lyrical content talks about overcoming adversity, believing in yourself, and powering through hard times, just like the current state of affairs. Patty draws a lot of influence from “Scrantonicity”, not “Scrantonicity II”, full stop. At the same time, you could say he is heavily influenced by both “Scrantonicity’s”.
Choices Made Josh: Basically, to sum up the Choices Made ethos, would be that our priority here is fun. We play this music to unleash that inner feeling of dread... dreading your daily routine work life. That feeling of panic... when you see where we are right now with the state of the world. Music for us is a form of release, and there is no judgement for how you want to bring that to the table. So we have fun and just lay it all on the line with every jam session and every show.
Choices Made Andrew: Our sound has been compared to Sick Of It All, Ensign and Good Riddance. I guess a mix of NYHC with California punk rock. As Josh said, this band is about having fun and a release, not just for us, but hopefully people who listen to it themselves. Josh’s lyrics have a lot of social commentary and are more relevant than ever now. I like to think that we’re offering not just great listening songs, but some food for thought, and if nothing else, give people a reason to be a better human being.
THE SLIME: We are an old school hardcore punk band with a strong vein of crossover thrash and noise rock in in the blood. Robert and Derek started out playing B tuned grindcore and crust and the plan was to get an outfit together to make that sound. It evolved to something less dark and more fun with the other guys joining the lineup. Andy Mc brought more of a late 80’s street style to our early 80’s hardcore leanings which is how we developed our crossover thrash pivot. We listen to subversive music of all varieties. Everything from death metal and grindcore to rockabilly, surf and exotica inspire us. Poison Idea, Negative Approach and Articles of Faith influence us. We use horror movie, cult and B movie iconography to send the message that you should get out there, have fun, party, fight and fist-pump and have a sense of humor about the whole fucking thing.
IE: Give a short overview of the current Toronto hardcore/punk scene.
Dragged In: Everyone stayed home from shows before the pandemic, now their excuse is getting government approval. Toronto is a cool scene in that there’s any style of music here happening across a number of venues, with a handful of shows any given night. You could catch a set in a DIY basement somewhere, and head to The Bovine Sex Club to see some of the local stars, and then catch a headliner at the Velvet or the Horseshoe and keep it within a couple of blocks. For heavy music the mainstays have been The Hard Luck, The Bovine Sex Club, and Sneaky Dee’s on occasion. Duffy’s also books bands too. Then there are the larger concert hall types of places that will bring through the larger touring acts. There was another bar Coalition (RIP) that closed right before the pandemic hit and it was a great spot and did a lot for touring bands. Overall there’s not a lot of cohesion across the scene and some smaller factions of people that run their own thing in any of the places mentioned above, or in their own DIY spaces.
We have been getting along great with the dudes from Choices Made. We first met them opening for Ignite a couple years back. That was a great night, and they’re a great band. They are also putting out a release on Cursed Blessings Records. Cursed Blessings has a lot of local and Canadian bands on the roster, so that would be a great place to dive in to for a taste of what’s happening in Toronto. We are friends with a lot of bands such as SAGO, School Damage, Absolut, Last Agony, Brutal Youth, The Almighty Trigger Happy, and Hotel Murder. These are a few that we would suggest folks check out as well.
As for record shops, there has been a lot of punk-centric record stores over the years, but they’ve all closed. Faith/Void, Hits And Misses, Noise Annoys, and Hammer City Records (in Hamilton) would be the top punk shops from the past. Rotate This would probably be the longest standing and running shop in Toronto, and they carry a lot of punk and hardcore. Sonic Boom has some too, and Grasshopper. I mean every record shop carries some given its prevalence, but we have seen a lot of the stores that were run by community members shut down unfortunately.
CHOICES MADE PHOTO BY: MATT MANNA
Choices Made Josh: Tough question, simply because I actually have not thought about trying to explain this to someone outside my scene. If I were to talk about some local bands that I think are killing it, I would say Dragged In, School Damage, Sago... but there are just so many. Bovine Sex Club is our home away from home as a venue that gives so many of us bands a chance to play to a dedicated crowd that will come out and show us a good time regardless of the night or line up. Missing that place a lot right now.
Choices Made Andrew: So many good bands in Toronto right now. Loving The Slime, Cancer Bats and No Warning. Check out The Slime’s answer to this question. They pretty much said it all.
THE SLIME @TAIL END OF THE JUNCTION, TORONTO. PHOTO BY: VICTOR BOECHAT PHOTOGRAPHY
THE SLIME: Before the pandemic, we had some amazing smaller and mid-size venues that were accessible for emerging bands – notable would be SeeScape which is a science-fiction and horror themed games café with a stage, Hard Luck Bar, Cherry Cola’s, Smiling Buddha – all places that you could expect to see some heavy music pretty regularly and get a cheap beer.
There were also some legendary illegal or semi legal DIY venues. The Jopohaus was the best, our buddy Alan’s apartment on Davenport Street that set up a squat/show venue for punk shows about once a month. Most of us starting out got to play a couple of those insane parties. There would be so many people the floors would be bowing. Once someone shit in the bathtub. There’s a documentary out about it on YouTube. Most people knew about Jopohaus from their old school flyers that said “Venue location: ask a punk for details”. But like most things, these basement and garage venues come and go depending on money and time and people’s investment. Steve Goof from the OG punk band Bunchoffuckinggoofs has a basement venue that is fucking amazing and I think still going. I hope we get to play there again.
A major problem here is that real estate is expensive, and as soon as something starts being set up, it gets popular and then DIY gets squeezed out. A perfect example was the venue S.H.I.B.G.B’s which got closed down for noise infractions as soon as the industrial street it was on got cool. Same thing with record stores… we have had a rotation of amazing stores over the years and we still have one or two doing interesting things… Rotate This for example… but in terms of places to buy heavy music, our one focused store Faith/Void didn’t make it in 2018. We have a lot of places you can buy Fleetwood Mac on vinyl though.
Bands that were and are making interesting punk racket are our buddies Choices Made… shout out to their bass player Andrew who is also the talented artist who designed Zappy, our ghoul on the cover of our latest EP, Gag Order, Plastic Heads, Dragged In, Hellaphant, Maldita, A.S.O.P, Keelie, Burdizzo, Bad Option, and Anakra were all making amazing music before the pandemic and still are although this is all virtual now.
Because we can’t gig anymore (which is all we used to do) we spend a lot of time online, and we are seeing a lot of digital releases, YouTube videos, art videos, compilations and podcasts from these bands which inspire us. We also have a great Toronto record label called Cursed Blessings which is keeping stuff rolling here. We wouldn’t say the scene has a distinctive sound yet. We aren’t Boston or New York like that. Instead I would say the thing that unites the Toronto sound is a love of partying and fun. Toronto can be a grim and money-oriented place. Punk and hardcore bands here stand in opposition to that and bring art and counterculture and living life intensely as a value instead. (At the time this interview took place The Slime were donating a free The Slime t-shirt to anyone who donated money to a fund raiser for “Save Toronto’s Music Venues”). Click HERE for the social media page.
IE: Three things you love about living in Toronto?
1: Some great park spaces to get lit in, Party Marty likes beers in the park.
2: The music scene, we are spoiled with all the great bands that are out there.
3: Doesn’t matter where you play and for how many people, there’s always someone with their arms crossed at the shows, standing right up front looking miserable.
Choices Made Josh: If I were to say 3 things I love about living in Toronto: access, people, culture.
1:Free health care.
2: Legalized marijuana.
IE: Three things that suck about living in Toronto?
1: Finding a place to live.
3: Brad Manners from School Damage.
Choices Made Josh: Traffic, rent prices (actually the cost of living in more ways than just dollars would be a factor as it takes a toll on anyone in a big city trying to just get by. But you can find solace and enjoy beauty where you can find it here.
1: Buying booze from the state-run liquor store with dumb hours.
2: The music scene here can be cliquey and closed, although it fronts like it is inclusive.
3: Expensive as fuck and a place where making money is king to a lot of people.
IE: Considering the state of the world right now where would you like to see your band at this time next year?
DRAGGED IN PHOTO BY: ROD ORCHARD
Dragged In: Even just playing one show within the next year would be sweet. Getting to play the Sick of It All and Agnostic Front shows we have booked for April 2021 in Montreal, Quebec and Toronto would be a stretch goal. Recording a new EP would be another focus, hoping to do this with The Jerry Farley who mixed “LPI” and who mixed our SNFU track. He’s amazing at what he does and great to work with because he’s such a rad dude. Really excited to see him take on a more active role in production and the recording process as to date he has come in purely to mix but has added so much to the end result.
Choices Made Josh: We keep ourselves pretty busy doing what we do so I will stick with something I know most people will agree with... just playing shows. I want to be back on that stage. Playing the music I love to people in a room who just want to have a good time. We all have to do our part right now. Concerts will be one of the last things to get up and running... so I just want to be a part of that again. No other expectations.
Choices Made Andrew: Yeah, we’re hoping to be back up and playing as many shows as we can, pushing the release of our new 7” “Reason For Conflict” which will be released by Cursed Blessings Records this year and of course everything that goes with it… new merchandise and I’m pretty sure new music too.
THE SLIME @THE BOVINE SEX CLUB, TORONTO, JANUARY, 2020.
PHOTO BY: VICTOR BOECHAT PHOTOGRAPHY
The Slime: Sliming up the world basically. Gigging again is our main goal, we want to get back out there playing music and listening to live music. We have another EP in the works as well. This one is weirder, busier, more complex, more cerebral even? We will be releasing that in 2021.
IE: Anything else you want to add? Shout outs? Words of wisdom?
Dragged In: Shout out to our label Cursed Blessings for putting out our record and their incredible support. They’ve been keeping the scene going through all of this with a lot of great releases and things coming down the pipeline. Go check them out and buy some of their upcoming releases!
Choices Made Andrew: A huge thanks to Cursed Blessings Records for having faith in Choices Made, and to everyone who has paid for, streamed or supported us with the new music that we have been putting out this past year. This virus has fucked us all, but it’s not the end. Let’s stay safe, be respectful of everyone and let’s all just be better humans to each other. We look forward to seeing everyone at a show soon!
The Slime: Keep the music heavy and the vibe light.
DRAGGED IN @44 FEST 2016, OPERA HOUSE, TORONTO. PHOTO BY: ROD ORCHARD