Slam Dunk is some kind of happy accident, a series of jokes that continues to escalate. The group's first incarnation was as a one-off cover band for a cancer benefit in its hometown of Victoria in 2009.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Jordan Minkoff explains the genesis: "We got together kind of as a joke and said 'Let's just cover our favourite Misfits songs.' Then we decided to cover some Fleetwood Mac and some Traveling Wilburys just to even it out a bit," he says, giggling. "We had so much fun we did it again and then decided to write our own songs. We got really carried away and the joke kept going and going, and now here we are; we're still making a joke of ourselves."
In the two short years following, Slam Dunk has become one of the west coast's most talked-about live bands. Known for its unbridled enthusiasm, Slam Dunk plays a ferocious brand of gritty garage-pop that flirts briefly with elements of free-jazz, Afrobeat and dream pop. Earlier this year, in an effort to capture those powerful live sets, the band recorded and self-released its debut LP, The Shivers.
"We recorded it in some barn in one night and then we did vocals after in a weird art gallery that basically sounds like a giant chamber. It's a weird-sounding record, eh?" Minkoff says casually.
During a stop at this year's Sled Island festival, The Shivers was sought after by current Buzzcocks drummer Danny Farrant. "He was freaking out over our drummer. We asked if he wanted our record, but he said he was too drunk to hold onto it and then just disappeared into the night," says Minkoff. "We gave him our number and I think he called in the morning, but we were sleeping." Not too interested in careering, casual hobnobbing is just another bit of tour fun for Slam Dunk: "We were playing the same venue as Lee Ranaldo in Calgary and there was a piano museum upstairs, so we spent the afternoon wandering around a museum with him, secretly filming each other standing next to him. Every time we're on tour and we see someone famous, we like to follow them around like a bunch of stalkers."
This most recent tour marks Slam Dunk's first performances in eastern Canada. Aside from bassist Caitlin Gallupe (who's toured the east coast with Immaculate Machine), none of the members have been to Halifax. "Every time we play around Canada and meet someone from Halifax, they tell us 'Oh, you gotta come to Halifax! People will love you there,'" says Minkoff. "We're finally going to test that out and see if it's true. Apparently you guys like bands with loud guitars? We've got that going: 'loud' and 'guitars.'"
After two shows at Pop Montreal, the members of Slam Dunk will cram into a five-seater van with fellow Victorian three-piece Babysitter and head for the coast. In terms of expectations for this leg of the tour, Minkoff remains blithe: "I hope to have some really sweaty shows," he says enthusiastically. "We encourage people to get as crazy as they want and not have their hands in their pockets. But they can do whatever they want because it's also funny when people just stand and stare at you freaking out. We'll make due. We like to laugh a lot on tour."
Slam Dunk w/Babysitter, Quivers, Scribbler, Thursday, September 29, 10:30pm, Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola Street, $5
Slam Dunk w/Babysitter, Hind Legs, Friday, September 30, 7pm, 1313 Hollis Street, $5
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