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Road runners 

Local punk and crust bands are more likely to pack up and truck it through North America than hit up local festivals. Mark Black talks to some locals who explain their love of the road.

click to enlarge Naplam Raid at home on the road.
  • Naplam Raid at home on the road.

By now Nova Scotia has—or should have—shed its image as an isolated backwater destination that's difficult to reach and even harder to leave. It's no surprise that bands from Nova Scotia are successful and constantly touring. What may come as a surprise is that there are bands in this city who are becoming more widely known outside Halifax than they are in within its confines.

Having completed five tours in the last 24 months, Napalm Raid is one of those bands. Reviews and interviews in long-standing punk zines like Profane Existence, Razorcake and Maximum RocknRoll have praised the group's raw and raging crust music. Location hasn't proven to be a detriment to the band, though Havoc Records joked in its catalogue that if Napalm Raid was from a crust hotbed like Japan instead of Halifax they would have sold all of their seven-inch singles by noon of that day.

Guitarist and vocalist of Napalm Raid, Corpse, stresses the importance of commitment over location.

"Being 12 to 14 hours away from the next largest city, which is Montreal, puts a damper on being able to tour," he says. "But being committed to saving money and realizing that you have to work really hard to get your asses on the road is harder."

Fellow Halifax crusties Contagium—veterans of more than 150 shows from Gainesville, Florida, to the woods of Nelson, BC—helped get Napalm Raid on the road.

"It's definitely hard your first time around, we were fortunate enough to go with Contagium, they had already done a tour or two before this one so they already had their foot in the door with contacts and stuff like that," says Corpse. "It's not as hard as everybody thinks it is—if I can do it, anyone can do it."

Set to release a customized Napalm Raid skateboard deck through Pro Skates this week and a new full-length album this spring—followed by a full North American tour—Napalm Raid has no intention of scaling back its commitments.

The local hardcore band Vixens also benefitted from playing memorable shows with Contagium. "We played our second show on tour with Contagium in Ottawa and that was so much fun," says singer Josie Stevens. "Playing with a local favourite in another province is a bit surreal but everyone sounds so much better and you feel real proud."

Coming off one of the first shows at new north end venue, Michael's, Slumlord and Whiskey Bent and Hellbound are two more local punk bands heading out on a tour of eastern Canada this Friday. Whiskey Bent and Hellbound is embarking on its second tour and Slumlord is heading out for the first time. TJ Kavanaugh, who does double duty in both bands—and is looking forward to eating some Montreal poutine—doesn't see living in Halifax as a stumbling block to touring. "If it were difficult being a Halifax-based touring band, I doubt I'd do it at all," he says. "It has its ups and downs, but there are certainly more ups than downs."

Whether it's to get away from a bad day job, survey the offerings of non-local karaoke bars or not get enough sleep, there are plenty of reasons for these bands to tour. "It's truly a blessing to travel around your country and see a bit of yourself receive such a great reception," says Stevens.

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