You Say Party! We Say Die! is a hard band to nail down. In its short lifespan, the group has been called dance-punk, party-rock, noise-rock, art-rock and pretty much any sub-genre in between. In fact, You Say Party! We Say Die! is one of the few bands that truly has to be seen live to be fully understood.
"People call us dance-punk, and I think a band like us, cause it's always exciting and there's exclamation points and it's always like "Woooo!' all the time, it's easy to dismiss us," says Stephen O'Shea, the band's bass player and founding member.
Perhaps most often lost behind the wall of dance-happy riffs and dark visual imagery is the band's sense of humour.
At a 2005 Christmas gig in Vancouver, lead singer Becky Ninkovic donned a giant box wrapped up to resemble a Christmas present with head and leg holes cut in it. Then she hit the stage and sang the first three songs of the set while wearing both the box and a beaming grin.
"When people complain about us they're like "What a stupid band with a stupid name,' and like "Bunch of pretentious scenesters,'" says O'Shea. "They don't even know us, we're the farthest thing from it."
After releasing the Danskwad EP in 2004, YSP! WSD! burst onto the indie scene with 2005's Hit the Floor LP. At first, the record sounds like it's made by another dance-punk band fronted by a Karen O wannabe. But subsequent listens reveal a much more dense and intricate sound. Beneath the dance grooves you can hear fully formed songs and Ninkovic's politically charged but personally filtered lyrics. These elements were purposely accentuated on the band's latest record, Lose All the Time, says O'Shea.
"We don't want to be stuck as this dance-punk band and everybody thinks we're just a bunch of scenesters that throw two minutes into writing a song and then its like "OK it's done. Perfect. Next song,'" says O'Shea. "There's actually a lot of thought that goes into what we do."
When it came time to record Lose All the Time in January, the band was very conscious of the pressures heaped on a sophomore release. O'Shea thinks most bands overthink their second record and end up making something stale.
YSP! purposely recorded as quickly as possible in order to keep the spontaneity that was such a huge element of Hit the Floor. "We knew that our songwriting was a lot stronger and so we put together the best album that we knew we could make at the time," he says.
Still, O'Shea thinks they'll never be able to capture the true essence of the group on record. But he also says that he doesn't really care.
"The whole point of the band...was to get on the road and tour," he says. Making records was just the best way to get word out to people about the band so they would come to the shows.
"I'd seen so many shows where there were bands playing and people just standing there," he says. "There's that bubble that you can't pop up front. Man, I want to be in a band and I want to see shows where the crowd and the band are interacting and having a good time."
O'Shea realized his desire to do this while hitchhiking across Canada, prior to forming YSP!WSD! In Charlottetown he witnessed a Wolfnote show that refocused his goals.
"It was that night that I realized that travelling is a lot of fun, but travelling and playing a show every night is even better," he says. "I think that all five of us have the travel bug in us and we really love to be on the road, playing shows and meeting new people."
Though the band has never played a show in the Maritimes (they've had them booked, but a blown brake system in Ontario got in the way) O'Shea spent a week here on his trip and he's been anxious to get back ever since.
"There's something about being close to the ocean," he says. "As a Vancouverite, that's something you just don't get once you leave when you go across Canada."
You Say Party! We Say Die! w/The Memories Attack, September 29 at The Attic, 1741 Grafton, 11pm, $10 adv/$14 door, ticketpro.ca, 888-311-9090