By Benjamin Willems
This year, Derek Janzen (lead singer of Wand) was promoted to being “mostly in charge” of organizing Landisfest near his hometown in northern Alberta. According to the website, “Saturday morning there is a pancake breakfast which is included in the ticket price. Saturday evening there is also a feast that is provided which is free for all who come to share the weekend with us.” This seems to summarize Derek’s songwriting aesthetic: for those who come to listen, there will be a feast.
Mount St. Helens, the title of Wand’s latest album, probably wouldn’t appear in many prairie songs, nor would five-four time signatures, et cetera. But as dynamic as Janzen’s music gets, the drum-machines, the rough-around-the-edges vocals, the way he layers the instruments over one another feels kind of nourishing to me. A prairie-esque feast by a prairie boy—sometimes difficult to digest, sometimes initially a little flat, but all the while wholesome. This is a brave move in a culture where people really like bass drops and surround-sound synth-pad stuff. Both live and recorded, Wand brings modesty, a love for garagey post-punk/DIY production, handmade CDs and songwriting with actual research put into it. Any band that brings an Omnichord onstage with them means business, especially when it kind of needs to be rewired.
Janzen just received a grant from FACTOR to go toward a music video. Although this was his first grant, this will not be his first music video. His previous videos were, as you’ve probably guessed, prairie-like, scrappy, and necessarily scrappy. I wonder if any amount of money will get Derek out of the realm of scrappy and I really hope not. Scrappy is important. That doesn’t really need to be said.
After a season or two of opening for Blackout Beach, Himalayan Bear, Dominique Fricot and Snoqualmie. And literally just after a live set at CFUV, at least three-fifths of Wand (Jordan Soles, keys; Ephraim Welle, bass; and Derek himself) left Victoria for the summer. Derek has gone back to Grande Prairie, Alberta, for money and a wife and probably some family stuff. People are kind of used to that around here, I guess. Jzero Schuurman and Ashton Klassen (drums and casio, respectively) will keep busy without them, working on their own projects—Jzero running a new music venue, the Copper Owl, and Ashton drumming up gigs for his other band, Goose Lake.
After a hectic year, you think Derek would want to take a break instead of shooting a music video, organizing a music festival, practicing and posting killer videos on Vine every day. But I guess prairie boys like to work hard. In the fall, Derek has a bass guitarist (Connor Munro from Rooney and the Minglers) lined up for their set at Rifflandia, but not necessarily as a permanent thing. That would stress me out, but in my emails to Derek, he’s only seemed ready to keep hoping for passable sound-checks: “I still feel like Wand’s trajectory could really go anywhere at this point and that we don’t have much of a hold on where our little band is heading.”
“Just try and play as many shows as you possible can and never stop. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a little coffee shop or someone’s basement, play as much as possible.” That’s one even the non-DIYers and the anal five-year-plan people like me can take to heart.
If you’re in the city for Rifflandia, it might a good year to go. And if you do end up going, I’d recommend seeing Wand. And if you don’t end up going, I have a hunch they’ll be here and there at the Copper Owl.