Thursday, 16 April 2015

Abandin All Hope. An Interview with Steve Crowe

Abandin in All Hope has been entertaining audiences for over 12 years. Their sound defies any one genre and can roughly be described as a mixture of punk, sak and rock. They truely are in a category of their own escaping all labels except for one; they are a Fort Mac Band. Three of the band members grew up in McMurray, all four work in Wood Buffalo and three of the band members continue to call this place home.

Culture Coordinator, Michael Beamish, sat down with drummer Steve Crowe to discuss twelve years of being a proud Fort Mac band.

Michael Beamish: Abandin in All Hope has been together for a long time now-

Steve Crowe: Since 2003. 

MB: Who were the original band members?

SC: Me, Darren Ehler, Tyler Goudreau and Justin Pearce. Justin left around 2005 and then we got Joey Delusong. Joey played with us from 2005-2010 but then left the band and moved to Edmonton. Then we had a dude named Matt who played with us for a year and now we have Kenny, Kenny Fitzpatrick. So it’s just that one spot that we can’t keep. I’m not blaming them, I’m blaming us. It’s not you it’s us.

MB: So what has 12 years in the music industry been like?

SC: We’ve always been and remain independent. Recording our own albums, promoting ourselves, booking our own shows, and making our own music.

MB: Why is that?   

SC: There are a lot of companies that call you up with these promises, “Oh we just want to work for you, get your stuff out there, and blah-blah-blah BUT YOU are going to have to pay us”. If they really wanted to help us they would take the risk.

MB: How do you promote yourselves? 

SC: Touring obviously would be the number one option. It gets us out to different areas, meet new people. Face to face time. We try to do the computer thing. Social media and the different websites. You know YouTube and all that.

MB: What is your highest selling album to date?

SC: Victims of Mockery. It was a 2007 release.

MB: Describe your band in one or two sentences.

SC: That’s impossible. I don’t know, I get it all the time…I don’t know what to say…I guess it is like legit people playing music, no alterative motives you know.

MB: You guys sing a lot about Fort Mac.

SC: Yep. A product of the environment I suppose.

MB: How has Fort McMurray influenced your music?

SC: The struggles of living here have made their way into our lyrics. There are different issues we deal with here than people in New York or Los Angeles.

MB: What kind of issues do you think people struggle with most here?

SC: Rent. Cost of rent. That is a big one here. Especially when it first did a big jump. It really hurt us.

MB: So what song reflects that?

SC: Lasso, there is a little bit in there about the price of rent. The song is also about how the town is kind of like a lasso. Yah know, like Tyler has moved away but he keeps coming back.

MB: For work?

SC: Yeah, he lives in Edmonton now but works thirty minutes away from Anzac. Even though he lives in Edmonton he still works here. He’s here most of the time. There was a point in our lives where everybody was trying to buy houses. We were all 20-25 year olds. I don’t think people deal with that so much in other places you know. Like half a million dollar mortgages or million dollar mortgages at the age of 23. “Just finished my music degree and I am going to take out a loan for $790,000”.

MB: Your songs mostly deal with having to work. Working life.

SC: Yeah. Work, life, the basics of human life. Songs about the pressure from parents who don’t want you to play music. Want you to go get the “good job” right off the bat right. There is stuff like that. It’s hard to say. Tyler would be the one to ask about that.

MB: So for you guy’s music is an outlet from your day jobs and the struggles here?

SC: Kind of but we do take it more serious than that. Music is not a job but it’s more than a hobby. It’s the other part of life. Everybody has to go to work and I’m sure everybody goes home and does something that they want to do. Music is what we do.

MB: So who is your audience?

SC: At this point I feel like we have a bit of a cult following.

MB: And who’s in the cult?

SC: You know it’s not like it’s not popularized. It’s not mainstream. We are at the point where the band is like four different sub-genres of like four different sub-genres.

MB: What would those sub-genres be? 

SC: Well under the umbrella of let’s call it Alternative Music. You go down that list of different types of Alternative and then find Rock Music and Punk Music and Ska Music and then from there you break that down a little more and we would be in the Skate Punk, Ska with no horns that play Rock Music. So it’s very specific and I also think that is the trouble too right.
MB: That you don’t fit into a genre?

SC: Yeah, if we played something that sounded like somebody else I would have an easier time marketing our band. I would have a way easier time because people when say, “What do you sound like?” I’m always like, “Ah … I don’t really know”. We even joke around about it. We were joking about it last night. We were on Spotify and we looked up our band and it gives you similar artists. Every single similar artist sounds nothing like our band. Not even close. Completely different styles of music.

MB: That’s great though.

SC: It’s ok but from a marketing standpoint it’s impossible, you know what I mean, because you want to be like, “Oh if you like them you’re going to like us” but if you like the bands who they compare us to, like Avenge Sevenfold was one, if you Like Avenge Sevenfold then I don’t think you’re going to like us. But apparently if you like us you’re going to like them I don’t understand it doesn’t work out for us too well. Not being like somebody else is a bit of a detriment to the band. I am not trying to say we are super original or anything but it just works out. I haven’t heard of anybody like us. I ask tons of people, “Who do we sound like?” and I haven’t gotten any good answers. Most people say they don’t know and that’s okay because I don’t know either. Rise Against is one that comes up fairly often and I think that’s an ok comparison but they don’t play a lighter Ska style which we do from time to time.

MB: But it’s not really Ska either. 

SC: No.

MB: It’s punk but not so punk.

SC: Not so punk, yeah, you can see what I’m saying. Who do we market to? Who’s our audience?

MB: Yeah who is your audience?

SC: I don’t know.

MB: Where do you get your biggest followings? In Fort Mac?

SC: Umm, not necessarily. It is Fort Mac but not necessarily in Fort Mac. It is people from Fort Mac and all the people we grew up with in Fort Mac, who have moved all over the place. It’s kind of nice when we go and play in different places, like when we played in Vancouver, there were people there we knew from years ago. The whole place was like Fort McMurray.

MB: Really?

SC: Yeah, like there must have been 30 or 40 people from Fort McMurray in that bar that night. It felt like a night at home. It is the same when we go to Edmonton. We are playing there next month. I looked at the Facebook group and there is 55 people from McMurray. When you go to a bar in a different town and you see 55 of your friends it’s a pretty interesting. We know lots of people we went to school with that now live in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Vancouver, you name it. I guess those are the people that kind of took our stuff and spread it to their new groups down there.

MB: So is that how you set up your tours? You get connected with people that are originally from Fort Mac?

SC: Yeah. I would say in almost every music scene in western Canada there is somebody from Fort McMurray involved.

MB: And they hook you up?

SC: Yeah

MB: They give you a call and their like hey Steve-

SC: Yeah once in a while you know. We just booked a couple shows next month with James Renton who is from here. He booked us at a bar he is working at on Whyte Ave. So you know there is him and there is another guy down the street, Rob Gilles, who used to live here. He runs the DV8 bar and then if you even go a little further down the street, Mikey McCaffey, is working at Wunderbar. So it’s almost every bar I feel like there is somebody from Fort McMurray involved. There is never a shortage of people we grew up with or know.

MB: Does the band grow every year or does it kind of go up and down?

SC: Yeah it kind of plateaus and then it, you know. There are points where we don’t play for a long time and then people are like oh I didn’t even know they still played.

MB: Oh really? And then you pick it up again.

SC: Yeah. You just keep on going yah know. I don’t know what to say about it really. There have been points though where people just didn’t even think we were still going. Yeah, it’s always there.

MB: So what’s the future of the band? Where do you guys see it going?

SC: I’m not sure. Work has really taken over in some ways. Like Darren is now on at Suncor. Tyler is with PCL but working out at camp. He just took a staff position out there.

MB: So probably no big tour this summer?

SC: If there is it’s going to be one in the fall when the album is good and ready.  Yah no summer tour it doesn’t look like. Tyler is on 14 and 7 so when he gets off he goes home and by the time he gets up here and we get going, tours done, he’s got to go back to work.

MB: Wow, so it really is a Fort Mac band. 

SC: Yeah I guess eh.

MB: Everyone works at site and everyone has a mortgage.

SC: Yeah, it’s true. Except for Kenny.

MB: Oh really?

SC: Yeah, he is good though. He grew up in Saprae Creek and went to Comp. He is quite a bit younger than us. He was in a local band when we first started. He and his bandmates were all 13 years old at the time. We played this Future Fest concert with them up at Westwood Theatre. They played a similar style to us so we reached out to them and were like, “Hey guys if you need any help or anything we are here to help”. We did some recordings for them, helped them, and showed them what to do like promoting the band and all that. Then they moved away. Years later they actually helped us out with a recording in Vancouver. Kenny and Shane from that band were living there working at a studio and they had us down. We tracked the drums, guitars and everything. Then Kenny moved to Halifax to go with his parents who had just retired there. Then our guitarist Matt, moved away and we thought oh man it would be nice to have somebody closer to home, so we got a guy from Halifax. The good thing was Kenny moved back here. He moved back here to play with the band. 

MB: So is he working on site too?

SC: No, he works at what is it called? Lone Wolfe? You know when you go into the bathrooms and there is like the soap dispenser stuff? They say Lone Wolfe on there. Kenny drops off the soap. He does deliveries for all the different companies in town.

MB: Is there a favorite tour or a favorite show that sticks out to you in all of your 12 years?

SC: I don’t know. They all blend together at a certain point. There are so many. We kind of do the same kind of concentric circle all the time. Fort Mac, Edmonton, Calgary, Kelowna, Vancouver, Saskatoon…I guess if I had to pick one, the one with Joey, it was like a ten day one. Most of them are ten days. That was the one where Joey got his tattoo, I don’t know if you remember that one?

MB: No, I don’t know that story.

SC: Okay, I will try to retell it as best I can. Me and Tyler watched that movie Wild Hogs, do you remember when that came out? It’s a ridiculous movie, it’s really funny. There is a nerdy character in it and it was played my William H. Massey, and he was like a computer nerd kind of biker guy. So anyways he shows up for their biking road trip and he says, “Hey guys I got a tat!” He pulls up his sleeve and it’s the old Apple logo with the rainbow from I don’t know, 1986. So, me and Tyler, were kind of joking around when we were driving and Joey was probably snoring his head off in the back. Tyler made me a deal that he would buy me a Mac Book if I could convince Joey to get the apple tattoo. The old school, rainbow, apple tattoo. So we were driving and it was an overnight drive.

MB: What were you driving?

SC: The old camper van.

MB: Like a Winnebago?

SC: It was a van with the conversion with the top bunk and everything. It was a pretty nice van but the brakes were clearly failing. It was two in the morning, in the mountains, in the dark, we were going down these hills and the whole van was shuttering. So we decided that we better pull over in Kamloops and see if somebody could fix it. We get to Kamloops at like 5 in the morning and rolled the van into a brake place. We were sitting there waiting for it to open and that’s when I started on Joe. Kind of like, “Yah know man what would be really cool dude? You should get a tattoo”. I spent hours working on him. We checked the van in at like eight in the morning and we started walking around downtown Kamloops. I continued working on Joey and I was getting him pretty pumped up about it. He thought the idea of the apple tattoo was great. It was so weird, we found this new age bookstore that just happened to do tattoos.

MB: What? 

SC: Right?

MB: A bookstore that does tattoos?

SC: Some lady owned this bookstore and her boyfriend that had just moved there from New Zealand was tattooing in the back. So anyways we went in and asked him how much is this going to cost and blah, blah, blah. I had Joey fully pumped up and ready to go. He goes in, sits down, and says this is what I want. The guys goes, “Alright where do you want it?” And Joey points to his neck and says, “Right here”. At this point I am freaking out. We can’t do this to him this is a joke. We can’t let him get that tattoo on his neck! Luckily the tattoo guy talked him out of it and he settled for having it on his love handle. The idea being that if he had his shirt off and he was swimming he could put his hands down by his sides like this and nobody would see it. Ridiculous. So, he gets the tattoo. It’s funny too cause we are in BC and we are on tour, obviously were planning on swimming, waterslides, or whatever it may be, boating. We could get up to anything but now Joey is out of commission because he has a bag on his side. Tattoo can’t get wet for like three, four days right. Just in time for the tour to get finished. The best part was we finished playing the shows, we drive home and we
arrive in Edmonton. There used to be a movie theater on 99th. I forget what it’s called but they played movies that were already gone from the theaters for like $3 or something. So we are driving home. It was me, Tyler and Joey on our way back to either Joey’s or Tyler’s place in North Edmonton. We drove past the theatre and I was like, “Dude its playing Wild Hogs!” This can’t be more perfect. This is the last night of the tour. So we convince Joey to go watch it and he’s like, “Oh no you guys have already seen it why would you want to go watch it again?” So we convinced him that it was so great that we had to go see it again in the theater because DVD doesn’t do it justice. So we brought Joey in to see the movie and it was hilarious. As soon as the part in the movie came where the guy rode up on the bike and said, “I got a tat!” He looked at us and he was like, “Seriously are you f@#$ing serious!?” And the whole theater was like, “What is going on?” The worst part about it was the scene happens about 15 minutes in so we had to sit there with him fuming mad for the entire film. When we left the theater Joey was ranting that there was going to be a lifetime of payback for me and Tyler. Yeah that was pretty good.

MB: Did Tyler actually buy you that laptop? 

SC: No. He never did.

MB: He owes you.

SC: Yeah, he does…That’s Joey though. He wasn’t the hardest guy to convince to do anything, ever. It was fun. So that was probably the funniest tour.

MB: So what do you love about playing music? Or just playing in general?

SC: That’s hard to say. I never think about that. What do I love about it?

MB: Is it being on stage or is it just being with the group?

SC: That’s fun too. Yeah. I don’t know there are lots of things about it that are ok. That’s a tough one. Anybody ever asked you that? What do you like about acting?

MB: The connection with the audience.

SC: OK. Put me down for that. I guess so. What else? Getting your friends to get tattoos.

MB: So it’s the tours?

SC: Yeah. Stupid stuff right.

MB: So it’s being with the group, the guys?

SC: Yeah. It’s like a little club that just keeps hanging out way past when we should. I think we are all supposed to be married and have houses and stuff. Same old. What is it? Not wanting to grow up?

MB: You do have houses.

SC: That’s true.

MB: So you guys never set out to change music?

SC: Change the music industry?

MB: Yeah.

SC: No.

MB: Do you have a political message?

SC: That’s a huge undertaking.

MB: It’s just been about hanging out and singing about where you’re from?

SC: Yeah I guess and if it perhaps did eventually change things then great that’s fine.

MB: That’s hilarious, you became unique by not trying to be anything. That’s awesome.

SC: Yeah. What can you do right? If you have that kind of a lofty goal to change something like a billion dollar industry, how are you going to pull that off? Has anybody ever done that? There have been people that have come out and said that. “We’ve change the face of music!” Did you? I don’t think they ever really did, no. It’s just a big machine that keeps chugging along. It brings people along for the ride sometimes. There is not much else you can do with it really. They will do what they want to do and I guess we will just continue doing what we want to do. What is the record industry? It’s a ton of companies that have a bunch of money. Sometimes they will throw you a bunch of money and say, “Try and make us more”. For every act they probably sign it’s probably one in ten that actually does well but their costs have to go to recoup all the money they lost on the other nine. I don’t think the bands do that well. It’s pretty rare when bands actually get rich compared to the record companies. A few have succeeded. When a company signs a band they don’t really give them a payment it is more like a loan with unlimited interest-forever. They will give you $100,000 to record a record but then the company gets every cent of that for eternity. The only thing you get is, what, your royalties-maybe. If a band would put out that record themselves they would be making a lot more money.

MB: Which is what you guys do?

SC: Yeah but we don’t have any money so it backfired. Which is fine.

MB: But you have remained independent.

SC: Hmm. Yep. I think NOFX is a good model for how he managed to make his empire. He did a pretty good job at trying to change the music industry but I don’t think it really changed much. But the way he did it is different, which is good. He does things his own way.

MB: Records himself or produces himself?

SC: Yeah he’s got his own little group of friends and they record their own music. He doesn’t sign anybody to deals. It’s always just one album at a time. You could bring him your next album and he might not like it so he might not put it out, right. It’s very day to day compared to Aerosmith who signed a 17 album deal or something like that. To get out of that contract would be impossible. That’s like a 25 year project you know. Imagine writing a song that you thought was amazing then bringing it to the people in charge of putting it out and having them be like, “I don’t think so man, try again.” And you gotta do that for 25 years! Aerosmith probably got paid like 100 million dollars to do that. I guess that’s the tradeoff. I don’t really know much else about it but it seems like to me, why wouldn’t you want to be independent? Nobody has their hands in your pockets and nobody is telling you what to do.

MB: It’s about the experience.

SC: Yeah. Just do it. Just do whatever you want.

MB: Just do whatever you want.

SC: That’s what it’s about.

MB: I like that…Thanks for speaking with me Steve it’s been a pleasure.

SC: Anytime Beamish. Hey, can I ask you a question?

MB: What’s that?

SC: Do you have any tattoos?

MB: No why?

SC: No reason…ever thought of getting one?

For updates, show information, and tour dates please like Abandin All Hope on Facebook, . To purchase their albums go to iTunes or visit Stay tuned for the release of their next album Final Act of Selflessness which will be coming out soon.  

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