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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Whip Smart

Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday August 6, 05:43 pm
These local rockers are on the verge of something big

Photo Credit: curtesy of the band


Saturday 15

The Capitol


“Sah-wing battah battah battah!” someone yells.


A baseball comes shooting out of the machine, whizzing toward Pistolwhips bassist Zach Davies, who cracks the ball. But it shoots wild and foul into the air, causing me to duck like a sucker — even though I’m outside the cage and protected by the fence. Thankfully, no one notices. Or if they do, they don’t make a big deal out of it.


I’m socking a few dingers at the batting cages with perhaps Saskatoon’s hottest young band of rock ‘n’ roll ne’er-do-wells, The Pistolwhips.


“What I like about this is that we all were all equally shitty [at hitting],” says Davies as the band and I sit down near the mini-golf course. A couple of the guys are a bit hungover, passing around a bottle of Vitamin Water. The night before, they’d been hanging out at The Capitol for the open stage night.


“Tuesday at the Capitol is killing it,” says Davies, with the others agreeing. “It’s fun, it’s busy, and the music is good too.”


It’s not all partying and batting cages though; right before they met me, the band had come from a meeting at the bank.


“We finally set up our business account, which has been a long time coming,” says singer and guitarist Rylan Schultz.


“We started getting cheques written to The Pistolwhips, and we couldn’t cash them,” laughs Davies.


“It was born out of necessity, to get paid,” adds guitarist Paul Kuzbik. “We’re getting to a point where the business side is ramping up, and we need to take it more seriously.”


The Pistolwhips is a band in an interesting place — teetering right on the cusp of being able to call music their full-time job, but understandably both nervous and excited about taking the plunge.


If nothing else, it’s been a fast rise. When I met them three years ago, they were all playing in other projects (and their drummer, Tallus Scott, wasn’t even  aboard yet). They got together with a few songs and booked a show at Amigos for the hell of it. The show went well, and more followed. Then they cut an EP and wrangled their way into Canadian Music Week, which also got them a spot at Jazzfest. Now, they’re putting their John Hancocks on official-looking financial paperwork together.


“It’s a good feeling,” says Schultz.


“We would all like this to be our job,” says Kuzbik.


“That’s what we want — for this to be our full-time gig,” agrees Davies. “And with the way that things are progressing, it’s not so much of a pipe dream anymore.”


In the last year, the foursome has made the band a priority, each telling me how they’ve cut back their hours at work or are maneuvering around their schedules to make things happen. It was a “just for fun” project in the beginning, but now I’m clearly speaking with a band in a state of change, one that’s realizing there could be something much more to what they’ve created together. It means they’re busier than ever and they have to take things seriously enough to have bank appointments, but it’s also palpably exciting to watch.


“It’s the tough in-between time,” says Schultz. “In the last three months, we’ve had two weekends off, I think. We’re in that weird in-between time where we’re trying to pay our bills, but the band is getting going and playing lots. We’re super busy and spending a lot of time on it, but it’s that awkward stage where it’s not our full-time thing yet.”


Touring is what’s been taking up a good deal of The Pistolwhips’ time for the last fair while. They’ve been to 28 cities coast to coast this year so far, in a tour van that was destroyed in a t-boning accident the day they got back into town. Now they have a new, clean white tour van named Chelsea, and they’re about to embark on another 12 shows, from here to Vancouver, including a couple of festivals along the way.


“It’s important for us to hit those markets again and reconnect with those fans again,” says Schultz. “We really want to establish ourselves as a touring band in Canada, a prominent touring band.”


It’s obvious that they’re as hardworking as four youthful Springsteens, between the business side of things and the music itself. The day I’m with them, they had a bank appointment, our interview, an afternoon filling out grant proposals and other paperwork, and a rehearsal session to wind it all up.


“I can definitely say that most of us have played in quite a few other projects,” says Scott. “But upon joining this, it’s definitely the hardest-working band I’ve ever played with. There’s always business meetings, looking for contacts, booking tours. It’s really well organized.”


“It’s a lot more of an office job than people think,” says Schultz. “People just see us get on stage and playing our shows, and all the prep that goes into that is a whole other thing.  But the office side of it is a four-man job.”


“The show itself is the payoff,” says Kuzbik.


“We put all this work in so we can get up and play,” agrees Davies, with Kuzbik adding, “And for all of us, that 90 minutes on stage is never gonna get old.”


It’s easy to get caught up in the business side of things, but the most important thing for any band has to be the music. The Pistolwhips has been touring incessantly in support of their album On Your Side, which dropped a year ago. It’s a blast of high-octane rock ‘n’ roll with an injection of the blues, accessible enough to be a contender for mainstream radio success, but also clear proof that these guys ain’t slouches when it comes to strangling some intensity out of their instruments. And now that they’re growing into this new thing, it will be interesting to hear how their new songs come out — they’ve been working on some tracks that they’ll be demoing in the fall.


“We’ve already started writing music, but we’re still able to tour off our last album,” says Davies. “And when we go on tour, we take the new songs and try them out, like a comedian would with new jokes.”


“We’re really looking forward to getting in the studio, in the lab, and creating some new music,” adds Schultz. “Like you said, we’ve been touring this album for the last year, but we’ve been playing the songs for a year before that. So we’re excited to slow down and pump the brake on the constant shows and come up with something new.”


While Saskatoon may have heard The Pistolwhips’ set a few times, the tracks are still new in most of the places they’re touring, giving them more longevity. And most importantly, the band doesn’t feel like the songs are getting stale to them — they still have a blast playing them all at live gigs. They switch it up every show, with no permanent setlist to allow listlessness to creep in.


“We really still like playing these songs,” says Scott. “It’s never boring. I always like playing them.  And these guys do too. There’s a good energy on stage, a good chemistry. When you find that, you’re excited every time.” 

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