In 1986 after The Clash broke up, bassist Paul Simonon started a new project, a band called Havana 3am. The band made up of a few Brits and an American were essentially a rockabilly act, heavily influenced by Latino and Reggae music of the era, who made their one album in Japan. Havana 3am was band that seemingly broke down geographical and genre barriers and used these disparate influences to create something wholly their own. Now 34 years later, in the snowy environment of Canada, Calgary based outfit Port Juvee have done the same. The prairie based garage act has blended that influence with a healthy dose of New York style post punk and reverb laden California surf pop and crafted a new collection of songs, Motion Control which drops everywhere February 28th, and made it all their own. The band is about to start performing all over at festivals to promote the new release, including New Colossus Fest in NYC, Treefort Festival in Boise, Idaho and a stint overseas at Focus Wales, and should soon see how the world will react to this unique blend of genres.
When we reach buoyant band leader Brett Sandford on the phone, he is taking some time in California to relax before Port Juvee has to spend a ton of time away performing the album for fans. “I’m just out in California right now,” he explains with a infectious excitement, “Actually, right now I’m just sitting at the Getty Centre sitting on this enormous patio overlooking LA. It’s pretty great, you can see all the way to the sea and the smog is kind of sparkling in the distance.” While Sandford gets to chill a bit at the moment, the creation of Motion Control was anything but. The whole endeavour kicked off with a surprise phone call from New York based producer Justin Gerrish, who had previously worked with Vampire Weekend on their albums Contra and Modern Vampires of the City. “He was like, ‘Hey, I heard your band at a party last night and just wanted to jump on the phone really quick with you’,” says Sandford of the fortuitous call. The bands previous album Crimewave had taken them all over the world including performances at SXSW, CMW and Rifflandia, as well as on tour with such luminaries as DIIV and Titus Andronicus but this call made Sandford and the crew think that this could really help them continue to expand their sound. Gerrish offered to do some mixing for the band and they sent over their new tracks and while Gerrish liked the direction the band was going in, he had a few reservations. “He said he thought the songs were cool,” Sandford explains of his conversations with Gerrish, “but he was also hoping that there was a way we could track it all better. Everything we had previously done was pretty live so we thought why don’t we just go to New York and track everything there with him.” Port Juvee was excited as was Gerrish was to be in the studio together but when the band flew out to the New York and checked into their Air BnB and found it to be a “harsh dump”, the band switched gears and instead of giving up, they moved their belongings right into the studio and crashed there for a couple weeks while recording. “The initial place we got to stay in was cancelled like the day before and we scrambled and got this other one, which was not gonna work at all and so we just decided we could stay in the studio. We all went out and got gym memberships from a place down the street so we could shower,” Sandford says with a chuckle.
That kind of devil may care, DIY attitude definitely translates to the album. Motion Control is a blast from start to finish. Riding a fine line between washed out 80s post punk with a shiny shoe gaze vibe but sounding still as vital as this kind of hungry band would create today. From the start of the frenetic tom work of album opener “Hope To Lose” to the ennui drenched “Tropics” and on to the electronic sparks of closer “Late To See”, the band, consisting of Sandford with Lauchlin Toms, Logan Juke, Ben Painter and Trevor Stoddart, sounds like they’ve tapped into a freshness and it’s a thrill that comes through your speakers with every chord strummed and drum hit. “The nice thing about Justin was, while he was a homie for sure, we weren’t super close so while it was nice to hang, he still and we still felt like he could be totally honest with us,” says Sanford of the tracking process. “We had sent him demos but he had a ton of ideas of a few ways we could play things and while somethings we felt were super done already, we were still up to change things. It was great, for any question on either side, there was always an answer.”
With Motion Control now in the can and awaiting its release, Port Juvee is excited for what is to come. New festival slots as well as the bands own touring schedule should open this young Calgary based, New York style post punk band that is dipped in just the right amount of California sunshine to many new fans and opportunities. Geographical boundaries are just getting smaller and Port Juvee is going to have no problem showcasing their dynamic genre hoping sound across borders all over the globe.
interview by Adam Fink
Garment District Records
1. Hope to Lose
2. Desert Moon Palace
4. Into the Jaws
5. Motion Control
8. Late to Sea