Lucy Jinx
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Lucy Jinx

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE | AFTRA

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFTRA
Established on Jan, 2014
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"Interview: Tony Burgess of Lucy Jinx"

Lucy Jinx

FEATURES / INTERVIEWS
Interview: Tony Burgess of Left by Snakes now LUCY JINX
Words By Nathaniel G. Moore | Monday, October 10th, 2016

The Stayner, Ontario band Lucy Jinx exudes an elusive, distinctive sound they call “anamorphic pop,” which is essentially niche anthems and garage neo-glam classics. The band features award-winning author and screenwriter Tony Burgess on vocals, Chuck Baker on guitar, Keith Elliott on bass, John Hall on drums, Kyle Dreany on Bass and Skip Wamsteeker on Synth. Having just released their fourth full length album When They Win, the band is gearing up for shows and working on more new material. What follows is an interview with lead singer Tony Burgess.

When did you form the band?

About seven years ago, my kid’s daycare had a meet and greet barbecue kinda social thing you look forward in a small town, mostly ’cause it doesn’t involve Patriarchal Church Elders or whatever. Anyway, at this one barbecue, the entertainment is this husband-and-wife team in full bunny suits singing kids songs while we eat hot dogs in a sand pit. I noticed something odd about the guy…not sure what it was…his voice, the way he was playing guitar made me yell out for a Clash song, and bam! He just delivers it…and he did it defiantly…defiant of my heckle, defiant of the event, and defiantly in a bunny suit.

Shortly after that I notice the guy bundling his kids up and we strike up a conversation. That was Charlie Baker. We started meeting on weekends, drinking in his back room and playing these mad late night improvisational sessions. It was, of course, terrible sounding, and we knew it and our families thought we were crazy and the neighbours thought we were howling drunks. So (defiantly) we did this two or three nights a week for a couple years, recording every ridiculous thing we did on an iPhone.

One day we were sitting around and, probably having just met some mild resistance to playing that night, decided to listen back to some of this shit we had accumulated — probably a thousand songs. We started to notice this odd thing evolving — we were anticipating each other, interpreting each other, and, well, writing songs on the fly. Most were two minutes or so. We culled the few that we thought an objective ear might think were real songs and started organizing them. That changed the way we recorded and wrote.

These were “taps” — complete songs written and recorded on the spot. We didn’t really develop a system for a couple years, still believing we were more or less wrong about this music being valuable beyond the great thrill of making it. We now firmly believe that it will never be valuable beyond, but have now systematized a posture to deal with this which we call “swagger.”

Obviously there are influences here – a loose and heavy Elliott Smith, Built to Spill, (let me know when I’m offending you) Modest Mouse, Sonic Youth, Violent Femmes, etc.

Funny that at our last show at The Opera House, someone came up to me and said she had really dug the show and couldn’t believe how much we sounded like the B-52s! Then, a friend, who has (I think) an impeccable ear, said it was all neo-classical punk (Toronto late ’70s). I usually just mention a decade they don’t – ’90s or ’60s, even ’50s. Mott The Hoople, for instance. April Wine. Joy Division. Buddy Holly. The Grifters. Pere Ubu. Alex Chilton. The Fall. I mean, each member of the band brings a pretty wide and deep experience with “boho pop” over the decades…and our mutual crotchetiness over the state of so-called indie music…. precious infatuations with ’90s bands. Bands we do love, (excluding Nirvana who we detest) like Pavement, Built to Spill, Archers of Loaf – who ever. I suppose we are fighting with ourselves to some degree on how to interpret the music we love or whether to even bother.

The elephant in the room, for us, is Guided By Voices. Robert Pollard is the only writer, after all, still worth listening to for instruction and, as the DNC calls it “a permission structure.” We are, as writers, constantly aware of the Pollard rule — unguarded pursuit of hook and rigorous publication of the song-sketch. It is, as the poet said, an “antiseptic bath” after which we don’t care or recall what the influence was — the song is the original place it appeared. Believe it or not I mean this — the tap. Process over influence. Foolishness, always, over credibility. Proper swooning.

The 1990s are back in a big way. Early 1990s in particular. Does this mean anything to your sound?

Well, as above, I suppose, but it is never anything we would, or could, ever get behind. If we think a song sounds like the missing show tune that the Velvet Underground recorded for West Side Story we shrug and say, “Is it any good? Is it a Lucy Jinx song?” We try our best not to interfere with what we sound like and only ask simple questions when the rules apply. For instance: Fidelity to the tap – including timing anomalies and structural deformity. Is there a mighty hook and have we been careful not to privilege it? We have spent innumerable tedious hours settling these distinctions and are terribly conflicted about making anything sound “better.” We believe that there is an elusive category we are trying to define for ourselves and we have to know when we get things wrong. This sounds like we take ourselves very seriously — I’m a writer so I have a “tone” — but probably good to point out that our first show was as a Frogs cover band. Swagger.

What is the process like: jamming or lyrics first? I recall at a reading once, you were holding a piece of paper. I later asked you if you consulted it and you said no.

There are two stages really…maybe three. First is the tap. We record 20 to 40 songs in a session. Anyone involved can call “tap” which signals the song is written — usually one to two minutes. No lyrics, melody or instrument is prepared before hand. The tap has to arrive complete. We are nearly superstitious about this. We irrationally believe that a good tap can be aged to perfection by not listening to it for a year or more. At that point, when we harvest, we grab, say 25, and burn them to a disc and listen exclusively to that disc for a month to six months. Then we become essentially a cover band trying to reproduce them. We have gone through several line ups of members who, after being forced to learn from the original incomplete, sometimes grating recordings, declare Lucy Jinx shit and leave. The current line up – Keith Elliott on Guitar, John Hall on drums, Kyle Dreany on Bass and Skip Wamsteeker on Synth and mad scientist stuff. If you hear the word “tap” at the end of a song it marks it as, at least in part, the first recording of the song. If we do reconstruct it, or build on it, we do not add structure, melody etc. that didn’t exist in the original tap. Pretty easy to sympathize with past members who shook their heads and left the band – we put a lot of restraint into making uneven things. No one get’s to “play” a snakes song for fun. It’s probably fair to say that musicians are suspicious of us. Which brings me to a central feature of rebuilding a song: anamorphic harmony. Anamorphic harmony is taking the flat and sharp elements of the original vocal tap — keeping that central — but applying corrective harmonies that push it further into flat or sharp territory. Also accenting the vocal lines indifference to where it should live in the count. Instead of righting it, you bend it backwards. You can only imagine what it should really have sounded like. Anamorphic. I should point out that my bunny, Charlie Baker, is absolutely key to our orthodoxy. He knows exactly what we are doing.

How important are the live shows? You are a recently formed band and touring must be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Do you learn things from these live interactions?

The live show experience has been great fun with this band. It’s really what we wanted to do all along. That is, transform even the most obtuse 37-second song into manifest swagger. Maybe I’m misrepresenting the experience a bit though. It sounds like from the beginning, back to the bunny suit, that we wanted to exclude the listener, but, I mean, if we are willing to become utter bliss clowns with a monster sound, it is our hope that it feels like a invitation, even if the song itself is not exactly knowable.

I don’t actually know a lot of the lyrics myself and have had to resort to phonetic cobbling that drift a little every time. And, by the rules, I cannot rewrite lyrics wholesale to improve the song. The rules do allow, however, for me to make the lyrics up on the spot and that probably accounts for 30 to 40 percent of them on any given night.

You are four albums in now — how was it all put together? So much folklore goes into the production of a given album. What was that experience like?

Well, we’re working on the next three albums now and that was always the reason for putting out the first. The first is fairly good sampler of things — we have discussed this a lot — that we don’t write songs but advertisements for songs — and we are anxious to get the next ones out…create a massive, wet context for any given song. The next one will include more of the current band, including some tapped by them. We do everything in house: recording, mixing, mastering, art design, t-shirts, buttons, stickers, videos, etc. We are well aware that we will give more away than we will ever sell, but we are also convinced that everything should be made this way and hope that that part, at least, lasts.

Who comes up with the titles? What is a typical session like for Lucy Jinx?

Usually me, but it’s also understood that they won’t be very good. Song titles are a bit of a joke for us…possibly because of the sketchy condition of lyrics. One of the running jokes is how you can tell the month or year of a song by the lyric…everything in may 2013 uses the phrase “the last time,” and everything in June “could do better.” We have many songs with the exact same title. We are also fond of the “part two.”

Typical session? It starts out a bit like a committee meeting. “We have four matters to deal with…” Then we run a set several times until it’s where we want it. Then we pull out one or two processed taps to learn as a band…then, and it’s really what we’re here for, we record a couple dozen taps to bottle for 2018. That’s a band session.

If it’s just Charlie and me, we select a tap from an approved list and figure out how to serve. Is it an as is, a bed track, an aggregate or a full reproduction? Believe it or not this can result in several eight-hour pit sessions where we try to figure out a single 45-second blitz of automatism. Sometimes we take a tap that is utterly formless wailing and shredding and commit to adjusting the focus on it. That can be the most rewarding thing…finding out that a mindless shuffling degradation is actually a dazzling 57-second anamorphic hook. I believe our method, and we’ve proven it, can be reproduced by starting with inanimate objects dropped repeatedly from specific heights. Really it’s all about chasing killer songs with epic hooks. Actually if I was to be honest, mostly we say things like, “Marc Bolan and Helen Ready! Go!”

Music and books have always seemed to collide. William S. Burroughs was a music journalist in the 1970s, befriended those types of folks, in Toronto Dave Bidini is the city’s most prolific nonfiction author from the industry. How is singing different from writing for the page? I know personally I enjoy the different tone of my words when it comes out in a performance on stage versus some fiddled with edited book.

Huh. You know, lately I’ve been really struggling with fiction. I have a bunch of ideas, worked out more or less on pages but I’m like why? Just cause I can? That’s the worst reason to do anything. So it’s been mostly songs and film — and exploitation film at that. And even there, the last film I wrote I told them, “Hey just improvise and pull my writing credit.”

Writing phrases, sentences, paragraphs feels ridiculous to me now…rather it didn’t cause I can do it…but I wish writing didn’t act the way it does, the way its anticipated, expected to. These days when someone wants a book, I’m tempted to say, “Here, use this word. It’s enough. Repeat it until you’re satisfied it’s a novel then we’ll figure out what it is.” It’s a bit like a mechanic saying “we know how all this works, here’s a wrench, let’s whack the carburetor with it and tell ‘em you cant win em all.” I want an attitude in a thing that that thing wasn’t designed to convey. I actually started making improvised furniture out of firewood to quiet this a bit. I made a kick-ass spinning ottoman out of punky willow. - Verbicide


"Left by Snakes/Lucy Jinx Music Video Series"

Guest Blog: Some Freeform Notes On A Work-In-Progress: the LEFT BY SNAKES music video series by Pablo D’ Stair

February 17, 2015 / PaulDBrazill


pablo d' stair…Got talking to the inimitable Tony Burgess (novelist/screenwriter of such works as Pontypool, Idaho Winter, Hellmouth etc.) when starting up my fourth film—fellow has a band called Left By Snakes and, music being very important to my films, hoped to use some of their tracks in my project. Turned out this was very welcome (indeed, Tony and his fellow Snake, Charlie Baker, will also be playing roles in the film) and turned out we got on famously, as they say, and in shooting the shit one fine day Tony asked me could I do him the “favor” of making some videos for the band. To me this was no “favor” but a holy imperative—add in to the bargain I was just to do whatever the fuck I felt like, and well, my cup runneth over…

…Decided to do a series…(really, just wanted to make sure they’d let me do more than one, so said “series”)…but…what in fuck did I mean “series”? No idea, but figured: best way to sort it out was to shoot. All I knew? Needed it to be like nothing I’d seen elsewhere and, most important to me as a filmmaker, the imagery needed to be iconic to the sound. And for that, I needed obstructions, even more than ever. Cause dig…

…How to describe the band Left By Snakes? Think if Dylan’s Basement Tapes got drunk, headed, horny, to a men’s room stall with the Buzzcocks only to have Darby Crash and Lou Reed burst in, telling them how to swing: whatever lovechild got banged out of that scenario…that’s Left By Snakes. As Tony explained to me, they don’t so much write their songs as toss them down, record them raw—often those recordings are the only time the songs are ever performed—all grit, no polish: pure punk beauty…

…My task was to work films by this same stripped down, low-fi, punk aesthetic. Thankfully, working full time and having two kids and no money pretty much guarantees “rushed” is the only way I work. And so it came to pass, two days after the request, I found myself “alone” in my house (my better-half out for an evening, kids upstairs in bed) with the thought: “Fuck, have at least two hours, should be more than the time I need…”

…The plan was: conception to filming to editing to post to final cut, each film in the series should take no more than two hours, tops (closest a filmmaker can come to being punk rock…or as close as one with my thought process can). Selected the most straight up punk piece (and my personal favorite) I could find in their catalogue (clocking at 48 seconds) cogitated for ten minutes, came up with my concept, pulled a chair up to my front door and shot some footage (NOTE: as I could not start the song to literally listen to as I performed, no one present to help, I had to count out the important beats of the music so that my choreography would sync when mixed with the audio). Shot. Sync (worked a good trick, I might add) gave it a wash, a crop, a save…

…And thus was born: PEOPLE ARE ALLIGATORS…

…The enthusiastic approval of the band to the tone, style, and persona of my alter ego “Carlyle Edwards” made the second time to bat a bit more pressured—didn’t want to replicate (and had shaved the “molester stache” I had worn for the skeeviness of the first vid, anyway) but didn’t want to deviate: what I needed was to match the tone of the new song and the first vid, needed another “narrative that isn’t a narrative” another choreographed dance of casual head tilts and off hand motions. The series was forming: these were films, they were “about things,” they would all be alterations of this “Carlyle Edwards” figure and somehow blend abstract and grotesque, noir and nothing, all with a kind of pervert-romance to them (would be, as one viewer aptly put: “Like Warhol films but with a pulse”)…but I was still limited by time and location (only so many ways I can shoot inside my house in an hour when I’m supposed to be answering work e-mails, right?)…

…I don’t recall exactly (I really don’t) when the “idea” for the second one clicked (I just had the song on repeat, suddenly said “Okay…want this done in an hour, starting now”—had to include in the time to walk to get new smokes, having run out—the time limit all the more imperative cause, well, I was technically “at work”) and then was stripping my shirt off, applying a chocolate syrup nosebleed effect to myself, memorizing my count of change-beats to the tune…and I filmed. One take, first try, right to the editing (dear god did it sync beyond what I even had in mind) gave it a wash up and shipped the file off to the band…forty-five minutes, tops…

…This was STRAWBERRY BANGSTICK…

…And it was right about this time I decided (realized?) that the “series” I offhandedly dubbed the project would, in fact, be a series-of-series, each one done as a set-of-three vids and would (why it seemed a change, dunno, as I’d had no particularly concrete idea to start with, but it did feel a change) begin abstracting the films out as it went on (like Patrick McGoohan directing punk videos, I decided, my vainglory rearing its head fully). The first set would be the three within this history, here, and would be called THE BOY, the second set would have a different actor, a woman, and be called THE GIRL, the third set…still have no fucking idea…

…But I needed an end to set one, felt a pang to get it done—needed to burst it out because I found myself thinking about it too much, reasoning it too much, needed to be harried proper or risk screwing the vibe. Thankfully, I still had those pesky children etc. and so, two days after Strawberry, after an early morning off five hours sleep, full day of work and then out with the kiddos all evening, decided I’d wing one (had the vaguest idea, only: I’d put on lipstick, be rummaging through a lady’s purse). Thus, offspring asleep, wife working diligently away on her PhD, I grabbed the camera, knocked over the living room lamp and unbeknownst to them (above me not fifteen feet separating us) filmed the “dance” let’s call it known as…

…THROW THE CAT…

…which brings us, real time, to where the project stands (about one week in, all totaled). And it will be ongoing unless I run out of scribble-scrabble ideas or until my Masters bore of my tricks and start not returning my e-mails…

And I thank the always upstanding citizen (at least I think that’s how he likes to be described…wouldn’t want to cross the guy, so I hope so) Paul Brazill for letting me share this punk adventure with you folks—hope some of you are intrigued enough to follow along with the labour as it scrambles mad dash to wherever.

Cheers. - Paul Brazill


"Left By Snakes/Lucy Jinx Interview: 10 Questions with the Mr. Tony Burgess"

Tony Burgess is a Canadian author, poet and musician who saw the birth of punk in the 70s in Toronto. Arguably his most famous work, entitled "Pontypool", was made into a cult classic Canadian film by legendary Bruce McDonald, and currently he is putting out mass amounts of musical material with his band Left By Snakes - who just so happen to be appearing this Saturday, October 14th at Cherry Colas in Toronto alongside Brutal Measures featuring Lydia Lunch. (Tickets are available at www.ourevent.ca.) We caught up with Tony to see what makes him tick.

Who is your favorite band or musical artist?
Tony Burgess: I guess I have to say Guided By Voices...it's been decades and I'm still listening to new music from Pollard....my annual check-in always includes at least 2 new records...his output is something you can study...and I have and it gets stuck to everything I do.

What is your favorite record of all time?
Burgess: Hmmm.... either Unknown Pleasures (Joy Division) or Suicide 1977...But that's just...you know...cause I think that's the answer.

What is your favorite memory at a Toronto show?
Burgess: Lou Reed at Massey Hall in 1975. People throwing shit and spitting...me and William New lying in the aisle below the debris. It was a real proto punk show...and I think the spitting was spontaneous. Felt like a lot of important embryonic things were happening. The audience hated it and walked out pissed off.

What is your favorite live show you ever saw?
Burgess: This is a weird one cause I don't know who it was...it was (again) late 70's...some art metropole installation at A space mebbe?..and in a room with white walls and a single black wire leading up to a TV on a podium. A five piece band was playing and they were so stunning to me. The best I can explain it is they played `almost songs'....you could tell what the songs would be if they (the songs) were conscious but they weren't. Not live I suppose, but really, not real either. Major influence too.

What is your biggest non musical influence?
Burgess: Artane and beer.

Who is your least favorite band or musical artist ever
Burgess: Probably most of grunge. Who gave us Creed and Nickelback to name but two.

What is your favorite book?
Burgess: The first page of Our Lady of the Flowers (Genet) and the last page of Doctor Faustus (Marlowe).

What is your favorite movie?
Burgess: Could be Liquid Sky cause I'm thinking about the upcoming re-release.

What is your favorite drink?
Burgess: Bowmore 18 yr. Like it was drawn from a poisoned log....

What are your favorite words of wisdom?
Burgess: You are utterly ridiculous so go get laid.

Check out the band's rad lil song called "Pepper Pot" - Pure Grain Audio


Discography

Lucy Jinx When They Win

Lucy Jinx Champions Of Love

Lucy Jinx Madame Strange Edwards

Lucy Jinx Automatic Radio

Photos

Bio

Lucy Jinx plays songs you remember but have never heard. They specialize in automatically written, hook driven originals. Their niche anthems, crunched epics, and mad infections fill out their indefinable hot pop maze. 

Lucy writes her songs automatically, and this is key to understanding their peculiar sound: each recording represents the moment the song was 'written'.

Lucy Jinx were nominated for a Canadian Screen Award in 2023 for best original song for the film Cult Hero. Their new album is a gunney sack of restless, ready songs. When They Win has more hooks than a velcro chinstrap. Lucy Jinx is Tony Burgess, Chuck Baker, Keith Elliott, John Hall, Kyle Dreany and Skip Wamsteeker.

Band Members