punks and rockers celebrate a shake down
by More Betty
With a relentless train of punk rock dates, the only way to catch Ron Reyes was to move fast. Tracking him down to the Black Flag tour van, headed for the next venue. There he brings us up to speed on the terrain of his Vancouver project, Piggy, a rock ‘n’ roll band with a debut album.
“I wanted to do something I never did before and that was lead a band from the position of guitarist,” says Reyes. “So I dusted off an old guitar and started writing [what] would end up as Piggy songs.”
The first sparks flew when he caught Lisa Furr Lloyd playing bass for the East Vamps and she was an immediate recruit. By summer 2010, a landmark birthday fete for Reyes became a catalyst. Not only was there a surprise appearance with Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn, reuniting old friends, but this event organized by Doug Smith also lit another rock ‘n’ roll flame, igniting Piggy.
Smith did a brief stint as the band’s keyboard player and took on an administration role when they first got off the ground.
“Smith also suggested Craig McKimm on drums and so we had the band, now all we needed was a singer,” says Reyes. After a session of musical chairs with vocalists, enter Izzy Gibson. With a bold leap of faith, the former drummer auditioned for vocal duties.
“That is when the band really came together and that was just over a year ago,” he explains. Smith steps off as keyboardist, now as a four-piece collaboration, they continue to progress and boldly take on challenges.
“For me it was huge. I have been a bandleader in different ways mostly as a front man or a drummer but never as a guitarist,” he adds.
As for the vocals, there were many exceptional singers vying for the energetic spot, but the challenge remained, coming up with the right chemistry.
“A lot of people ask me how I got this gig and I wish it was more interesting, like; I had to battle sexy female robot ninjas until I was the last one standing [and] then I got to be the front woman for Piggy, but in truth, I just auditioned,” humours Gibson. “I was primarily a drummer and guitarist before, but have dabbled in vocals with small bands in the past. The challenge and joy of doing this is playing with different musicians. No one will play the same song the same way,” she says.
When Piggy hit the studio the vocalists had just switched. “My good and long-time buddy Kyle Nixon hooked us up with Jack Endino to do a quick recording in Seattle,” says Reyes. With Gibson just enlisted on vocals, straightaway they carried on with dates. “In true punk rock fashion and followed through with the two Seattle shows and the recording commitments even though we were not really ready.” So, a decision was made to lay down the vocal tracks in Vancouver under the careful ears of Cecil English. “And then he also recorded one of our Vancouver shows live. So we took 'Jealous Again' from that live session to include on our vinyl,” adds Reyes.
The interaction of Piggy members and especially in the songwriting process is a collaborative one.
“Ron comes up with the riffs and we all ‘kinda’ add stuff along the way,” says Lloyd.
“Then we all sort of mash our thoughts, different riffs, beats and lyrics together around it. Sometimes I’ll write lyrics and we’ll jam something out,” echoes Gibson.
“Most of the songs come from demos I have pre-recorded. “Some have lyrics but I don’t like writing lyrics for singers if I don’t have to. That is their job right!? So many of the lyrics come from Izzy,” explains Reyes.
“I was mostly involved in changing the groove and feel from the drum-machine recordings Ron made, altering arrangements, beginnings and endings, that sort of stuff,” says McKimm.
“Everyone contributes their parts and I will seldom if ever force a part or a beat or a line on anyone,” says Ron and “Craig adds a lot of texture and dynamics with his drumming and often suggests some cool arrangements I really love his contributions,” adds Reyes.
The new release Undignified will be out on pink vinyl. “To me that speaks of doing things in a true and pure, ‘not give a fuck’ attitude,’” he states with emphasis. “It is being pressed as we speak and should be available by the time Piggy joins the Black Flag tour in California.”
“Night after night, Black Flag has been crazy and exhausting. The crowds are awesome and playing again with Greg is like a dream come true,” says Reyes.
Both musical projects can actually be more of a compliment in their direct differences. The process of working with Piggy is a relaxed route compared to the focus of Black Flag.
“Practicing with Piggy goes something like this: Hey are we practicing tonight? Show up late, once or twice a week. Talk, talk, talk, take a smoke break, and drink a few beers. Play two or three songs, take a break … then do it again and again for a couple hours and we somehow manage to get things done so it’s cool, he explains. “In Black Flag we set up and practice several hours a day, every day nonstop once we start. It is a totally different dynamic. I love both styles.”
Many of the Black Flag shows we have played in Europe and the States have been all-ages and it just feels right. It was a tall order to pull it off in Vancouver, but eventually the folks at Arrival put it all together for us,” he says.For the bill local punks, lié are handpicked by Reyes and Arrival Agency recruit Vacant State.
“Piggy will offer up an interesting contrast to Good For You and Black Flag,” says Reyes. Not only is this a record release for Undignified, but it is also Ron Reyes’ birthday party.
“The last time we had a birthday party in Vancouver for me, shit started to happen so I am really looking forward to this!” he exclaims.
Time it right and hop that fast train to the Chinese Cultural Centre Saturday, July 20.