You may not expect Kelowna to prompt guys to sport eyeliner. But that’s exactly what happened to one of Vancouver’s most beloved punk rockers.
“I’d be and feel goth without outwardly showing it. I was a closet goth,” Duffy Driediger, the frontman and vocalist of Kelowna bred, Vancouver based alt-rock troupe Ladyhawk says over the phone of his early emo days in the leadup to the troupe’s gig at 9one9 tonight. “I used to wear make up for some shows way back, but that was less goth and more glamour.”
That may come as a surprise to Ladyhawk fans. On Their latest album, No Can Do, Driediger’s vocals are a brash and brawny echo— like a muscle toned enough to be heard flexed from a distance. Screechy vocals, guitar drones, and other goth trademarks have been absent. Instead, Ladyhawk employs fuzzed out riffs, lean and direct power chords, and other familiar fixtures of minimalist punk and classic rock.
Despite Ladyhawks’ self assured, conventional moments, Driediger admits that something edgier and more dour lurks below the surface of their hard rock riffs. He says it stems from years of ‘flirting with the dark side’ while living in Kelowna.
“I was going through a dark time, and I think the music I was trying to write reflected that. Everyone has a dark side, and sometimes you just feel the need to tap into that more. Plus I was listening to a lot of evil sh*t at the time that was influencing me, like The Carpenters.”
Kidding aside, Driediger points out that those moodier elements are apparent to even Ladyhawk’s casual listeners. “I’m a Witch,” one of the earliest tracks on No Can Do features lyrics like “I am a witch and I pray to the setting sun. I never let my shadow fall to the ground.” Even more upbeat tracks like the squirmingly riffy “bedbugs” open with lines like “There’s no hope.”
Dreidiger says such bleakness was a frequent backdrop in Kelowna, what he once called a “sprawled out strip mall town,” in an interview with NPR. But he admits that angst was more banal than any rockstar would care to let on.
“I feel it’s probably the same for anyone who grew up in a smaller town. There’s a certain level of nostalgia for all the good times you had and for places you used to go that may not be there anymore. But most small towns are places where, if you’re different in any way, you’re gonna get f*cked with. Just general small-mindedness. And crushing boredom.”
While his eye liner, doom and gloom Kelowna outlook may be a bit abrasive, more conventional artists agree. Last spring, in an interview for Monday Mag with this reporter, Halifax singer songwriter Joel Plaskett detailed one of his worst gigs in Dreidiger’s former hometown. The lyrics in Plaskett’s beloved singalong “Love This Town,” feature his admission that he there’s a “reason why (he) hates,” Kelowna.
Joel was gigging there with his old band, Thrush Hermit, over a decade ago at a dance club called Flashbacks. It wasn’t the ideal venue, with its dancefloor acoustics leaving most in the crowd ignoring the performers. After the show a hulking, 250 pound fellow with a backward baseball hat lumbered up and asked Plaskett enthusiastically, “Hey, are you in the band?”
“I said ‘Yes,’” The gangly Plaskett said to Monday Mag of his conversation with the beefy local. “Then the guys’ voice leveled off and he said, ‘You guys really sucked!’ He really outweighed me, what was I going to say to him? ‘Ok, sorry we sucked.’ By then I was ready to get out of there.”
Dreidiger says he isn’t surprised by that yarn.
“There’s definitely always been that vibe in Kelowna. But there are a lot of cool people there, too. I’m sure there were people there that night didn’t act like assh*les.”
Dreidiger adds that Kelowna’s frat boy demographic may be infamous, but it’s only a segment of the population.
“I remember wanting to go to that (Plaskett) show, but I couldn’t because it was at a bar,” says Dreidiger, who was an adolescent at the time. He adds that he, and the music scene that groomed him, grew and continue to grow in ways that are far subtler than they seem. “Joel would have had a much better experience if he’d played an all ages show. There were a lot of really great all ages shows in Kelowna in that era. I saw Kim Mitchell at Flashbacks once and it was pretty amazing.”
Ladyhawk plays Club 9ONE9 (919 Douglas), Tuesday, Oct. 16 with Baby Eagle and the Proud Mothers.
Tickets $12 at Lyle’s Place and Ditch Records.
By Kyle Mullin