By Cal Braid
Sunny South News
An hour before they took the stage at the Raymond Music Festival on August 20, southern Alberta rock band The Decadent Phase relaxed and mingled behind the stands at Comet Stadium. Their Facebook page calls them “Lethbridge’s grooviest rock and roll outfit (with the grooviest outfits), formed in 2017 with a sound straight out of 1967. The Phase brings a fresh take on the sounds of the golden age of psychedelia and folk rock.” They didn’t fail to deliver on any of those counts. Before they played a single note, they were easy pickings, standing out from the crowd like time-travellers from a bygone era.
The band consists of Tyler Eresman on lead guitar, Keely Evanoff on bass, Keilan Hakstol on drums, and James Swinney on vocals and rhythm guitar. In their early to mid-twenties, they’re a friendly bunch on the surface, but their songs tell of a deeper musical mystique. Evanoff is from Chestermere, Hakstol from Lethbridge, and Eresman and Swinney are both from Foremost.
Keely Evanoff met the guys in the band at a local bar and is their newest member. Drummer Hakstol met guitarist Eresman in college, and Eresman introduced him to his friend, singer/songwriter Swinney. Hakstol said, “I mentioned offhand that I played the drums, and they were just ecstatic. They showed me their songs and I said, ‘yeah, let’s do it.’”
Gathered at a picnic table before their gig, Hakstol interpreted the band’s musical style, saying, “The Decadence Phase is kind of a throwback rock band, and we sort of use that as a jumping off point for the inspiration for most of our music. Of course, there are artists we’re inspired by, but we’re not trying to rip off that kind of style, being 60’s and 70’s British rock, psychedelic blues, and stuff like that.”
Guitarist Eresman said of their current setlist, “We have about 10 originals that we still do, and at various points we’ll have up to 20 cover songs that we’ll also do. We’ll rotate them in and out and do a mix of both.”
Their Saturday night setlist in Raymond was mostly comprised of originals. On the day prior, they released an EP of all original music and decided to play that from start to finish, plus a few more originals and a couple of cover songs.
When asked about their creative process, Swinney said Eresman typically comes in with the riff, and then Swinney writes words to it. Then they take it to the others and jam on it to the bass and drums. Eresman described it as a collective effort. Hakstol said they run through the songs with different takes of the rhythm section to figure out what works and what doesn’t. They usually record themselves with a phone app and listen back, deciding from there whether they’re happy with the arrangement or not.
As noted, their image and style are almost as unique as their music. Swinney was sporting a 70’s fashion shirt that he got in Los Angeles, and their other wardrobe choices are mostly thrift store or online items.
The band was asked about what the ‘decadent’ part of their name means to them. Specifically, is being in a band an excuse to party hard or do they just really enjoy chocolate cake? Hakstol replied, “I think you would more describe us as a decadent, rich, creamy chocolate. There are subtleties to the flavour.” The comment was met with great hilarity from the group at the table.
Swinney said, “I think that answer will be different for every bandmember…and depending on the weekend.” When told that they looked sharp and ready to play, he deadpanned, “You should have seen me this morning.”
The band talked about their favourite songs to play, both originals and covers. Bassist Evanoff said, “Utopia hands down. When I first saw Decadent Phase play, they played Utopia and ever since I saw it at the Owl, it’s been my favourite original of theirs. It’s just so cool and it reminds me so much of Led Zeppelin and their style. My favourite cover to play right now is probably Black Country Rock by David Bowie.”
Singer Swinney likes “Mr. Meaner. It’s a song about a fugitive and it’s based upon a terrible pun.” He also likes the same Bowie cover song.
Eresman’s pick is called “Good Morning, Ebenezer. It’s one of our darker songs and it’s kind of almost Sabbathesque. My favourite cover as a guitar player is Muffin Man by Frank Zappa. It’s just two minutes of guitar soloing at the end, so that’s kind of fun for me.”
Hakstol said he likes to play “a new one that doesn’t have a title, it’s just called Untitled, in D minor…I’m a drummer, I’m not supposed to know notes. My favourite cover that we do is also Muffin Man, because it has such a hard, heavy groove. I’m just having a blast the whole time I play the drums on it, and I do the Zappa voice for the intro.”
The band’s EP release from August 19 is available on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, and wherever you get your tunes. Check it out.
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