For us at least, over the last 30 years Canada has been always one of the first landing spots for new music. You know the bands, so we won’t waste your time in rattling off the obvious reference points.
However, the important thing to remember is that Canada continues to be fertile creative ground, with new exciting artists emerging all the time. It’s endless, and that’s where we come to our next band that have piqued the interest: Kamikaze Nurse.
The Vancouver four-piece (KC Wei – vocals/guitar; Ethan Reyes – vocals/guitar; Sonya Eui -vocals/bass; John Brennan – drums) arrived in 2019 with their debut album, Bucky Fleur. Like many artists, the COVID-19 pandemic stemmed their momentum, however bands like Kamikaze Nurse don’t let something like a global pandemic quash their creative flow. They are too accomplished for that, and it’s highlighted on their sophomore release, Stimuloso.
Recorded by Brennan and mixed by Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier, Stimuloso is a sugar rush of glory, forging together ’90s worship with hairpin hooks as good as any new band out there at the moment.
Opening track, Boom Josie, Never Better and closer, ubobo are Breeders homage with a glittery new spin. Then there’s P & O and Dead Ringers – highway driving alt-rock as its best. Kamikaze Nurse also roll through the years of twisted Sonic Youth reverence (Pet Meds and Come from Wood) with an album that doesn’t contain one weak spot.
Prior to the release of Stimuloso, the members of Kamikaze Nurse took part in our 13 Questions feature.
1. Can you tell us about the writing and recording process behind Stimuloso?
John Brennan: “This record had a few phases in regards to writing the material. Aileen, Never Better and Come From Wood were written before COVID and we had played them live before the world shutdown. KC had the riffs and basic song structures worked out, then we all would work on them together and play through them until they felt right. Playing them live also helped form the songs too. Pet Meds was a riff and song idea I wrote while we were on a break and I was in Norway back in February 2020. Once we started working on new material for the album we workshopped it together and KC wrote another section. The lyrical content and song title are loosely based on a story my friend Pete told me, KC and Sonya then used those ideas to write the verse and chorus.
“Some of the other songs like Work & Days, Boom Josie and Stimuloso KC and I would jam out ideas on the spot and then Ethan and Sonya would write parts over top of those. Dead Ringers, P&O and Ubobo were similar to the first three where KC brought in the riffs and structure and we worked on them all together.
“About the recording process, due complications surrounding COVID and our personal schedules we decided that it would make more sense to try and record Stimuloso ourselves at our jam space. This gave us a lot more time to work out the songs and experiment with recording techniques. I also invested in some good preamps, and microphones which helped a lot too and used Logic Pro to record, edit and mix. I would usually track the drums first and then KC would add her guitar parts second with Ethan and Sonya after. We recorded our parts separately which gave us more control at the mixing and treatment stages. Our space is pretty small and it would have been difficult to do it live off the floor there. Once we had all instrumental parts locked down we went to Rain City Recorders in Vancouver and worked with Mariessa Mcleod to record all the vocal tracks.”
2. In comparison with Bucky Fleur, Stimuloso has a very live feel to it, I would say. Was that something you wanted to capture during the recordings?
JB: “This was definitely something we were working towards. Greg also helped with spicing up the vibe during the mixing phase which helped give the record that live sound. It’s funny because the whole recording process of Bucky Fleur was live off the floor at the Noise Floor on Gabriola Island with very few overdubs.”
KC Wei: “Yeah, that’s funny it sounds that way, a bit of a reversal, but we’re stoked that it has retained its ‘liveness’ even though the recording process was very stop-n-go due to the pandemic. The ‘liveness’ – at least the aesthetic of it – is the most exciting part about rock music for me, so I’m glad that came through. I think a lot of it came through from the vocals, a few parts of the songs were written in the thirteenth hour just prior to recording with no practice. Like, John had the great idea of doing ‘Nick Cave’ backing vocals on Stimuloso which makes me laugh every time I hear Ethan’s moody ‘I hate yoooou’ intro me. And for Pet Meds, Sonya and I wrote the talky parts while listening back and felt that those parts felt a bit empty without vocals.”
3. Greg Saunier was involved with the mixing of the album, too. How did that collaboration come about?
JB: “Greg and I are friends and were working on our own collaborative album around the same time Kamikaze Nurse started recording. We all thought he would be a great person to work with on the mix so I asked him if he would be interested in doing it and he loved the idea. I did a preliminary mix/treatment on the songs and then Greg came to Vancouver for 3 days to finish it up. KC and I listened and gave feedback while he was mixing. It was a very fluid and fun experience and Greg knew exactly what was needed.”
4. Boom Josie is a such a lovely opener, and has a real Breeders feel to it. Can you tell us about this song?
KW: “We wrote it after learning that Ethan and his partner Jasper were gonna have a baby! A celebration song for a big milestone in all our lives. I remember John and I jammed this out, we figured out the bridge (with the wooos) first. It was such a good groove that came out of nothing, and then we shaped the rest of the song around that.”
Sonya Eui: “I just remember that when we were writing it, I was excited that it sounded like a Pavement song. Where did we go wrong…”
5. Songs like P & O, Dead Ringers, and Come From Wood sound like songs from a band that has real synergy. Did it feel like that when you were writing these songs?
KW: “Yeah, I would say we vibe really well and always are open to work on ideas together. Sharing the creative process of making these songs/this album/through this band is a constant negotiation of everyone’s time, energy, style, etc.”
Ethan Reyes: “When I feel the most synergy in this band is when we can just jam without the pressure of shows coming up, albums to release or paperwork to fill out. Hitting those spots in a jam where everyone kind [of] looks at each other and you all know something special just happened is one of the best feelings in the world. Unfortunately we didn’t really get to ‘jam’ these songs out, but the synergy is still there in a different way.”
SE: “Yes, we work well together and it comes so naturally. It helps that we’re all good.”
6. Bucky Fleur came out in 2019. With the pandemic, does it seem like a case of the band starting all over again?
KW: “No, not for me. It did feel like a bit of a break, but KNurse was never a full time thing, and we would all need breaks on occasion for our other projects.”
ER: “It felt very much like Kamikaze Nurse 2.0 emerged from the pandemic. The biggest difference is that we are sexier now.”
SE: “I’m out of the loop pretty much all the time so I don’t feel any differently, except I had to hang out with John one on one, which was challenging.”
JB: “Not for me either. It probably would have moved in a similar direction regardless of the pandemic in my opinion.”
7. We ask a lot of artists this, what’s your take on social media?
KW: (Laughs) “I think it can be fun. I love posting shit about us as humans. I don’t totally understand Twitter etiquette yet, but I’m learning. Ultimately, it has more to do with the music industry than the music. I love our songs and this album, so I’m happy to retweet/share/promote things on social media, but it doesn’t really matter to me how many followers we have, or if any TikToks are being made from our songs.”
ER: “Unnecessary Evil. Most of the best bands in the world got famous before social media. Contributing to the noise feels spiritually draining.”
SW: “Hate it. But it is what it is.”
JB: “Tires me out.”
8. Some fun questions now – have you got any hobbies outside of music?
ER: “Currently my biggest hobby is playing board games, sort of semi-obscure European strategy games. Running counts as a hobby as well because I spend a lot of time and money making sure I look good while doing it. I also recently got into growing mushrooms.”
SE: “I work a lot. I like to focus on music when things are tough at work and vice versa. Otherwise, I’m asleep.”
9. Boxset or Film?
KW: “Like, a boxset of DVDs or a reel of film?? I guess the boxset ‘cos I wouldn’t be able to play the film.”
ER: “Boxset of the Yusuf trilogy.”
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10. Which was the last book you read?
KW: “A Kingdom in Crisis by Andrew MacGregor Marshall (a book about Thailand, ‘cos I’m doing some writing about a residency I did in Thailand in 2019 just before the pandemic)”.
ER: “The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. It was okay. I’m not much into science fiction but the backdrop of cultural-revolution China was interesting. Now I’m onto The World Interior of Capital by Peter Sloterdijk which is more in line with my usual tastes.”
JB: “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said: Philip K. Dick.
SE: “A weird Russian murder mystery.”
11. Can you tell us about the music scene in Vancouver?
KW: “It’s small, clustered, can be friendly, but also protective. Someone not from Vancouver told me that in Vancouver, when people succeed, they pull the ladder up with them (laughs).”
ER: “It’s very stratified. People become sort of isolationist when they find their scene and I think that’s fine. I don’t want to go to a crustpunk show at a venue without a working toilet, so I’m glad I don’t have to. That being said, things get stale quickly when you don’t mix the pot a little bit.”
SE: “It’s the only scene I’ve ever had so I hold it dear to my heart. I don’t like it when people talk shit about it – feels like someone else is making fun of your ugly child.”
12. What’s the plan for the band for the rest of the year?
KW: “Summer tour, and then we’re making an app for the album (laughs), and then a little chill time? Maybe a few more festivals?”
SE: “Tour will be fun – I really hope we also get to have a summer where we get to hang out with each other more.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Any last words?
SE: “I’m pushing thirty and I still play in local bands – don’t repeat my mistakes.”
Stimuloso is out now via Mint Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.
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