Interview with drummer Garrett Kruger | By Joshua Maranhas

Being punk rock in Edmonton, Alberta, and all of Canada requires you to give a shit according to drummer Garrett Kruger from The Allovers. The vast country means that playing shows across Provinces can take 12-hour drives. Bands “have to fucking grind,” he explains. Playing music requires tenacity. That spirit is displayed on their debut full-length, Yer Guises, out via Anxious And Angry Records now.

Kruger’s punk rock ethos was built similar to and different from many others’. He had no internet, went to record stores and shows, and says the community in Canada was similar to a lot of other scenes. “That was such an important part to me of, like, punk rock growing up,” he shares. “It’s not just the music, it’s not just the—you know? It’s the community. That’s all of it. I give a shit so much about it. I’m so curious to hear other people’s experiences with it.”

The scene in Edmonton is isolated, even from the rest of Canada. “It’s funny,” Kruger says, “like, the band SNFU in that first, second wave of hardcore in the early ‘80s, they were kind of our heroes in that sense. Bands from Canada in the ‘90s weren’t really able to get exposure or resonate to people in the States. It was really hard to kind of—there was this weird barrier, you know? Edmonton, for a long time, even within Canada, was always looked at as the city that was always five years behind, like, Toronto or Montréal. The community here was so, so strong. We’re pretty geographically isolated, a little bit like Calgary, the next city, then from there, Vancouver is, like, 12 hours away. Then, the prairies over the top of North Dakota [are] six to seven hours the other way.”

“Bands from here really have to fucking grind,” he asserts, “to do long drives and tours, to sort of make it happen. Everyone from here has been really dedicated. If you’re gonna tour, it’s not like if you’re in California. Do a California tour [and] you can stay in California for a week and have shows every night. Here, it’s like you’re going across Provinces and have super long drives. Everyone [we’re] friends with now still are all lifers, you know? [They] have been doing it and are super, super dedicated—it’s just how it is. That kind of resonates across the country in some ways. It’s like, you have to be pretty dedicated and want to do it, because it’s not easy and fun at times to functionally go out and tour and play and stuff.”

However, writing records in the winter can help with productivity. “I think it has to do with the isolation in the winter times, right?” Kruger says, “‘cause what do you do in the wintertime? You fucking jam and write a new record. So, it is kind of conducive. [In] wintertime, you kind of hunker down in the jam space three or four days a week, rehearsing, writing and stuff. Then, when spring comes, it can’t come soon enough. You just want to be out playing.”

The Allovers came together accidentally. Guitarist Matt Pahl was demoing songs for a movie score he was writing, and Kruger and bassist Paul Arnusch would finish landscaping, then spend the evening practicing the demos. “I’m sure the first time I heard Matt’s demos for the songs, the biggest thing that stood out to me was how the vocals are at, like, half-speed to the music,” Kruger recalls. “It’s really laidback, sort of ‘crooner-y-ness,’ the guitars have, like, really noisy buzzy parts, some of the Black Flag, Ramones-y downstrokes at parts. So, it was just like this super bizarre juxtaposition that ends up having like a lot of energy to it, but there are harmonies for days.”

The film score may not have happened, but The Allovers are definitely happening. “It was in his demos where I saw, like—not the charm, but I was like, ‘Man, there’s something about these songs. It’s gotta be explored further than just Matt sitting in his basement,’” Kruger says. “It was happenstance how we came to be, but from the point that we wrote the first songs collectively, that weren’t just Matt’s demos, it was like, ‘It’s on!’”

The band’s debut, Yer Guises, sounds like a product of Canadian winter, being stuck in the jam space, rehearsing for months—or in their case, years—and now, it’s ready to go. Writing began around 2010 and fully formed after three revisions. “It was originally supposed to come out then, and then, that label folded,” Kruger says of the delay. “Then, a couple years later, it was supposed to come out on a label out of Ontario, [but] the recording that we did the second time through, we didn’t like it. So, then, we benched it again. Then, finally, we recorded the current version of it.”

“Every time we’ve recorded it, we’ve written new songs,” he adds. “‘Rinky Dink’ wasn’t even written when the first one was supposed to come out. It sort of was a real slow build. But as the recording stands, this is the right one. [It’s the] most refined with the best songs.”

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