How Different Skeletons Defied Expectations

Some people play music just as a hobby. Some people play it to make a career out of it. Some do it because they feel they have to, that life isn’t complete without it. Others just do it because they want to. Hell, some people do it because they feel a pressure to do it. As a music promoter, I come across all sorts of different people playing music for different reasons. There’s the bar band that is completely content to play the Rancho every few months to a decent crowd and doesn’t need to play for a while after that. Or there’s the band playing more than 100 gigs a year and would prefer to be playing 200 or more and everything that exists in between. Sometimes I am very wrong about where a band falls in this spectrum, but more often than not I am right. But let me tell you a story about a band I was very wrong about, Different Skeletons.

When I first met Daniel Houghton and Jamie Arnott, they were playing in The Cheap Speakers, who were quite a different band than the one you may know today. The band was still fronted by Brennan Gault and Natalia Manzocco but they didn’t have a defined direction, bouncing between bubbly indie pop, Creedence-style classic rock, and straight-up rock. Perhaps part of the problem was that Daniel and Jamie had started writing themselves and were drifting in a different direction. Shortly after that, Daniel and Jamie left the Speaks. Not that long after that they started a project with ex-Cheap Speakers drummer Eric, called Fat City.

Fat City were a fun act to see live. They played loud, they had all sorts of fun, and their songs were catchy dirty garage punk. There was definitely multiple songwriters and some songs sounded like they were for one band and others a totally different band, but I dug it and so did a lot of people who would come out to the shows. But for me, Fat City was a bar band — an act who were great to see around Toronto at various venues but not an act that was going to go out and tour or hit the studio hard to produce a really solid EP/LP. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I was right.  We never really had a chance to find out as Eric suffered an ear injury and was not able to actively practice and play live at the volume Fat City played anymore. Combine that with Jamie getting a job in Aruba for a year, and it seemed that this musical project was going to be over before it got started.

Cue chapter 2 — Jamie returns from Aruba and reunites with Daniel, and the two form a band by the name of Different Skeletons. I was stoked to hear the guys were playing again but admittedly expected it be to be Fat City version 2.0 — fun garage punk without a defined sound/genre behind it. All it took on my end was one MySpace demo to blow up that misconception. Somehow, after barely playing together for over a year and with a brand new drummer, Different Skeletons had defined a sound — a fucking exciting sound at that — and stepped their game up exponentially.  Different Skeletons were now a Detroit-style dirty garage punk band with attitude and the songs to back it up. The live show was never really a problem, but even that was better than ever.

But now they’ve taken that even a step further with their debut album, which you can stream on their Bandcamp. I’ve been streaming the hell out of it in anticipation for their show next Saturday night with High Noon Knife Fight, Evil Eyes, and Humanzees. We live in a city where a small handful of bands within each genre are picked and decided to be “cool.” Those are the bands all the bloggers writer about, the bands all the hipsters go see, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Take one listen to a track like “Nerves” or “Look Like Hell” or the combo songs “Secret Jeers Part 1 and Part 2” and you’ll see what I mean.

Somewhere along the way, people in Toronto who love garage punk got to thinking that if you weren’t going to find the guy doing something in the washroom before or after their set, they weren’t garage or punk. That’s some fucked up logic right there. So do yourself a favour, check out the awesome recordings done by Chris Evans and come see some of Toronto’s finest under-the-radar garage punk next Saturday night. You won’t find these guys in the washroom stall, but I’ll buy you a beer if you can chug a 50 faster than Daniel Houghton can.

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