For all things alt and indie
by Mark Janz
A long time ago in a city far, far, away (from the coasts)….The Galacticas reigned in two very distinct universes. One universe worshipped at the altar of Joey Ramone, and hung on the teachings of the chosen collectives known as Blink 182, Against Me!, and The Gaslight Anthem. The other universe was festooned with the literary works of multiple philosophers, going by names like George Orwell, Samuel Burgess, George Lucas, and James Cameron. The Galacticas joined these universes, creating peace among outcasts, wallflowers, punks, and geeks. This is their story….
The Galacticas are a pop punk band in Calgary with a geeky twist. Much like Calgary band Betaboys, film plays a huge role in the sound of The Galacticas. While the band express adoration for Blink-182, they also find inspiration from Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Aliens. The band set out to capture two frontiers musically and lyrically: they aim to write about real topics like heartbreak and disillusionment using geek allusions, as well as creating “music for robots to punch each other to.”
After his former band Black Earth played their final show, guitarist Anthony Janicki set out to create a pop punk group where he could be the lead singer and songwriter. Anthony quickly caught drummer Will Cowan bashing it out at the now closed New Black Centre, which was an all ages venue in Inglewood. Will was playing with the hard rock band Vulture Row at the time, and I personally remember cranking up their single “Two Dollar Brew” frequently as a high schooler. Anthony managed to get Will in his tractor beam, and after sharing the stage with The Bandolier Brigade, the lineup was completed with Mark Ferguson on bass.
The band’s name, music, lyrics, and visual material are all peppered with callbacks to 20th century sci-fi. I was curious as to what The Galacticas' idea was regarding the relationship between the galaxies of Lucasfilms’ narratives, and of Joey Ramone’s punk rock howling. “If you're a popular kid in school then you don't need things like sci-fi or punk rock,” Anthony begins. “You've usually got enough friends and support to keep you happy. Sci-fi and punk rock are both forms of media that tend to attract outcasts. They offer a form of escape that can be challenging at first. I certainly remember finding so many of the kids I'd meet at punk shows as a teenager also had a geeky side. Something about the creative and exploratory nature of both genres seem to attract similar sorts of people.”
The band detail how they would love to see their music accompany the upcoming Dune movie, but feel that their songs would best fit on the soundtrack to the 1986 Transformers film. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe there are many songs out there that can rival the spirit of Stan Bush’s “The Touch.” I will say though that upon diving into The Galacticas’ discography, they would certainly feel at home in such a collection alongside “The Touch.”
The band’s song “21st Century First World Problems'' does exactly what they set out to do, capturing the real world around them with nods to the worlds of science fiction. “That song is the footprint of our old bass player Dan Wollach,” Anthony explains. “He wrote and sang the verse sections and what he was talking about people who hide behind their phones. How certain people are keyboard warriors who make little to no real sacrifice in their comfortable lives. I wrote the chorus sections to convey how this vapid mentality is just the price of progress.” The grip of technology is palpable in our modern world, and the topic has been ubiquitous across many sci-fi works including James Cameron’s The Terminator and T2: Judgement Day. The Galacticas show exactly what they set out to do, they show a community for the outcasts and geeks, and they tie it all off with catchy pop punk tunes ``for geeks, by geeks.” Upon taking all of this in, one thing can be for certain if your curiosity had you stumble across this article: these ARE the droids you’re looking for.
by Mark Janz
For fans of: The Cars, A Flock of Seagulls and Siouxsie and the Banshees
I will admit, I write this article with a certain degree of perplexion. What has made me feel this way? It’s that I’m not sure whether a better testament to Betaboys’ sound would be to hit you with three bands, or three films. Everything about the new wave group conjures up images of Pretty In Pink (1986), but also the sonic sensations of A Flock of Seagulls. “Our sound is essentially a love-letter to 1980s new wave and power pop. I wanted the songs to be melodic, poppy and have catchy synth parts weaving in and out. Our newer songs have definitely expanded the pallet in terms of mood and texture. No matter what, I hope that nostalgic yearning comes through in our sound” bassist Scotty Perrin explains. “For whatever reason, that time period has always resonated very strongly with me, in terms of music, pop culture, style, sports, etc. I was only alive for a brief window of the decade and yet it feels like home to me.”
The influence of the new wave sounds of the Reagan age is very palpable upon listening to Betaboys’ 2018 single “Who I’d Dance For.” The track permeates with the tubular synths and delay-soaked guitars that would find their home on the soundtrack for a film like Adventureland (2009), with lyrical content that would actually fit the film’s protagonists pretty well. “The emotional science of dancing is such an interesting thing,” vocalist Brett Sandford begins. “For some people it comes so easily, they’re just naturals. Personally, I never do it much. I always wonder— am I doing it right? Are people watching? I bet I look so dumb. But then, when the right person comes along, I’m suddenly into it. And that’s what the song is about, how the right people can pull you out of your comfort zone and make you have a little more fun.”
With all of this discussion of a band with such a bold sound and a bold aesthetic, one might wonder what the origins of such an outfit are. Bassist Scotty Perrin was certainly no stranger to the live music scene, having toured Canada and the USA for multiple years with his previous band. After an amicable parting of ways, Scotty had a window that he wanted painted baby pink. A vision for a group of characters, with a sound and vision to harken back to a time of relative simplicity and occasional time travel. Admittedly being a little gun shy at first, we all can’t help but rejoice that Scotty put the beat out to vocalist Brett Sandford, guitarist Thomas Englund, synth wizard Davis de Souza, and beat machine Sean Hamilton. Coincidentally, the band’s latest single is actually called “So Shy,” which carries a different sound than “Who I’d Dance For.” The band tells me this is because they always valued albums where songs all have their own identity, and we can expect more sonic variety from them in the future.
Betaboys have discussed the influence of film on their music as much as they have the music of The Cars, A Flock of Seagulls, and Siousxie and the Banshees. And that influence is definitely why their songs sound so at home on a coming-of-age soundtrack, because they are written in that vein in the first place. “The approach is generally to get some concepts going in the beginning, then try to build a story around that which fits the feel of the music” Brett explains to me.
The band marks all of their visual material with “Betaboys Worldwide, 1987.” What was it about the year of 1987? Music typically recognizes it as the release year of the best selling debut album of all time (Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction”), but I figured there had to be something more sentimental there. “We have a song on our upcoming release called ‘July 87’, and although that was just a working title for the song, it just kinda stuck. We liked the look and feel of it and just decided to add it wherever we could” Brett explains. Betaboys have big plans for more releases in the future, and are planning a relentless embrace on the Calgary crowds after this pandemic. Expect a 4 song EP to be released “when it feels right!”