by Mark Janz
For fans of: Corrosion of Conformity, The Sword, Kyuss
A name like Flashback might insinuate a few different things to a first timer: perhaps a cover band that plays the ‘80s dance party every year at the Deerfoot Inn & Casino? Or maybe a local DJ who considers themselves a spiritual apprentice to the great Grandmaster Flash? Both sound plausible, but what if I were to tell you that Flashback was the name of a fuzzy, crawling, handlebar-moustache clad stoner rock band hazing up the basements of every dive in the city? I reckon you’d say “tell me more.”
Stoner rock can be rather polarizing as a genre, as some hear the term as pejorative, where others hear it as a term of endearment. Speaking to Flashback vocalist and guitarist Aidan Desmarais, the line is one that definitely got discussed. “I know that a lot of people dislike the term “stoner rock”, because it brings up a very narrow implication about who listens to it or what it sounds like,” he begins. “I think I would describe ‘stoner rock’ as being a genre that is primarily rooted in ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelic rock, ‘70s classic rock, and early ‘70s and ‘80s heavy metal, but modernized. Typically the riffs are slowed down, and there is always a groove in the music that is easy to get into. But sometimes it’s super up-tempo.”
The 4 stoners-of-interest in this group (“we are a stoner rock band after all!”) are lead vocalist and guitarist Desmarais, bassist Gabo Lagasca, guitarist Jacob Chase, and drummer Lucas MacLeod. Desmarais and Lagasca were two high school headbangers that were seeking a heartbeat for their machine in 2016, and drummer Lucas Mcleod came in the form of Dr. Frankenstein’s necromantic bolt of lightning to awaken the beast. After about a year, there was a void for another screaming 6 stringer waiting to be crashed through. A rogue Edmontonian named Jacob Chase came spiralling into the mix, albeit after a bit of a challenging start. “We get this message from this 27 year old dude who wants to join the band,” Desmarais chronicles. “At first we were like, ‘what is going on here?’ and, ‘he’s like 10 years older than us!’, and so it died a quick death,” he laughs. “Well a year after that, our drummer Lucas joined the Calgary noise rock band Geoff, and the 27 year old by the name of Jacob Chase who had contacted us was playing bass in that band! We had kinda awkwardly stumbled into a rehearsal room together to see the new band play, and after that we started to consider having him come play with us.” A wise decision it was, as any listener hearing how the guitars play with and off of one another would tell you. As for the group’s name, it came to them in a high pressure jam situation where they needed to identify themselves for their onstage introduction. Demarais glanced down at his guitar pedals, and first saw the word ‘flashback’ on one of his effects loops, which proved to be a pretty happy incident of recency.
Contrary to the band name, Flashback are a band that very much likes to think forward. Modernizing the hairy grooves established by titans like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, the band create a force all their own for the 2020s. In harmony with Desmarais’ earlier sentiments about what people’s preconceptions of what stoner rock is, he details how their brand new album’s title “Heathen of Influence” takes on such a strong meaning. “I think when we started to write Heathen Of Influence, the lyrical content that came out of it had a lot to do with the immediate observation about other people and the world in general,” he explains. “Just the idea that certain collectives force their ideas on other people, and that there is no ability nor right to question or make a decision for oneself, is bothersome to me.” The band may create a visage of the stereotypical stone-age Albertan with their ‘70s injected tunes and their gruff aesthetic, but the band are all about avoiding black and white mentality. They are about avoiding painting everything the same way; they aim to challenge those closing off their minds and forcing a hollow stake in others’ choices. To me, that’s what rock is all about.
The band released a music video for one of the album’s tracks “Widow’s Breath” a few months ago. The video looks sweet, but the story behind the shooting process makes it even more fun to watch. “Filming the video was super weird. Treton Karlson did a great job shooting it, and we kinda just stood there, pretended like we were rocking out and lip synced to the video. Only Lucas was able to hear the song in his earphones because we didn’t have a stereo loud enough to play the song for us all to hear over him actually playing his drums...so the three of us in the front were lip syncing and air guitaring off of memory.” The song itself stems from a specific strain of “the sacred smoke” called “white widow.” Some of, but not all, of the band members had been experimenting with this strain around the time of the song’s writing, which influenced the writing of the song. “We are a stoner rock band after all!”
While many of Flashback’s lyrics denote criticism to the outside, that by no means suggests that there aren’t four wildly introspective hearts behind the album’s tunes. One of the tracks “Atomic Fog” creates a hauntingly heavy journal entry of very real experiences that Desmarais has had, and that many of us can find pieces to relate to as well. The album ends with a surprising acoustic track, an idea put forward by drummer Lucas Mcleod, which serves as a satisfying end to chapter 1 of Flashback. Do not be mistaken though, tracks like “From the Frost” and “Darkened Plague” serve as bone crushingly heavy groovers that are sure to add an appropriate amount of chaos into your Saturday night.
Speaking of Saturday nights, you can frequently catch Flashback playing local spots like The Palomino and Dickens. The band expresses that they would love to bring their heavy tunes to a venue like the Ironwood in Inglewood, but also expresses that they are happy to share their tunes with whoever will have them. “We are already working on new music, and we have some special plans we are working on for a possible release next year” Desmarais tells me. “When shows are allowed again, we want to play as much as possible.” Future plans even include playing across the country, and even ambitions to take the machine across continents. While nothing is set in stone, one thing for sure is: “you will definitely be hearing more from us.”