Since bursting on to the Calgary scene in 2010, Double Fuzz has established itself as one of the most exciting and dynamic guitar driven duos to come out of Western Canada in a long time. Lighting the initial fire with the release of a 3 song EP, the group’s eponymous 2012 full length follow up, delivered a drive and intensity that leapt out of the riff laden grooves like a house on fire. The release also made it clear that the band wasn’t just a sonic force to be reckoned with; leader Jonny Whitehead was also staking his claim as a powerful songwriter, combining instantly memorable hooks with trenchant lyrics and a visceral delivery, in ways that immediately set the band apart from their indie rock contemporaries.
Audiences quickly caught on and began to pack their shows and the media was quick to pick up on the excitement. From scoring the cover of Beatroute Magazine; to taking top prize in the X92 FM’s Xposure competition, 2012 was a real barn burner and by the time it was over, Double Fuzz had gone from relative obscurity, to the city’s leading ‘it’ band, without missing a beat.
Now, after taking a hiatus to refresh and recharge, Whitehead and his fellow travellers are back with a big new album of epic tunes and instantly memorable rock riffs. Coco is an 8 - song opus that truly raises the bar for the band. Recorded earlier this year at Raincity Studios in Vancouver with producer Jesse Gander (Japandroids, The Pack AD), the sophomore effort is immediately recognizable as Double Fuzz, but at the same time, expands significantly on the terrain the group so ably conquered in 2012. “Working with Jesse was great,” says Whitehead. “He really helped guide the artistic direction and better define my playing style. We worked really hard to produce these new tracks and I’m really happy with the results.”
Jonny Whitehead grew up on classic rock, listening to his Dad’s early Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin albums for hours on end, thriving on the riffs and memorable hooks like so many kids before him. And it’s music he still takes inspiration from to this day. As a teenager though, he also started getting into some of the sounds coming out of America’s west coast and it was those sounds and styles that provided the inspiration for much of the material that has found it’s way onto Coco. “For the new album I took a lot of inspiration from the grunge scene of the 90's, the glam rock coming out of LA in the 80's, and even some of the psychedelic sounds out of the Bay Area in the 70s” he says. “You could say this album is my ode to the west coast.”
The album’s geographic theme may have some logic to it, as Whitehead set up shop on Canada’s west coast to do the bulk of the song writing, a move that was driven by necessity. “I couldn't seem to focus in Calgary,” he says, “so my girlfriend and I moved to the back woods outside of Pemberton BC for a while. We had no telephone and very limited communication with the outside world. I brought some of my Dad’s old records that I still had kicking around, and some of my other favorites and we just disappeared for a few months.”
While Whitehead has always been the driving force behind Double Fuzz, drummer Harvey Warren has also played a central role in helping define the group’s sound. The first call Calgary drummer quickly locked in on where Whitehead was heading, the minute they started playing together, and like producer Jesse Gander, he has also helped hone the distinct DF sound and sonic approach over the last two albums. It’s an approach that lead to a WCMA nomination for their debut, which also caught the attention of some key music supervisors, leading to songs being placed in the Showtime series Shameless and also being used for Patagonia clothing company commercial.
The progression of the band’s singular esthetic is immediately evident on the new album’s opening track, “Anything Left For Me?”, which leads off with a searing blues riff, before locking into a rock solid groove. Soon Whitehead is belting out a repetitive refrain, “Can it be true? Can it be true?” and by the time the chorus hits, the truth is told – and jilted love is, as usual, to blame. Things take on an even darker tone on “Wanna Go For a Ride” a sort of anti-paean to the sad history of the many missing and murdered young women from Vancouver’s Hastings and Main corridor. “It's like a speed driven trip through the dark side of the city”, says Whitehead. “The lyrics are spastic, aggressive and abrupt - just like the lives of so many of the disenfranchised women who live down there”, and several stanzas from the tune evoke the area’s troubling dynamic perfectly:
“Crystal in her bloodstream
Stumble In his high beams
Glitter when her lips speak
Looks like easy picking….”
Then, in the end, he assumes the voice of the used and abused:
“Father won't you take me home
Father please take me home
Farther from the fires below
Potent stuff, underpinned by one of the bands many searing, muscular grooves.
With Coco completed and in the can, all attention is now focused on putting together the live show and getting things in place for the album’s pending international release this fall. “I’m really looking forward to firing the DF live machine up again,” says Whitehead. “The new songs are a lot of fun to play and we are going to be adding on some additional players to broaden the sound and take it to another level.” With release shows planned for October in Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria and further cross-country touring coming in the first half of 2016, Double Fuzz will soon be roaring back on to the scene with a vengeance and playing in a club near you. Don’t sleep!