Fight the future
On the run from dystopia, Vancouver’s The Rebel Spell stops in Chico
Where would punk rock be without the intellectual, socially conscious kids who make it their everyday concern to try to make the world a better place … or at least challenge the idea that the world is such a great place to begin with? Political-punk heavyweights like the Dead Kennedys and Propagandhi have been around for years now, but the battle ain’t over, and The Rebel Spell, a refreshingly spirited four-piece from Vancouver, British Columbia, demonstrates that the socially conscious diatribe is still alive in punk. The band’s delivery is fast and catchy, as on “Please Resist” (from 2007’s Four Songs About Freedom EP), an aggressively polite call to fight against accepting a rotting culture’s bleak future: “Please resist, it may be all there is/ If this is it, at least you did.”
I talked with singer Todd Serious about The Rebel Spell’s upcoming album and the band’s current tour, which is taking its members far away from the Winter Olympics and an Orwellian bleakness that has taken over their home city.
What prompted your decision to go on tour right now?
We went on tour last February. It’s nice because it’s not too hot down in America, and we can get away from here, where it’s freezing. Also the Olympics are going on right now, so it’s a no-brainer. We wanted to get out of here, even though there’s a huge anti-Olympics convention that lots of people from the States will be at, so we’re getting out while everyone else is coming here.
Still, it feels like we’re under siege right now. Twenty thousand military troops were moved in for the Olympics, along with so many cops and security officers. It’s a complete police state right now. You can literally get ticketed for having your garbage can in the wrong area.
Can you say more about the problems people are having with the Olympics?
The Olympics is a two-week party for the rich, at the cost of the city. It’s causing property values to go up, which makes low-income housing get ’dozed. So we’ve got skyrocketing homelessness. There’s new laws about advertising, so there’s no flyering downtown. It’s costing the host city billions of dollars that could have gone to other things. It’s a corporate cash grab for sponsors, so McDonald’s and Coca-Cola can make tons of money while they’re here. There’s a huge crackdown on any sort of punk or activist houses. It’s affected me because now there’s an hour wait to take the metro, when usually there wouldn’t be any wait at all. They just spent a billion on a transit line that goes to the airport, when there’s already one there, and we really need one that goes east. There’s a bunch of stuff really. If you want to learn more, check out www.no2010.org.
The Rebel Spell is working on a new album, right?
Yeah, we have a record coming out called It’s a Beautiful Future—that’s supposed to be sarcastic. On it, there’s a song about surveillance cameras, and how now we’re on film all the time. There’s a song about environmental apocalypse, and the completion of the police state. It’s basically about the problems down the road that we aren’t thinking about right now.
Is it hard getting across the border to play in the U.S.?
I’m not sure if I should be saying this. I have a dual citizenship, because my mother was born in the States, so I have an American passport. I’ve heard about bands that have been banned for 10 years or even life for trying to play shows on the other side of the border. The idea is that we’re taking jobs away from American musicians, but chances are we’re going to be losing money on this tour. The truth is, they just don’t want that kind of riff-raff crossing their imaginary line.
Tell me the story of when The Casualties came to Canada and played with you.
Oh yeah, that’s funny. That was our old bass player’s story. When The Casualties played up here, in between songs they told everyone to vote for John Kerry. While we certainly feel the effect of American politics, we’re still not allowed to vote for who your president is. Sorry, Casualties.