by Daniel Emberg
There is a question that passed through seven generations of my ancestors who never had the privilege of asking an expert. Given the opportunity to speak with Owen Strasky of Krang, I couldn’t avoid putting it to him. That most unscratchable itch could be raked once and for all: what is the difference between stoner rock and psychedelic rock?
Why was it so obvious Strasky would be a good guy to ask? Krang is a well-respected and well-qualified stoner rock band. For whatever reason (okay, obvious reasons), the green comprises a big part of their identity in the collective imagination of their budding fanbase. They have even won an award for it! Well, they got listed under “Most Stoned Dudes” in the Weird Canada 2012 retrospective, which probably feels as cool as being the first kid in your neighbourhood who knows how to properly spin one up.
Back to the important bit, what is the response to the question?
Says Strasky, “I always thought that stoner rock was really psychedelic anyway, and it’s all kind of like the same thing. I guess stoner rock lends itself to a heavier tone, like what we bring, over a more tame sound like in psychedelic rock. We have a bit of a heavy edge at times.”
So that’s the distinction in all its concise glory: stoner rock is trippy and heavy, now everyone knows for sure.
Strasky and his Krang bandmates (Jared Majeski, Parker “Ruiner” Thiessen, and Dean “The Ram” Watson) will be putting on a clinic in this medicinal music form on Sunday night at Dead Lobster, and joining them on the bill will be a bunch of local talent that knows what long weekends are all about: Cheering for the Bad Guy, Surprise Party, and Rob Crooks. It takes some work to imagine this not being a good load of fun.
Krang, after all, has been the soundtrack to young love in their hometown of Edmonton for a few years now, but this will be their first time playing Winnipeg. They’ve made their name through a lengthy list of releases and a reputation for consistently planting positive memories in those who see them live.
Their latest release, Prairie Tragedy, will be available on vinyl soon, but for the time being they are bringing some cassette copies that include a couple of extra goodies.
“We do a cover of ‘Season of the Witch,’ the Donovan classic,” says Strasky, “and there’s a noise track by Parker. It’s a limited edition, 25 copies.”
There is already another release on the horizon too, though it’s actually somewhat related. “We went in with a plan to get all our songs recorded and it turns out that only four can fit on a record,” explains Strasky. “[They were] recorded with Renny Wilson last November, so about a year ago. Prairie Tragedy is four songs from those recordings.”
Odds are the next one will also be a rather limited release, but thankfully Krang has made all of their stuff available for free (or whatever) on Bandcamp.
The quality of their work has garnered Krang enough respect that John McBain (best known as a member of Monster Magnet and Wellwater Conspiracy) mastered Prairie Tragedy and will be doing the same with the rest of what they recorded last year.
“We’re really familiar with his work and very excited to have him,” Strasky continues, adding that they were put in touch with McBain by their pals in Shooting Guns, with whom Krang released a split 7” last year that scored a super hug from Stylus. The members are all involved in other bands together back in Edmonton, such as Zebra Pulse and Bonspiel! Thiessen also regularly does experimental noise shows. Those are other creative outlets, but there is a focused intent and natural chemistry for the fellers in Krang.
“Lots of times things will sort of organically evolve through jams,” explains Strasky, “but it’s definitely also a style we all play in anyway. It’s pretty open and jammy, but there’s definitely a formula to it….There’s a sound we’re all aiming for with Krang for sure, like the tone of the guitar, the repetitiveness of the riffs and drums. Motorbikes?”
Motorbikes. Krang. Dead Lobster. Sunday.