by Sheldon Birnie
Take a fuckton of pure raw rocking talent, age with thousands of cold road kilometers, season heavily with equal parts Fu Manchu, Scorpions, Alice Cooper and Dolly Parton, free pour in some whiskey and blood, two girls, one drum kit, and shake it up, hard.
Voila: Chica Boom Boom.
While still a relatively new project, Chica Boom Boom, the heavy dark fuzz duo of Joanne Rodriguez and Alana Mercer, are already a force to be reckoned with. Considering the bands these two gals have had a hand in over the years — the Vagiants, the Quiffs, the Gorgon, American Flamewhip, the Angry Dragons, the Gunness, and many more — how could it not be?
“I loved the Quiffs,” says J-Rod.
“And I loved the Vagiants,” responds Alana. Chica Boom Boom met up with Stylus at the ANAF Club 60 for a few rounds of Irish whisky and cold Half Pints one snowy November evening. “It was really just like, we were playing the Albert a lot together.”
“I don’t want to be like, ‘Oh, it’s awesome being a girl’,” J-Rod says. “But when you see another female band or musicians, I’m always like ‘Awesome, another girl on the scene.’ There’s no room for like cattiness or competition, like Jem & the Holograms and the Misfits, right?”
“It’s been done!” says Alana.
“You gotta help each other out,” J-Rod opines, before wondering, “Who was that Misfit that was always on the Holograms side?”
“Stormer,” answers Alana without pause. “She was just a little bad at heart. She couldn’t help the way she was drawn.”
“Stormer was always like, evil, but still a good guy, you know? You gotta be a good guy.”
Which is to say that Alana and J-Rod go back a long, long way. After meeting in the ladies room at the Albert way back when, the two have formed a long lasting musical friendship and bond after their various bands shared hundreds of bills and travelled thousands of kilometers together on the cold roads that connect disparate Canadian music scenes.
“When that weird, tunnel vision tour talk gets started,” Alana says. “You can tell we’ve toured enough together.”
“If you click, you click,” J-Rod says. “And we definitely click. We lived together for a while, we date brothers [Joe & Karl Warkentin FYI], we shared a deodorant for a year. But, I mean, it was a large, men’s deodorant, not a tiny girl deodorant.”
These two powerhouses first joined forces when Alana stepped into fill the Angry Dragons drum stool when Bill Northcott had a baby. But when the Dragons went on hiatus (“people get married, people open shops, people get management jobs…”), J-Rod and Alana knew they wanted to continue making music together.
“Less people = easier scheduling,” explains J-Rod. They did the math.
“We both figured out pretty quickly that we both wanted to play something a little heavy,” Alana explains. “Something where we know our hair is gonna be falling out from whatever we put it up in by the end of the set.”
Based on their mutual love for heavy, fuzzy rock (Melvins, Fu Manchu, et al.), and a penchant for “covers of covers of covers,” Chica Boom Boom was born. Alana either plays guitar and a kick drum while J-Rod tackles bass and a pedal-bound tambourine or high-hat, or Alana’s on the full-kit while J-Rod rocks bass for heavier, stoner inspired jams. Both women share vocal duties.
“We’re kind of meeting in the middle with our voices,” Alana says. “She can actually sing and I can’t. I sound like cookie monster. But we find a way to harmonize that doesn’t sound crazy. Or too crazy, anyway.”
“There’s something to be said about achieving a heavy sound between two people,” muses J-Rod, citing the influence of heavy duos Japandroids, Death From Above 1979, and the Pack AD.
And so, nearly two years in, the band have four songs in the can, with dates in the studio set for late December to hammer out some more. How those songs will appear has yet to be determined, but they’ll be out in some form in the New Year (“maybe a 7”, maybe a full length?”) courtesy of Transistor 66.
Chica Boom Boom are also rather ebullient over their upcoming opening slot for another influential Winnipeg duo, playing a rare reunion show on Boxing Day: Duotang.
“Duotang were cutting edge in their heyday,” says J-Rod. “I saw them on the Wedge all the time. But to hear they were playing a reunion show in their hometown at the Good Will? That’s awesome. And two girls opening up for two guys? That’s perfect!”
Don’t miss Chica Boom Boom and Duotang on Boxing Day at the Good Will Social Club. And keep your eyes peeled for their debut vinyl release early in 2015.