’Twas the night before Halloween, and a menacing crowd arrived at the Copper Owl to unleash their dark sides and headbang. No headlining band could be more fitting for the occasion than War Baby, heavy grime rockers with enough years of experience to lace their intense on-stage presence with a perfected live sound. The audience of sweaty ghouls immediately crowded around the band’s powerful energy.
War Baby is a melting pot, a mashup of eerie lyrics and melodic grunge, incorporating noise distortion that somehow both rattles the bones and elicits emotion. Despite their metalhead image, War Baby is comprised of three well-humoured and relaxed friends, but the band admits they enjoy placing a cryptic veil between themselves and their fans. In reality, Brock Allens (bass), Jon Redditt (guitar, vocals), and Kirby Fischer (drums) are actually guys who would be seriously fun to spend a weekend with, drinking beer and listening to Jon Bon Jovi. Nevertheless, their band website is riddled with disturbing imagery, including a photo of their heads wrapped in plastic. “Everything is about confusing people,” laughed Fischer.
War Baby likes to warp perceptions, but their talent was nothing but tangible at the live show. Redditt’s raw vocals showed a range that extended beyond the usual Nirvana comparisons, while Allens’s basslines stirred the crowd into a sea of rhythmic head bobbing. Unlike most bands, the drummer demanded a serious amount of on-stage attention: Fischer’s energy was palpable; his arms flailed widely in focused movement, yet he sounded pristine.
The Copper Owl show on Oct. 30 was also a release party for the band’s newest album, Death Sweats. Fischer said, “[Death Sweats] feels a bit more mature” than their previous album, Jesus Horse, which earned a spot on the Huffington Post’s top ten indie albums of 2013. Allens joined the group since the making of Jesus Horse, and the inclusion of his bass and songwriting has contributed a more comprehensive, thrashIer sound to the band. They say that it’s reasonable they’re often grouped in with ‘90s grunge bands, because they grew up listening to them. However, when War Baby began, they didn’t set out to sound like anyone else.
The band is currently based in Vancouver, and Redditt admitted they had a rough start breaking into the city’s established and sometimes cliquey music scene. “There’s always like these little branches, and we really didn’t have a branch to stand on,” he said. The band eventually created their own genre platform and gained a fan following that complimented their talent. Redditt explained that every band struggles differently, while Allens added, “Don’t take anyone else’s advice.”
War Baby has toured Western Canada, appearing at festivals like Sled Island in Calgary and Canadian Music Week in Toronto. They also played at Qingdao’s Intercity Music Festival in China. Surprisingly, the band reveals that they aren’t constantly checking sites like Pitchfork to track their competition. Redditt said, “I’m not a music nerd at all.” Fischer added, “It doesn’t need to be complicated, you just keep going.”
Death Sweats is currently available for online purchase and includes access to a virtual game created by the band. More info is available at warbabymusic.com and warbaby.bandcamp.com.