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You Say Party! We Say Die! Staying Alive

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An explosive argument almost ended Canada’s You Say Party! We Say Die! in the streets of Berlin. Under clearer weather than their 2007 European tour, keyboardist Krista Loewen spoke with me outside her Vancouver home. Excited about a U.S tour next March for their new album XXXX. I found the post-punk band dedicated to staying together.

Formed in 2004, You Say Party! We Say Die! features lead singer Becky Ninkovic, keyboardist Krista Loewen, bassist Steven O’Shea, guitarist Derek Adam and drummer Devin Clifford. Hell-bent on carrying their music from the Vancouver suburb of Abbotsford to the rest of the world, the band tours relentlessly. They racked up their ninth Canadian tour last October. Add a couple tours of Europe, and one of Asia, and you find a band willing to push themselves. However, You Say Party! We Say Die! have notoriously driven themselves into trouble in the past.

The dark seeds that grew into XXXX planted themselves while the band was promoting their second LP Lose All Time. Performing four continuous months, first in Canada then Europe during the fall/winter of 2007, the frequently bespeckled Loewen recalls, “The album Lose All Time was representative of that time. We were all feeling lost touring. We didn’t even know what time it was.”

In charge of the group’s expenses, she found the tour stress growing from an extreme lack of money. The European trip had started well, traveling with U.K. friends Los Campesinos!. The five members of You Say Party! We Say Die! squeezed into one hotel room and drove a station wagon. As the months lurched on, anxiety rose from not much sleep and too much alcohol and caffeine. Ninkovic’s voice deteriorated to a mere whisper during interviews. Loewen remembers, “ It’s not just when you spend four months scraping by. When no one’s really looking after their needs it’s really wearing down on you.”

Then things exploded. A dispute between group members following their Berlin concert ended with Ninkovic charging at drummer Clifford. After two huge Germans dragged them out of the club, the band almost split up. Their manager convinced them to finish the last month of tour dates. No Technicolor sunbeams and smiles, but they felt a connection between each other.

“That tour and the post tour was a huge turning point for us. We’ve come through that and become a family more than anything else. We’ve been good friends for a very long time. Devin and Derek have known each other since birth. We’re all more like brothers and sisters now. We can talk about stuff and really work through things because we all that we love each other. We all want to keep doing this and stay together. We’re committed to it,“ said Loewen.

Now when they tour, they spend more time resting rather than partying. For Loewen it’s relaxing in front of the hotel room TV and watching Iron Chef and The Food Network. “You spend all your energy at the show for the crowd. And once you’re done, you’re just done.”

Rather than rush recording of XXXX, the band took five leisurely months. In that time, they diversified their blaring punk sound with moody New Wave textures. While Loewen mentions her fascination with groups like Murder City Devils, she and the other band members all love 80s music. “When I was younger what really got me into music was punk rock. But as I got a little bit older, it was New Wave of the 80s, especially Blondie and some others.”

More than a collection of new songs, the latest recording represented an emotional release for You Say Party! We Say Die!. “These songs were written after going through a lot of the hard stuff. We sing about regrouping and finding our selves souls again. Being a group that really cares about each other.” Many of the lyrics allude to finding hope and a sense of purpose like the obviously titled “Dark Days” or more subtle “She’s Spoken For.”

To nail down the demons that plagued Ninkovic’s voice touring, she along with Loewen sought advice from trainer Sharla Souder. They must have applied that to this album because both their vocals sound sharper. Ninkovic especially dishes out a more distinctive and emotional performance.

This begs the question of why no one thought of getting more training earlier. Loewen admits that a little inexperience with being in a band made them put it off until now. “It was the point where Becky felt she needed to do something. Not that we didn’t consider it important. We just hadn’t thought of it before.”

It turned out to be the right time. Music fans up north love the new album with songs like “Laura Palmer’s Prom,” popular on the Canadian college radio charts. In January, XXXX was the #1 college album according to Chartattack.com. Finally, after almost four years, they can tour the U.S. and headline most of the shows. Their lawyer deserves big thanks for smoothing out bassist O’Shea’s five-year ban for attempting to cross the border without a work permit

The first city Loewen wants to visit is San Francisco where You Say Party! We Say Die! play Bottom of the Hill March 12. The East Coast looks attractive as well. “We went to New York once, but we spent eight hours there and had to drive straight out after the show. I’m looking forward to spending more time there and seeing some cities on the coast.”

You Say Party! We Say Die! throw out a lot of energy in their shows with Ninkovic jumping off drum kits and bassist Stephen O’Shea slashing the air with his bass. The crowds at their recent shows have responded with perhaps too much enthusiasm. In Canmore, Alberta, a naked guy streaked onstage wearing nothing but a You Say Party! We Say Die! sticker. This sends the normally collected Loewen into intense laughter. “He was quickly removed from the venue, but we convinced them the venue’s security to let him back in if he put his clothes back on.” A less graphic but more encouraging event is people singing and dancing to the new songs. A surprised Loewen remarks, “You expect your audience to know your older stuff more. I think we might be getting new fans.



You Say Party! We Say Die! play Bottom of the Hill March 12. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

Bottom of the Hill show details.

You Say Party! We Say Die!'s MySpace page.

You Say Party! We Say Die!'s website.


You Say Party! We Say Die! U.S Tour:

09-Mar – Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
10-Mar – Portland, OR – Doug Fir
12-Mar – San Fran, CA – Bottom Of the Hill
13-Mar – Los Angeles, CA – Echoplex
15-Mar – Phoenix, AZ – Rhythm Room
17-Mar – Austin, TX – Canadian Blast Party @ SXSW
17-Mar – Austin, TX – Pure Volume Showcase @ SXSW
18-Mar – Austin, TX – Casablanca Publishing / Maggie Mae’s @ SXSW
18-Mar – Austin, TX – Paper Bag Records Party / Speakeasy @ SXSW
19-Mar – Austin, TX – Consequence of Sound Party / Black Sheep Lodge @ SXSW
19-Mar – Austin, TX – Lose Control 2010 Party / Vice @ SXSW
21-Mar – Memphis, TN – Hi Tone
22-Mar – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
23-Mar – Charlotte, NC – Snug Harbor
24-Mar – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
26-Mar – New York, NY – Knitting Factory
27-Mar – Boston, MA – TT The Bears
29-Mar – New York, NY – Piano’s
30-Mar – Detroit, MI – Pike Room
31-Mar – Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle

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About Kevin Gustafson