20 Questions With: Jason Camp & The Posers
On a Sunday afternoon in 2016, Jason Camp & The Posers decided to record their debut EP in a friend’s living room. Hungover. The result was Neat Times and Family Values, 24 minutes of breakneck, upbeat punkabilly. Featuring tracks like Mullet Rick (“About a local hairstyle icon and his battle with life.”) and Mongolian Goat Herder, the album is every bit as fun as it is intense.
Contrary the obscure band name (more on than later), Jason Camp & The Posers consists of two self-proclaimed Haida madmen: SG_aan Kwah.Agang (James McGuire) on vocals and guitar, and Jaahljuu (Graham Richard) on drums. While their music covers conventional topics like mischief, love and heartbreak, the duo also touch on local folklore and incorporate traditional Haida dance into their recordings and live shows. They’re also founding members of a music cooperative designed to pool resources and experience to record, film and produce local artists.
We recently touched base with the guys, who are currently working on new material and looking to line up some gigs for the summer. Here’s what they had to say about life in Haida Gwaii, raging against the machine and more.
When, how and why did Jason Camp & The Posers form?
Jaahljuu: Our band formed out of the quagmire of post-colonial rage and the leftovers of years of disenfranchisement. These unique societal conditions inevitably led to our encounter at a party in the village on front street (Skidegate, Haida Gwaii). Us two found comfort in our common lack of skill and deep need to create.
Where did the name come from?
Jaahljuu: We weren’t really a band until renowned DJ and cultural enigma Jason Camp strolled in on one of our ‘practice’ sessions and confronted us. We had to face the fact that without a name we weren’t a real band. Thus it was determined we would thenceforth by called “Jason Camp and the Posers.” It was the ring of the name that really hit us. While Jason Camp himself was never really in the band, we couldn’t really call ourselves “James McGuire and the Haters” or “Tayu and the Deep Feels.” Such names just don’t have the same ring.
Do you guys have day jobs outside of music?
Jaahljuu: I double as a low-ranking bureaucrat crawling amongst the hapless masses of mindless followers.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: I am a free man, professional mechanic, and radio personality.
Who are some of your musical influences?
SG_aan Kwah Agang: I look to the hopeless lovers of Chess Records like Bo Diddly, Howlin Wolf, and Muddy Waters for inspiration as lead guitarist. Beyond that I mine my personal life for lyrical insight (ie. women, a classic example).
Jaahljuu: I lean on a strong foundation in the worship anthems I recited as a child, apparently to no avail.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: Haida legends like Gidansda Percy Williams and Chini Har really led the way for us and gave us pointers about how to just do it and how to catch the ear of a crowd. It meant a lot to get Chini Har’s nod of approval at the Edge of the World festival last year. We really look up to him as a classic rocker who brought tons of energy and charisma to his music in his day.
Who’s your favourite band to cover?
Jaahljuu: Bo Diddly. He might be the first true gangster and punk rocker that ever was.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: I love the simplicity of his lyrics and guitar playing while saying so much and giving so many good feelings. We especially love the hollaback girls he hired to chant his own name for him. While we can only wish to reach such status, we still aim to get at least a few recordings featuring choruses of beautiful women singing the name of Jason Camp.
How would you describe your sound?
Jaahljuu: Well, people who listen to our music get pretty energized.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: We only know major chords, so all the feelings are good no matter how dark the lyrics are.
Jaahljuu: Some of the songs are about people getting murdered and coping with heartbreak. As I look out from behind the drums into the crowds of smiling rockers, it really hits me. “Are you guys even listening?” It takes a lot of energy to get through a punk-rock set, but it’s that anger with the fans that really drives me.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: As the song says, “We start a little family on the house on the hill/overlook the ocean from our windowsill/til late one evening I went out for a hunt/they took her by the neck and roped her right out front.”
Jaahljuu: But seriously, when you hear the tune you really can’t stop dancing.
Tell us a bit about life in Haida Gwaii.
Jaahljuu: Over 20,000 years ago the tallest ranges of the archipelago were dominated by gargantuan glaciers that dwarfed the ancestors who lived far below in a vast, flowery plain that today is known as “Hecate Strait.” As the glaciers melted the plains flooded turning the mountain peaks to islands. The resulting society was complex and nuanced. Just as it is today. That’s where our band comes from.
How does the isolation and remoteness influence and affect local musicians?
SG_aan Kwah Agang: There’s really no place for jerks and flakes in a small, isolated community. This fact really influences the tone of the culture in Haida Gwaii. People honour and respect one another, not just because it’s the right way to behave, but because you’re just bound to piss off someone’s auntie or encounter the offended party at co-op when you’re just trying to buy your lemons.
Jaahljuu: Haida Gwaii is a lot like a corner in a gold-river. The gravel rolls on but the gold sticks here.
Out of necessity, you and other local artists have had to adopt a very DIY approach to your music. What are some benefits and disadvantages of this?
Jaahljuu: Maybe we’re not experienced enough to know that there are any disadvantages.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: Cooperating with other artists is really the only way we know to create and record music.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Jaahljuu: Hold onto your sticks and don’t miss your shots.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: Even though we play at a furious pace we don’t really tend to train wreck because we just roll through our mistakes. It’s our saving grace because we make a lot of those. The boys from the Coastal Drifters were saying it’s clear our strong friendship is an obvious safety net on stage. We communicate so well, so we’re able to take each show in its own direction. Lots of eye contact, lots of joking around. We’re really not very serious, and that’s where we get our power from.
You guys are founding members of local music co-op. Tell us a bit about that.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: We work with a whole crew of people, including our friends in the Dub Jackson Band. Our druid Evan Amies-Galonski very generously offered a lot of his time to do all our recording before we went on tour together last summer. Our art director Alan started designing and screen-printing logos for both bands and the cooperative. Our road manager Cameron Bell, he plays with the Horny Sexytones, really helped us get organized on the road. That’s really where everything started, just with the initiative of a handful of community members. A lot of our friends help us to put on shows and give everyone a good time, especially in the dark winter months.
So we got official. Ging Gang Hla tllG̲ad means “do it yourself” and that’s what we named our cooperative. We promote independent music from Haida Gwaii and try to help one another accomplish our goals. We’re always on the hunt for more artists, hounding friends to get recorded and trying to get people to start their own bands. Eventually we want to pop up a full-fledged studio, record all kinds of musicians, and bring guests in from other nations, too. Everyone wants to visit Haida Gwaii. What better opportunity than to share and collaborate with some other artists while you’re here.
Who are some other Haida Gwaii artists our audiences should be aware of?
SG_aan Kwah Agang: Chini Har is really the OG rock-n-roller from Haida Gwaii. We look up to him for sure.
Jaahljuu: Obviously we work extensively with the Dub Jackson Band and we’ve partnered with them on everything every step of the way. We recorded our EPs together. Their album is called Summer and you can find it on Bandcamp. A little whiney though.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: Ja$e el Nino and the Haida Hippies led the way in DIY recording for our generation. They make their own fresh-baked raps from scratch, including all the beats designed by Tycoon and Walker Brown. Every now and again an el Nino will pass our way and we’re only to happy to perform with him.
Jaahljuu: On the north end Jordan Stewart Burton (JSB) has been writing, recording, and producing his own raps. He talks a lot about life on Haida Gwaii and the Indigenous struggle. His Soundcloud page has almost a decade’s worth of raps. We think he deserves a lot more attention and we’re hoping to work with him on stage.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: Bexley is a force of nature and just moved back home from Calgary, so we’re trying to get another band behind her.
Jaahljuu: We got true variety in Haida Gwaii, too. The Rez Necks cover all our metal needs with lightning fast solos and sick drum rampages. It really gets you through the winter.
Community is clearly very important to you guys. Do you see your music as a way to represent the Haida People? And if so, what messages do you want to get across?
Jaahljuu: Well we come from a Haida background, so no matter what we do that name will be represented. I don’t really think its any kinda choice. We like to joke around a lot, and that good humour is what has carried our nation through some insanely tough circumstances.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: Our generation is the first in a long time that can really start to recover from a barrage of trauma. I feel like punk has a big part to play in getting through a lot of that left over energy so that maybe in a few years me and Jaahljuu can start a jazz duet. Not just punk, but hip-hop, too is a great way a lot of youth are starting to sort through and communicate a lot of the junk we’ve been through.
What role do your Indigenous roots play in your day-to-day life in general and your music in particular?
Jaahljuu: Every day I wake up in the islands our ancestors have called home for millennia. It’s hard to describe to someone what that really means, but our origin is intertwined with everything that grows here. Our ancestors have harvested from the same stones and dug for food in the same soil. Every time you take a fish it’s a repetition of the same thing your ancestors stretching back for hundreds of generations have done. The salmon that come home every year, our ancestors owe their lives to those very same hereditary lines of salmon that we still catch today. I don’t really know what else to say. Its hard to describe to an outsider. To have lost so much of that in the last few generations, it provides a lot of the energy that we bring to our punk. Remembering what was lost gives us the rage we need to carry us through a set. By getting past a lot of that anger we can get closer to who we’re supposed to be.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: If you’ve been called an Indian or a chug or any other racist term for who you are, everything that you do is informed by the anger from that experience. Going on stage and yelling around is therapeutic. It’s a healthier way of working through your rage than alcoholism or drug use.
Favourite live gig?
SG_aan Kwah Agang: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is a show we organized for all the sweethearts in Haida Gwaii. Fortunately at the last minute we encountered some pretty convoluted local political conflicts, and we weren’t allowed to use the venue we’d set up all of our gear in. We were feeling pretty down and frustrated, but in the face of failure we made it happen.
Jaahljuu: We picked up the whole show and moved it to the dystopian bowels of the mechanical graveyards in West Charlotte. It’s where the vehicles go to die.
SG_aan Kwah Agangg: So we found ourselves in this epic heavy-duty mechanics shop. The owner had offered us the space at breakfast that day when he learned of our predicament.
Jaahljuu: All we had to do was get some help moving the myriad hazards out of the way. There were cans of toxic materials littering the shop, loose wires and batteries lying around. Probably a sword or two dangling from the ceiling and stuff.
SG_aan Kwah Agangg: I guess the real magic was we weren’t sure if it was legal. Man this show had everything. There were roller girls, there were semester girls. Two punk bands punctuated by a burlesque show in the dark depths of February. Someone got to flag burning. There was blood sprayed everywhere because I cut my hand on the guitar. It was crazy.
Jaahljuu: There’s still blood spots on my cymbals.
SG_aan Kwah Agangg: The best part is that there’s all kinds of footage of this madness online. We really have the best friends and they made certain to capture a lot of the magic.
You recorded the entirety of your first EP over the course of a Sunday afternoon in a friend’s living room. Tell us a bit about that experience.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: Yeah, so we crammed all our jam-gear into Blair Weinburg’s little dive. We soundproofed the windows with camping foamies and old, smelly blankets.
Jaahljuu: That’s where you can pick up a lot of the authentic flair.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: We just basically enjoyed two days of partying with our friends in the Dub Jackson Band, and enjoyed visiting with some curious drop-ins who ended up on our albums. You can really hear the atmosphere in songs like I’m Alright. At one point we got pretty roasting hot in that cramped, hazy den and ran down to throw ourselves off the docks. We were playing commando-style after that.
If you could get your EP in anyone’s hands, who would it be?
SG_aan Kwah Agangg: We really hope to inspire whichever rez kids are out there. You’re not stuck out there in your small town. You can create your own scene, and inspire your friends to work together to create something big, or small. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re cutting through the isolation and making music. Just go out and do it.
Do you prefer writing or performing?
SG_aan Kwah Agang: I mean you gotta write to perform. But writing is so boring.
What’s your tour schedule looking like for 2017?
SG_aan Kwah Agang: We just got back from playing a show after the championship games at the All Native in Prince Rupert’s Wheelhouse Brewery. We played a bunch of new material and people just loved it. We’ve contacted several festivals we really want to hit throughout B.C. this summer, and we’re gonna plan our tour around that. We’re gonna have downtime between festival weekends so if you wanna have us in your hometown we’ll perform pretty much anywhere. Barns. Hayfields. Hippie fests. Industrial wastelands. Being a two-piece band gives us the luxury of flexibility.
Jaalhjuu: It also helps that we love taking time off work.
What are you currently working on, and what else is coming up in the near future?
SG_aan Kwah Agang: We’re gonna be cranking out more of our material. We’re constantly writing and practising new stuff. I guess we only recorded our EP under a year ago, but it’s gotten to the point where that stuff feels pretty old to us. We just keep plugging away though, and that’s what I mean when I say I don’t really think of ourselves as musicians. We’re just hanging out playing music all the time. Some of it sucks, but the stuff that really rocks we keep and turn into hits.
Jaahljuu: I’m excited about our new songs Indian, Act; One Last Time; and You Still Love Me. With the dawn of the Pumkin President we’re getting into a more political direction and throwing some deviant humour down, which is really what punk is designed for. Fight the power. F*** the man.
SG_aan Kwah Agang: On the EP all our songs are about love and different characters from around town. But now that I’m realizing the words I’m writing have such reach, I’ve got something to say and a platform to say it on. So we’re bringing more of that edginess to our newer tunes now.