Odonis Odonis to punk rock: Don't fear the synthesizer

Odonis Odonis lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Photo Julian Rogochevsky

The latest release from Toronto dancey/noise/no wave revival trio Odonis Odonis could be called their new record, but that depends on how you're counting.

Dean Tzenos made Hard Boiled Soft Boiled five years ago while staying in Vancouver with Colin Stewart (who has recorded West Coast talent like Destroyer and Black Mountain), before their 2011 debut Hollandaze was made. Odonis Odonis didn't even exist when most of this LP was tracked.

“It’s a massive weight off my shoulders," says Tzenos, who sings and plays guitar and synth in the band. "There was so much complication. Is this going to come out? Is this good enough to come out?"

The original plan was to get the record out less than a year after 2011's Hollandaze LP. But their label, U.K.-based FatCat Records, didn't agree. So the record, with videos made and vinyl pressed, sat unopened for three years.

They eventually left FatCat, and put the record out themselves in April.

“I’m glad the reaction has been so positive to the record. I really wanted to make something timeless. I know that’s kind of dumb to say, but especially the way music is consumed now, I wanted to make something that would stay relevant,” says Tzenos.

Canadian music critics seem to agree with the timing at least; the new record is on the Polaris long list. It's out on Buzz Records, the Toronto label Tzenos runs with Ian Chai, Odonis Odonis bassist Denholm Whale and Jude from HSY.

They've only been running the label since putting out the Odonis Odonis Better EP last summer, but things are moving fast — they already have 10 releases only halfway through this year.

“The community was here before Buzz, but when the Buzz garage came around it really pulled together bands from different groups. We wanted to keep that alive,” says Tzenos. “I think all bands want to belong to a cool scene of bands that they like, and have a community. We’re definitely providing that, and trying to push Toronto globally.”

It's an environment that creates a breeding ground for a mix of different sounds, allowing for experimentation, the kind of risks that major labels won't take. What major would sign a band both as heavy and dancey as Odonis Odonis? Who would think that is a good idea?

It’s too original, therefore it's too risky. This is part of the reason why Dean is so excited for the success of his friends / habitual tourmates Metz. They're putting out their second LP with Sub Pop later this year.

“A lot of the time you see the wrong people getting a shot a the prize, that don’t really deserve it yet, who are way too green or whatever,” says Tzenos. “Metz were part of the Toronto scene for five years without a record, and they could have easily just stayed the hometown heroes."

When they started getting the attention they deserved, Metz was ready to deliver onstage. Anyone who has been to one of their shows knows their power to transform a crowd into a sweat-soaked, violent party.

“People were really coming out in droves to see what this band was about. When we hit the Bowery Ballroom and hit Psych Fest with these guys, it felt like we were putting Toronto on the map together, it was really exciting to be part of that,” says Tzenos.

Seeing that success, and the momentum carried by Buzz Records (who just released the debut LP from Greys) is ample reason to keep going.

“We’ve all been moving forward together,” says Tzenos. “All you need is someone to break through to kind of bring everybody on the label up to another level.”

It originally took a year for Dean to get a band together, not wanting to be another laptop artist nor a heavy indie rock band. Originally playing with Metz bassist Chris Slorach, they eventually found Jarod Gibson, who was into building a hybrid drum kit to do the production work justice onstage.

Live, along with Denholm's low end, they bridge the gap between punk and electronic, creating something altogether different. The new stuff that they've been playing lately (including in their opening slot for METZ at Ottawa Explosion Weekend two weeks ago), is a pretty good indication that things are only getting better.

“At the beginning we did try to use some drum machines, but man there was no feeling to that. It was feeling pretty dead and I didn’t want to come out of the gates like that,” says Tzenos.

“I wanted to blend those two worlds, between Metz and that [laptop artist] stuff, and make our own thing in the process. It’s heavy, it’s aggressive, but you’re there to dance and have a good time.”

There's no reason not to embrace all the new tools made available with digital production. For Odonis Odonis, sonically, and aesthetically, it's a nod back to no wave and industrial music, rejecting new wave pop before grunge took over everything.

“I think it’s dumb not to, it’s the future and it’s going to get crazier. What people can do with Ableton, I haven’t even cracked into that stuff yet. We’ll see how rock music transforms, but there’s only a certain number of times you can hear certain chords. When I hear punk music and hardcore music now, it’s really hard for me to be impressed by it in the same way,” says Tzenos.

“I don’t feel it’s moving any of the genres forward at all, they’re just cemented in this formula. With Odonis we’re trying to break those formulas. It might not make us as popular, but we’re going to try and break down some walls in the process.”

Odonis Odonis plays The Plant (185 Van Horne) June 27 with Zorch, Smokes and Saxsyndrum