Blog Post by Kris Hamlyn of the Secret East
The seismic impact that punk rock has had on the world of music isn't limited to a specific sound. The glue that holds the eclectic genre of punk together is the do-it-yourself mentality and against-the-grain attitude that has empowered generations of young people to create art and culture, no matter how small their community may be. There is no better example of these accomplishments than the unexpected output of over 40 punk rock bands to come from the small city of Mount Pearl throughout the last 40 years.
For many of those who are already familiar with the annals of loud music that has rattled from Newfoundland & Labrador’s second-largest city, Mount Pearl punk may mostly be remembered as a collection of fond memories and live show experiences. Though these recollections are undeniably important, the essence of Mount Pearl punk isn’t exclusive to those who were lucky enough to be there. For all the short-lived local punk bands that existed, there is also a body of work that shouldn't be forgotten.
Punks from Mount Pearl have spent multiple decades writing, recording, hand-making and distributing their own original music by their own bands. In many cases, this music was released on their own independent record labels, and most importantly, on their own terms. While some of the songs and recordings made by these bands have lived on in local and international punk rock music collections, some of what was created has been at risk of becoming lost on stretched tapes, scratched CDs, and broken internet links. In the spirit of all the hard work put forth by a history of people who made punk rock happen in the city of Mount Pearl, we firmly believe it is worth an equal effort to try and archive the art that was crafted. As we continue our attempt to collect a complete discography of local releases for our Punk Rock Pearl project, we've put together some highlights and soundbytes from the many subgenres and eras of Mount Pearl punk music.
As we started to dig into the local punk rock roots in Newfoundland & Labrador, we quickly discovered that there is a Mount Pearl connection that runs back to the very beginning...
The Reaction: Mount Pearl’s connection to Newfoundland’s punk pioneers...
In 1978, a young man named Mike Fisher returned to his parents home in Mount Pearl after spending some time in Toronto. During his time away playing in a top 40 cover band in the big city, Fisher had a unique opportunity that was rare for Newfoundlanders & Labradorians: a front row seat and firsthand access to the burgeoning punk rock scene that was making national headlines. Inspired by his exposure to some of the Torontonian punk bands such as The Viletones, Fisher returned to Newfoundland & Labrador with the idea of introducing these new sounds to a local audience.
Fisher was well aware of the buzz that was created on MUN campus by the shock and awe of Newfoundland’s first punk band who called themselves Da Slyme. Fisher's idea came to life as a band named The Reaction, and the trio would become only the second act to join the inaugural wave of local punk pioneers. The Reaction became an attraction in the live St. John’s music scene, though they originated in a practice space in the basement of Fisher’s family home in Mount Pearl. One of the The Reaction’s first gigs in the late 1970s was one they arranged themselves in the old Mount Pearl Arena.
The Reaction’s music was akin to the stripped down, back to basics rock sound of 1970s punk. Their early songs had a modern drive and attitude, but also retained the catchy hooks and danceable beats of traditional rock & roll.
In addition to local shows, a few small tours, and a brief relocation to Toronto, The Reaction self-released a 7” single in 1979 titled On The Beach / The Kids Arrived. This record has become a sought after gem for collectors around the world (there are currently copies listed on Discogs.com in the price range of $1,200-$3,200 CAD). In the years that followed, The Reaction also released a cassette tape called Underexposed in 1983, as well as a double CD compilation called Old & New – 1978-2005 which the band put together during their brief reunion in 2005. Most recently in 2018, The Reaction had four songs from the early 1980s re-released by Supreme Echo Records as a 7” EP called East End Rockers.
St. John's hardcore inspires the kids of Mount Pearl…
While bands like Da Slyme and The Reaction broke down the doors for local punk rock in Newfoundland & Labrador, there was a growing group of young teenagers in the 1980s who weren’t old enough to take part in the first wave of the genre. These kids started their own bands and were the ones who kept the local scene alive, and in many ways, took it to the next level. Bands such as Schizoid, Tough Justice, Public Enemy, and Malpractice were comprised of kids in St. John's who leaned more toward the new sound of hardcore punk. Hardcore was a younger and more aggressive style of punk rock that championed a faster, harder edge. Inspired by the St. John's hardcore bands that were heavily populating the local all-ages music scene, a few young teenagers started a band called Age of Majority in 1989. This was the first hardcore punk band with a full Mount Pearl lineup. Age of Majority never officially released recordings of their music, but you can read the story of their history and influence in a previous chapter of our Punk Rock Pearl blog series. Read the story behind Age of Majority here. One of the biggest local inspirations to Age of Majority's vocalist Doug Jones was Tough Justice from St. John's. Jones told us that one of the highlights of his younger years was when he had the opportunity to perform guest vocals on a song with Tough Justice during one of their reunion shows at the LSPU Hall.
The year punk broke: punk rock in the mainstream...
At the crack of the 1990s, a band that had grown in popularity out of the Seattle punk underground became an unlikely breakthrough on the mainstream music charts. This band was Nirvana, and their second studio album and major-label debut Nevermind was an unexpected smash hit in the commercial market. By 1991, Nirvana had reached number one on the US Billboard 200.
Genre terms like grunge and alternative rock were coined, much like new wave and college rock in the 1980s. These loose labels were used to categorize and market this modern spin on punk to a wider audience. Even though the music was repackaged by major record labels, there is no denying that grunge and alternative rock was a direct extension of the punk rock music that preceded it.
The popularity of grunge brought punk rock into the mainstream in a way that it never had before. Major labels were hungry to find the “new Nirvana” and started signing many of the bands that had previously been considered too weird to be commercially viable. This explosion of bands made punk more accessible, and many young kids who relied on MTV, Much Music and the radio to find new music were able to get a taste of the once underground sounds.
Many rock bands in St. John's became heavily influenced by grunge, but there is no better example of he accessibility of punk in the 1990s than Mount Pearl’s youngest band, PUD.
In 1991, PUD was formed by a group of adolescent kids from Mount Pearl who were around 12 and 13 years old. PUD was comprised of Chris Brown, Derek Thistle, Kenneth Thistle and Jimmy Oakley. The heaviest influence on PUD was as obvious as the Nirvana cover songs in their set. Covers aside, these kids wrote originals with what guitarist Chris Brown describes as “three or four chord songs and all the attitude we could muster”. Brown also recalls how legendary St. John’s downtown musician and community organizer Fred Gamberg (1971-1995) approached them after a gig at the LSPU Hall and explained to them why they were a punk band. Is there anything more punk than not even knowing you’re a punk band?
PUD recorded a demo live on CHMR Radio at MUN before the band ended in 1994. Chris Brown and Kenneth Thistle went on to form a heavier project called Ex Nihilo, and Brown continues to play music, most recently as a member of long-running noise rock band, Geinus. Derek Thistle was also a member of Mount Pearl rock band Chain Mail Grip in the mid-1990s.
The origins of Mount Pearl skate punk...
On the heels of grunge’s breakthrough to the mainstream music charts, the subgenres of skate punk and pop punk became increasingly popular in the independent music scene of the 1990s. Like grunge, skate and pop punk had moments that transcended the underground and found commercial success. Skate punk had originated in various California hardcore scenes in the 1980s when music and skateboarding became fused in a way that would have a lasting effect on both subcultures. The genre had evolved in the 1990s by incorporating the melodic elements of early pop punk, the speed and intensity of hardcore, and the tight, fast and metallic guitar work of crossover bands that added a dash of thrash metal to their sound. Many of these bands found underground success with the rise of American record labels such as Epitaph Records and Fat Wreck Chords.
This skate punk sound had a long-lasting impact and influence on Mount Pearl punk for multiple decades. You can't talk about fast and melodic punk from Newfoundland & Labrador without touching on a handful of notable bands from "The Pearl".
Good To Go puts Mount Pearl skate punk on wax...
Beginning in 1995, Mount Pearl’s Good To Go are still remembered by many local musicians and music fans from the era as being one of the best bands to execute the skate punk sound. In addition to playing a long list of live shows during their three year tenure, Good To Go also became the first punk band with a Mount Pearl connection since The Reaction in 1979 to put their songs to wax. In 1997, Good To Go released a split 7” record with Molotov Smile from St. John’s. Good To Go contributed three ripping tracks to side A of the Shot in the Snot Box EP, and the record is still a crucial piece to any Newfoundland & Labrador punk rock record collection.
For their contribution to the EP, Good To Go had rare access to a professional recording studio. The drummer's father had a friend who was an engineer with the CBC, and he would do them the favour of sneaking them into the St. John’s studio on Sunday afternoons. Good To Go would take over Studio F while it wasn’t in use by the public broadcaster. The only catch was that the band had to pay for the reel to reel tape they used during the recording sessions. Studio quality tape was an expense that was quite costly for a group of teenagers in 1997.
In addition to the 7” EP, Good To Go also self-recorded and self-released an album on cassette in 1996.
After members of Good To Go began to move away in 1998, drummer Trev Sturge continued his foray into writing melodic punk tunes as the guitarist for Hung Up. Hung Up also featured Corey Slade, the drummer of other Mount Pearl punk bands such as Bud and Plan 13. Vocals for the band were provided by future award-winning folk singer/songwriter Sherman Downey.
Hung Up kickstarted their time as a band with a live appearance at the SummerSault Festival in Bowring Park. This festival was a big deal for Newfoundland as it featured notable headliners such as Our Lady Peace, Moist, Garbage, Sloan and Treble Charger. Within the two short years that followed, Hung Up cut two releases of original material: a six song EP titled Roadrunner 70’ in 1998, as well as a full length album entitled Runnin’ Out, which was released on Crack Records in 1999.
Unlike many of the bands from the history of Mount Pearl punk, Hung Up were one of the few who were able to leave the island and tour their music across Canada. Both of Hung Up’s CDs have become international cult classics and still occasionally pop up for sale by collectors online.
Fart Records Presents…
Of all the punk bands to emerge from Mount Pearl in the 1990s, The Farts were unique, and not just because of their name.
While most local punk music is best remembered from live gigs, The Farts self-released multiple handmade cassettes in 1996 on their own label called Fart Records, even though the band broke up before playing their first show. The Farts name appeared on a flyer for an all ages punk show at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s on January 10th, 1997. The show did happen, but The Farts debut did not.
Live performances made by The Farts from 1996-1997 may never have left the confines of a basement in Mount Pearl, but that didn’t stop the music from reaching international destinations in the form of cassette tapes. The Farts released a demo tape, a self-titled album, as well as a tape compilation called Fart Records Presents… which also featured demo songs by local bands such as Good To Go and Molotov Smile.
The Farts took out a classified ad in the Vital Music Records and Mailorder catalogue based in the United States. Through Vital Music, The Farts ended up filling orders and mailing tapes all over North America, South America and Europe.
Years later, bassist John O would play with My Antonia, and guitarist Chris Oliver was a member of another Mount Pearl band, Dopamine. After the dissolution of The Farts, Derrick E and Darrell E continued their musical output as a duo called DUMbP.
DUMbP combined punk and garage rock, and unlike The Farts, they did get a chance to play some live shows around St. John’s. In addition to making some recordings of their original songs, DUMbP were also featured on a double CD compilation titled Here Come The Dead… A Tribute To The Misfits 2. DUMbP's cover version of The Misfits song “We Are 138” made it to the collection that was released by Blacklight Records in 1999.
Riding the continuing momentum of local punk rock at the break of the new millennium, two producers and sound engineers named Rod Evans and Gary Way started a recording studio and record label in St. John’s under the name of Dirtneck Records. The label sought to capture and capitalize on the lively scene of young talent that had been filling all ages and bar shows around the city. Dirtneck Records were hoping to break some of the budding local bands into the national market where Canadian pop punk such as Gob, Treble Charger and Sum 41 were beginning to achieve success.
From the deep pool of local punk, one of the first projects recruited by Dirtneck Records was an established band that began with a heavy Mount Pearl connection. This band was Plan 13, and they were already a favourite on the live scene. Plan 13’s songs were in a similar skate punk vein as other legendary Mount Pearl bands such as Good To Go, but they also contained elements of old school 1980s punk and hardcore that was evident in their music's brevity and rawness. Plan 13 wrote songs that were short blasts with catchy and anthemic lyrics.
Of Dirtneck Records five albums released during their brief existence as a record label in the year 2000, one that has remained a staple in the local punk library has been Plan 13’s Stranger Things Have Happened. This album contained 13 straight ahead punk rock bangers, with only 2 songs that broke the two-minute mark. These anthems included “I Hate School”, “Lobotomy” and “Better Way”.
Dirtneck Records was also responsible for the local compilation CD titled Freedom Is. This project featured 29 songs by 7 bands, including Plan 13, as well as a fellow Mount Pearl punk band called Bud,. While Bud never released an album of their own on Dirtneck Records, the Freedom Is compilation featured their songs “Punkin’”, “Stroke of Luck”, “Madcap”, “Another Cataostrophe” and “Oh No”.
Cold Turkey Records...
In 2003, Newfoundland & Labrador’s punk and alternative music scenes were thriving. While shows at bars and all ages gigs were plentiful and well attended by an enthusiastic crowd, there was no longer a local label like Dirtneck Records seeking to to offer bands a platform for recorded music.
Scott Parrell, drummer for the band Dopamine, had an interest in production and recording. Parrell and his bandmates Jennifer Collins and Chris Oliver had the idea to try and fill the void of independent record labels in the province. This idea spawned the creation of Cold Turkey Records.
In an interview with The Muse student newspaper in 2003, Chris Oliver explained that the idea for Cold Turkey Records came while thumbing through an issue of the Canadian music publication, Exclaim! Magazine. Oliver noted that he kept seeing ads for independent Canadian record labels on the pages and thought, “why can’t we just do that sort of thing here?”.
“We totally just dove in, feet first,” explained Dopamine vocalist and Cold Turkey Records co-founder Jennifer Collins in the same 2003 interview. “It is way over our heads, but it’s realistic at the same time, and it needs to happen.”
With the shared ambition and Parrell’s technical knowhow, Cold Turkey Records released an album by Chris Oliver’s band Last Line, as well as the eponymous debut album by Mount Pearl’s Dopamine. Dopamine’s sound was unique as it combined the the infectious ferocity of skate punk and pop punk, with a mix of grunge and various alternative rock influences. The songwriting and Jennifer Collin’s lyrics were thoughtful and introspective, but could also channel the snotty punk rock attitude with a pinch of humour that was evident on songs like “Mount Pearl Sucks”.
Cold Turkey Records next release was by Three Chord Revolution, a Mount Pearl band that carried the torch of the local skate punk tradition. Legendary Los Angeles punk band NOFX have always been popular in Newfoundland, and Three Chord Revolution were a local unit that scratched the itch for that flavour of lighting fast melodic punk.
Three Chord Revolution might be best remembered for their popularity as a live band which would frequently draw big crowds and memorable mosh pits, but they also left behind two full length albums. The band released a CD called Dern Diddley Ern 101 on Cold Turkey Records in 2003, and also appeared on the compilation Small Towns, Big Noise which was released before the dissolution of the label. Before members moved away and the band ceased activity, Three Chord Revolution also self-released their own second and final album in 2005.
Scum Tribe Records...
Similar to the concept and attitude that inspired Cold Turkey Records, another group of kids were plotting their own project in a different Mount Pearl basement in 2003. Kyle Griffin of the bands TxMxFxI and Nerve Attack had a vision of starting an old school independent record label that catered to the more raw and abrasive side of punk rock. This was the beginning of Scum Tribe Records.
Scum Tribe Records operated with a true “DIY or die” slogan and ethos. Griffin and his bandmates promoted the shows, screen printed merchandise, recorded the bands on his four track tape machine, and hand-dubbed the albums released by the label on cassette. From 2003 until 2006, Scum Tribe Records released cassette tapes that included Mount Pearl bands such as Nerve Attack, The Ridiculice, Cider Squadron 666 and Shit Legion.
Profession: ill were a Mount Pearl hardcore band that also came from the Scum Tribe scene in the mid-2000s. In addition to self-releasing an album called What It's Worth, Profession: ill also had their complete recordings released on a CD by a small label in Victoria, BC called Shred City Records. After the break up of Profession: ill, vocalist Rob Forward started a band called Crusades with guitarist Nick Baker of Mount Pearl screamo band, Narrators. Crusades joined the short list of local bands to put their music on vinyl with a self-titled 7" record in 2007.
Mount Pearl punk continued to thrive in the mid-2000s...
As Scum Tribe Records remained active in their pocket of the all ages punk scene, a band called De-Mons also emerged from Mount Pearl playing fast, fine tuned and technically tight skate punk in the mid-2000s. Playing a slew of live gigs from 2004-2018, De-Mons are one of the longest running punk bands to come from Mount Pearl. While 14 years of live shows is noteworthy, it wasn’t the only feat accomplished by the band. De-Mons also self-released two CDs of their own titled Live Off the Floor and Big Time, Good Time.
The rhythm section of De-Mons, comprised of bassist Colin Coombes and drummer Tim White, were also members of the Mount Pearl folk punk trio, Moke Cove. This band was fronted by current singer/songwriter Dave Whitty and helped launch his solo work. To this day, Whitty is a prominent part of the Newfoundland & Labrador folk music scene.
The ups and downs of music streaming... A new internet-based platform emerged in the mid-2000s that gave young local musicians a place to share their work beyond just playing live gigs, making CDs or tapes, and swapping MP3 files online. MySpace was a social media network that pre-dated Facebook, and it was the first popular internet platform outside of file sharing programs that catered to uploading and streaming original music. Streaming platforms created a new opportunity for independent bands with limited resources to share their art without the costly obstacle of paying to produce physical copies of their music.
In a lot of cases, local punk musicians still opted to produce CDs and cassette tapes, but it was no longer a necessity for distributing their music and connecting with a larger audience. Around this time, new bands emerged from Mount Pearl who explored a wide range of subgenres. Bands such as Call the Ambulance mixed melodic hardcore with elements of screamo and post-hardcore. There was also a strong resurgence of pop punk with bands like Second Last and Yesterday's Hero leading the charge. In 2019, MySpace announced that they had lost all of their user content that was uploaded during the website's most active years between 2004 and 2015. The loss was attributed to a "botched server migration with no backup" by the web service. Unfortunately, many of the local bands that had heavily relied on MySpace for hosting their music during that era have since lost the main platform of their dated material. Some of the music survives on limited copies of CDs and tapes that were released by the bands, or on the external hard drives of avid music collectors. Unfortunately, some other digitally released material from the mid-2000s has become increasingly difficult to find.
Luckily, some music of the era continues to resurface online thanks to amateur archivists and savvy fans of local music. Just last year, the 2004 demo by pop punk band Yesterday's Hero was not only rediscovered and uploaded to YouTube, but it was also remixed and remastered by Jerome Doyle. The project to revive this demo was done to commemorate the band's former vocalist Robbie Grandy who passed away in 2021.
The latest decade of Mount Pearl punk... In the 2010s, the equipment and process of home recording had become cheaper and more accessible. An increase in social media and dedicated music and video streaming services such as Bandcamp, SoundCloud and YouTube also gave a wider platform for young musicians. The sound created by Mount Pearl punk bands in the 2010s represents a melting pot of the three main subgenres that have long been musical mainstays to the city. Pop punk, skate punk and hardcore have continued to be explored and combined by many recent local bands, and the output of these projects can still be heard without much digging. Thankfully, websites such as Bandcamp.com, which rose to popularity over the last 13 years, have yet to make the mistake of Myspace. All the material that has been hosted by the service is still intact and available to stream and download.
At the brink of the 2010s, members of Mount Pearl bands King Sized Kids and Astonish Yourself came together with a mix of pop punk and hardcore influences to form I Was A Skywalker. The 2009 self-titled EP by I Was A Skywalker is still streamable via Bandcamp. You can also find demos and EPs released by many related projects from the years that followed such as Good News Everyone, Pockethands, Bees & Honey and Little Things. Other hardcore and pop punk bands featuring prominent Mount Pearl connections also released music throughout the recent decade. Some of these bands include Over The Top, Bannerman and Knockout, just to name a few.
In many ways, digital streaming replaced CDs, but many of these recent releases still exist in analogue format. Limited runs of cassette tapes have remained common counterparts to digital releases. In some rare cases, the songs have found their way to vinyl. Mount Pearl hardcore band Clocked In may be one of the more prolific projects of the era. Not only did Clocked In release cassette, CD and digital versions of their material, but they also released a song on a split 7" EP with PEI punk band Year of The Rat on Birdlaw Records in 2012. Clocked In also became one of the few Mount Pearl punk bands to take their shows on the road with a tour of eastern Canada.