• By: OLM Staff

Pelting Out The Oldies

If you get the chance to catch The Pelts, make sure you jump at the opportunity. This band, made up first and foremost of a bunch of buddies, knows how to throw a party and because of their carefree approach to shaking out danceable feel-good music to the delight of their audiences, it doesn’t look like the bash is ending any time soon. The guys bring a certain magic to the local music scene with their brand of eclectic music.

“I like to think of our sound as what would happen if Tarantino got a hold of your prom,” Pelts guitarist Billy SLiM laughs about their blend of mod-rockabilly-doowop-ska — an infectious and swinging live boogie that unites the young, old, musically oblivious and very clued in.

In writing their own ditties and mixing B-side covers with anything they pull from their funky back pockets, the Ottawa-based live band admits there is often no rhyme or reason to how the unique melange of fresh-meets-throwback concepts are born (admittedly, their distinctive assortment of sounds doesn’t always come instantly), but according to drummer Sam Menard, so long as their boppity set gets a rise out of the audience, they’ve done their job.

“We’ll morph a Robert Johnson song into a Vanilla Ice cover. Of course, it will always sound like The Pelts in the end – but to see people’s faces when they hear a song they recognize, and weren’t expecting it? For us, that’s it — just playing music that creates something joyful.”

The Reverend, the charismatic frontman whose suave steps and youthful vocals sweet talk the audience into movement from the tip of the stage, agrees on the energizing benefits of playing non-traditional covers at their local gigs. “Mixed with our own spins, the covers we play make for a kind of music that really anyone can sink their teeth into.”

Having randomly met through friends at The Manx, the institutional Elgin Street basement bar, their laid-back beginnings speak to their still casual approach to being a band. Over a few beers one night in December of 2008, they realized there was a singer, bass player, drummer and guitarist present, marvelled at the convenience of unanimously wide open schedules to “jam” that next day — and three years later are still jamming, kicking and making moves around the city.

Pinning down their first gig shortly after conception at Ottawa’s Promdemonium, a hip, wild and wacky prom fundraiser — the tone was set for The Pelts moving forward. Their music would be offbeat and like a prom, it would evoke memories of yesteryear, but their contemporary twists would make it a little more challenging than snowballs and two-steps. And it would be very, very fun.

“What people don’t realize about Ottawa is that there might not be a mainstream cultural scene here in that there are always things of a certain magnitude happening, but from fringe to theatre to music — there’s a real vibrancy to the scene. People support some very off-the-wall stuff,” says Blazer Mack, their accomplished bassist who hailed from Toronto before joining the band.

Although they claim to be popular with a varied demographic of Ottawans, by accident — not design harking back to the classics might be one of the secrets to their bumping live shindigs, says Billy SLiM.

“For what people consider to be a conservative sleepy town, we just so happen to play music that reaches back into an older era certain ages identify with.”

With their presence in Ottawa widely known along the party circuit, the band admits to an interest in testing the waters outside of the Capital if opportunities arose, but are honest about their real intentions as musicians. Leaving their pelt pins, fedoras and dapper suits at home during the day, all four musicians lead lives and other careers outside of their buoyant jam sessions — and appreciate the relaxed enjoyment of simply playing for their own pleasure and pastime, as well as the enjoyment of their fun-seeking follower.

Despite plans to press tracks within the next six months, a musical career without demanding benchmarks, deadlines and nasty industry pressure is ideal for this group of buddies – and they plan to play until it isn’t fun anymore. That doesn’t seem like a likely conclusion to this ongoing party, but as drummer Sam Menard says calmly, The Pelts’ beat will go on.

“A the end of the day, we really have a great time together. So, we were friends first and we’ll be friends last.”