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Photo by Brendan Meadows, from Gang Signs' Facebook page.

Gang Signs bring dark and dreamy horror-inspired tunes to Zaphods

By Gloria Song on November 22, 2015

Although they’ve been been around since 2011, Gang Signs will be playing their first show in Ottawa at Zaphod’s on November 28. Touring in support of their brand new album Geist, a follow-up to their 2012 self-titled EP, it will also be the Vancouver-based band’s first time playing in eastern Canada.

Comprised of Peter Ricq (also from the band Humans), Adam Fink, and Matea Sarenac, the band has expressed in previous interviews that they’re tired of being compared to bands like the xx. The comparison may be lazy but is certainly forgivable, given the band’s laid-back tempo, guy-girl vocal exchanges, and minimalist musical arrangements mixing live drums and guitar mixed with electronic synths.

How does the band describe their own sound? Over the phone, Adam and Peter explain the recording process where the drums for all of the songs were recorded in one exhausting but fun day at the studio: “It’s electronic music with live instrumentation. We wanted to have a bit of a grittier sound to it, not as polished as we hear in some electronic music.”

Maybe the next album won’t be about horror movies.

The music of Gang Signs certainly contains hints of new wave reminiscent of bands like New Order, as tracks like Mate come across as somehow both dark yet dreamy. Perhaps this playful exchange is rooted in the lyrical theme of both albums, which are heavily centered on horror movies. The music video for Gang Signs’ single “Prequel” is essentially a short horror film, creepy and suspenseful yet cinematic and slow-moving, as the camera follows a young woman walking through the woods to encounter unspeakable things. Both this video and their new music video for “Mate” were directed by Peter himself, who is a also filmmaker and will be directing his first horror movie feature next year.

The band’s prominent love of horror music is an amusing juxtaposition to their work in children’s TV shows. Peter and Adam met while both working in animation and discovered their mutual love of music, and, evidently, horror movies. “Maybe the next album won’t be about horror movies. Maybe it’ll be comedy movies. I do prefer the horror movies though. Until I run out of them… but maybe instead of being classics, they’ll start being really bad movies. Or sequels.”

 And then there’s the elephant in the room: what’s the story with their band name? The explanation seems to keep evolving. In one previous interview, they stated that they kept getting beat up walking home from work so they decided that if they started a gang, people would be afraid of them and would buy them chocolate. In an email to me, Adam wrote: “We came up with the name because as we are the toughest and most intimidating band in the city we needed to come up with something that would let people know that they need to be careful around us because we are so tough and unpredictable.” Later on, in another email: “Adam came up with that name and presented it to the band. We all thought it fit the aesthetic and mood of the music.”

Whatever the story is, despite the results that pop up when you do a search on YouTube for “gang signs”, the band has not experienced any problems of confusion at their shows, as fans generally show up for them, which is fortunate since there is a metal band from New York and a deejay from Portland with the same name. With the haunting experimental music of Nine of Nine as an opening act, Gang Signs’ event at Zaphod’s on Saturday night promises to be, to borrow a Nadsat word from A Clockwork Orange, truly horrorshow.

Gang Signs will be playing at Zaphod Beeblebrox (27 York Street) on Saturday, November 28, 2015, along with Ottawa’s own electronic multi-instrumentalist Nine of Nine. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.  For more information, see the Facebook event.  You can also find Gang Signs on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud.