Phoenix Thunderbird

Phoenix Thunderbird is made up of a web developer, an engineer, and a social scientist; an unlikely trio to mold together a fine balance of raw energy and structured thrash metal to delight the ears of their hometown Vancouver’s darker corners. We sent Josefa Cameron to meet the motley three-piece over brunch, where they chatted about The Pointer Sisters, dating Bruce Springsteen, Friday nights in Kamloops, and most importantly, Phoenix Thunderbird.

ION: How long have you guys been together?
Jordan Ardanaz (vocals, guitar): Two years, and a bit.

ION: How did the band form?
JA: We were a two-piece for a while. Girlfriends and Boyfriends basically gave us our first show.

ION: Just drums and vocals?
JA: Drums, vocals and lots of guitar.

ION:  So like Death From Above-y?
JA: Yeah exactly, but slightly thrasher. I would play with stacks of amps to compensate for the lack of bass. Then Grant (from Girlfriends and Boyfriends) said one time, “You need bass!” and was super adamant about it.
Grant Minor (bass): You know, we never dropped the amps though.

ION: Where is your go-to venue in Vancouver?
JA: The Cobalt. It’s kind of our home base because our friends play there, and we know the guys who run it so we all hang out there, too. It feels sort of like a clubhouse.

ION: What’s above the Cobalt? I always see people hanging out there…
Blair Bodnar (drums, vocals): Murderers.
JA: That’s where people go to die.

ION: So, what bands would you compare yourselves to?
BB: Stuff like Death From Above, which is more accessible and not so heavy.
JA: Lately we’re being compared to Motörhead. It’s been weird because I never listened to them that much, but obviously I started to recently. For me, I think we play thrash, mixed with punk and British New Wave. Maybe people are hearing the Motörhead through that energy. The best comparison we received has been that we sound like Death From Above if they played Metallica.

ION: Grant, as a bassist, who is your ‘I wanna be like him when I grow up’ inspiration?
GM: I’ve had a lot of influences, but probably Geddy Lee.
JA: Grant has a really strong New Wave sound. Whereas Blair and I are more thrashy.

ION: Blair, what about the drums? Do you have a double kick?
BB: Yes, I do have a double kick, but it’s funny because I never thought I would like it. When we started playing I didn’t have one, but one time Jordan and I went to the store and he said, ‘What about a double kick?’. So I got one. But I don’t play it in a hardcore way or do crazy beats, I’m more dance-based. My favorite bands are Justice and Daft Punk. I like to keep it fast paced. It’s like running on the kicks. It’s easier that way than to play with one foot.
GM: He’s just lazy.
JA: It’s cool because all of us are into the same music, but our preferences come out in our playing. Like, I could never write dark, heavy bass lines or dance beats.

ION: Jordan, who do you look to as a great lead singer?
JA: Oh I don’t know, it just comes out naturally. I don’t really have one specific influence.
BB: Bullshit. It’s always been James Hetfield.
JA: Yeah ok...he is pretty much my favorite thing. It’s super metal, but the presence he has is super rad.

ION: So, Spinal Tap-ish?
GM: Yeah, and then I come in with my Flock of Seagulls bass.
JA: I’m usually playing super hard, and I look over and Grant is playing there looking really happy (impersonates a Chaplin-esque happy face).

ION: It’s rare that a bassist looks like they are having fun.
GM: Well, that’s the whole point, we are doing this for fun. It’s pretty honest.
JA: The energy that comes out feels honest and natural.
GM: Cliff Burton is a big motivation actually. He was probably the core of the creativity of Metallica before he died. He came into that band with a whole different angle on song writing and bass playing. He was a bass virtuoso. He taught them how to do twin leagues, and used the bass as a lead instrument. He did lots of flashy things and used all different scales and modes that the others hadn't thought about before. So I’m not a phenomenal bass player (Jordan shakes his head pointing at him, mouthing about how humble he is), I just enjoy bringing bass to the band. I don't want to just fill the sound, I want to add an extra element.
JA: Yeah, he is just being humble. He is definitely the best thing that happened to us, we are actually a “thing” now.

ION: So, if you could tour with anybody, dead or alive, who would it be?
JA: We are probably all going to say Metallica, let’s not make it Metallica though. I’m going to say Robert Palmer.
GM: I can’t speak for you guys, but I’d want to tour with Motörhead.
JA: That sounds pretty cool to me.
BB: Yeah maybe if we were the same age as them. Otherwise it would have to be like a Metallica, Motörhead in 3D, and then Phoenix Thunderbird tour.

ION: What’s the worst band you like? Who do you like that you don’t want to tell people?
GM: I think the Pointer Sisters are over looked.
BB: That’s not even ironic for me. I legitimately love the Pointer Sisters.
JA: Any night that Trevor Risk is DJing, the Pointer Sisters are guaranteed. And when it comes on, you’ll look up and he’ll be looking right at you like, “Dance!”.
BB: I have a lot of guilty pleasure music. The first music I ever listened to was early nineties Euro dance.

ION: I love cheesy French DJs too, like Make the Girl Dance.
BB: Oh yeah!

ION: Speaking of which, who do you listen to pump yourself up? Or before going out at night...if you do that…
BB: Uhhh....
JA: Not really...

ION: Ok, maybe that’s a girl thing.
JA: Well we go to Grant’s place and listen to some records. Once we had a Pointer Sisters dance party at Grant’s. We filmed it.

ION: Do you plan what you wear before shows?
JA: Vaguely. You don't want to always wear the same thing. I spend maybe 30 seconds thinking about it, choose two things and put them on.

ION: Do you look at yourself in the mirror and think, “What would this look like on stage?”
JA: Uh... maybe, maybe not.
BB: Maybe that’s what Grant is doing. We are never sure what he does before shows.

ION: Grant, do you know why you are so analytical about music?
GM: I have a job as an engineer.
BB: I’m also analytical.
JA: And I’m the social scientist.
GM: I come in focusing on meaning, which for me is what gets the audience, so I look for which parts of the song need what. My approach may not be entirely healthy.

ION: Really quickly before we wrap it up, because this parts important to get in…What’s your favorite candy?
BB: Root Beer flavored bottle caps.
GM: We were talking about this the other day actually. In the eighties there were these balls of sugar that you would put in your mouth that were so huge you couldn't even close your mouth. It was covered in powdered sugar or something.

ION: Just SO bad for you; a ball of sugar coated in more sugar.
GM: Yeah and you’d walk around with this kind of multi-coloured sour goo coming out the side of our mouth.

ION: Chewing tobacco for kids.
JA: I think right now because of my cold, these Fishermen's Friends are my favourite (sniffs).

ION: Yeah, Halls are over. What are some tour tips you have for us?
GM: Don’t forget your license at gas stations.
BB: If you can book yourself a nice hotel once, that would be good. And go in the hot tub.
JA: That’s what we did. Oh! And don’t go out on Friday night in Kamloops because you are going to get beaten up.
BB: It was like a war field, man. There were trucks in the distance gathering to fight.
GM: We almost got into a fight just walking down the street. These huge guys were like, ‘Those fucking hipsters’.
JA: Another guy asked us to back him up, he was like, ‘Guys I'm going to go fight that guy over there. You guys got my back?’
BB: We were like, ‘Uh, no.’
JA: He started walking down the street in time with us. There are a lot of bros there.

ION: In Kamploops? Who knew?
JA: Who knew.


Photos: Rommy Ghaly

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