Petroleum By-Product

Petroleum By-Product are bratty. They’re young, snotty and nearly a cliché of what happens when you send your kids to alternative schooling. This isn’t necessarily a problem when you play in a bratty, snotty, alternative-schooled new wave act, but it does mean that to get to the core of them in an interview you had better be too cool for Christmas and hate the government. Their defiance possibly comes from leftover voices from Vancouver’s early Eighties punk scene, or is perhaps just the contrarian opinions of youngsters, but at the very least it plays well on stage and in song. The trio consists of Sally Jørgensen (Synth, vocals), Vanessa Turner (bass) and Robin Borawski (percussion) and they have just self-released their first EP, a 12” vinyl called Superficial Artificial. The record, which was recorded by Felix Fung at Little Red Sounds, features contributions from Nicholas Macmillan, Justin Gradin, Ryan Dyck and Sean at Nominal. This is the voice of Vancouver’s youth.

How did the band start?
Vanessa: The concept of music making started it. Sally and I both grew up in plastic-free, health-oriented homes. We first connected on the fact that we didn’t have plastics in our house. At school we’d think “So gross! How can people microwave in that?” We were always interested in music and even though we had no skills, we just really had the desire of playing music. We just started playing music with people we knew, but eventually kicked them out for being unprofessional.
Sally: We met in school. We had similar backgrounds and similar taste in music so naturally we formed this project and played at our alternative school talent show and it expanded. It was received quite well because it was fun and gimmicky. We did the Fake Jazz night at Vancouver’s infamous Cobalt, which no longer exists and featured more alternative acts and bands that can’t really get shows other places and that was more like a “band” thing and it was received pretty well.
Vanessa: We had the same taste in music for sure, a “fake it till you make it” kind of attitude. “If those people could get up and play that kind of crap, why can’t we?” we thought when we saw other bands. I think Patti Smith said something like that, it’s really not that original of a process (laughs). We’re 20. We were about 17 when we started. The first show we played we had to go to school the next day and Sally went wearing all the makeup from the night before. We were at school with [local band] Nü Sensae and it was really a very arts oriented environment.


What do you think of the current arts/music infrastructure
in Vancouver?

Sally: The public art that we have seen sprout up in the high traffic areas (due to the Olympics) is creating a wealth disparity between the already established artists and the struggling artists. Think about the public art we see—for example, the giant artificial rock outside the newly made Canada Line—assuming a lot of money was put into the image of an international city rather than supporting local Vancouver artists.



Do you think the city is supportive of independent arts, or do you think independent artists/musicians have to completely do it themselves, like finding a venue to showcase yourself?
Vanessa: Even with venues closing down, there’s still fun opportunities. I read this quote about adventures in the 1920s, on how adventure is dead and there’s nothing to do, but as long as there’s women and men and sea, there will always be adventures. It went on about how the people who say “adventure is dead” are dead themselves but the coroner doesn’t know it yet. It’s kind of like if you have this energy… I don’t know, you can make opportunities present themselves.
Sally: I would say in most cases, artists have to do it themselves. There is some funding available, but as we have recently seen, most of the federal money goes to either already established artists like Metric who received $50,000 from Factor or the money goes to more pro international image-making projects.


It’s nearly impossible to create new music without being derivative of your influences. How do you approach this? Is it something you embrace with a nod? Or is this even something you are conscious of?
Sally: Both. We are inspired by sounds from the past but aim to create our own niche and we do have a lot of respect for the forefathers/foremamas of the original new wave.
Vanessa: I think there’s just certain sounds and instruments that we gravitate to. We weren’t trying to copy anything. It’s just a preference.


Since there will be so many people here during the Olympics, (probably reading this article) is there anything you would like them to know about Vancouver?
Sally: There is a large multicultural community with a fine selection of restaurants and junkies and our record is also available here at Zulu, Scratch, Audiopile, and Red Cat… that’s the most important knowledge for a rich tourist wanting souvenirs of real Vancouver culture, plus it makes for a fine gift/mantlepiece to show off to one’s peers or give away like candy.


Do The Petroleum By-Products go to the beach?
Sally: Yes, and swim in the oil-trench sea.

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