Panurge isn’t British but play like it

By Peter Hemminger

Vancouver’s Panurge aren’t your typical rock band. Their mix of folk-inspired acoustic guitar and strong electronic influences has drawn comparisons to the Beta Band, Beck, and even XTC. Their sound is so far removed from your typical Canadian band, they’re often mistaken for an import.

“Song writing-wise, the band was weaned on a lot of different stuff,” explains Chris Lovell, the band’s lead vocalist. “I would have to say a lot of it was British. So it’s not surprising to me to have that said, and I think it does sound not very Canadian, if you can classify Canadian music in a certain way. But I think there are Canadian bands like Stars and Broken Social Scene, and I really like Jim Guthrie, that you wouldn’t say sound Canadian.”

Not that Panurge formed with a clear idea of what they would sound like. They knew they shared certain influences, particularly a fondness for 1960s pop, but the sound on Throw Down the Reins, their second album, is the result of collaborative song writing.

“For us, the way we write and record is all sort of one activity,” Lovell says. “So we do a lot of writing in the studio. We bring bits and assemble them, like a Muppet song or something like that. Did you ever watch the Muppet Show? Do you remember, they’d have those crazy puppets, and one of them would just go ‘beep beep, beep beep.’ And then another one would start something else, and add on that, and suddenly there’d be this melody floating through it all. You’d have rhythm and melody all intertwined. It’s off hand, but its sort of the way we like to do things, in a general sense.”

The result is an album that doesn’t fit in with any Canadian movement. Their somewhat quirky personality has definitely set Panurge apart from more typical garage-rock acts, but it has also led to some drawbacks. According to some critics, the band is dangerously close to novelty status.

“I guess one person’s guilty pleasure is another’s pure pleasure,” counters Lovell. “You can’t ever anticipate people’s tastes. And I think that in a musical sense, the biggest thing wrong with the music industry is how safe it is, and how the success of a band will just spawn clones. I mean, I really like that single [British rockers Muse] released, but it just made me want to listen to The Bends. It reminded me so much of Radiohead. It seems like the industry always wants to move that way and say ‘Well, people really liked that. This band sounds just like that. Let’s give them what they want.’”

When Panurge brings their live show to town on June 3, they’ll have their chance to prove to Calgarians music doesn’t have to be safe to be fun. And playing on 17 Ave. after game five of the series, they’re guaranteed a large drunken crowd.

“Panurge likes drunk happy people,” laughs Lovell. “We hope people come out, we think we have a really interesting live show. I think everyone would have a really good time–that’s what we’re hoping for.”

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