Punk rock mixology 101: One part sour candy, one part beer in an unwashed glass, two parts ska-tinged riffs. Shake, stir, filter through a guitar amp and what do you get? A pint of raucous party rock 'n' roll that tastes a lot like Caught Off Guard.
The four-piece Calgary outfit specializing in what bassist Enzo Moreland describes as "post-punk ska party music" has been making their rounds in Calgary local venues since 2008. Two years later and fresh off of a tour of eastern Canada, the four-piece is still shaking the party glitter out of their hair and revelling in this major musical milestone.
"It's an important stepping stone as a band," comments guitarist Adam Ostick. "You go somewhere where you really have no fan base out there, where nobody knows who you are. You have to be prepared to go out there and play shows and really play to nobody [when] you're just that opening band from another city."
"We met tons of promoters and tons of people . . . and got our name out there," agrees Moreland. "So we're maybe a small pulse, but we're at least a pulse on the beat of eastern Canada now."
And it's no casual coincidence that Caught Off Guard considers touring their modus vivendi.
"Our biggest selling point isn't necessarily just the music, it's the show. You gotta see the band to really notice us . . . so we need people to see us as well as hear us," says Ostick.
"The second you see us is the second that everyone wants to work with us because we're so unique when we're playing a show," adds Moreland. "It's kind of that catch-22 thing-- you gotta get the show to be seen, but you gotta be seen to get the show."
Focusing on a live performance is not exactly a new concept for a band, so what sets a Caught Off Guard concert apart from any other performance of a similar vein?
"The party aspect that we have brought in the last year or so to our show . . . is really, really what's motivating us to keep doing it," explains Moreland. "All the music we've been writing has been really light-hearted and fun and just the stuff that you don't want to do anything other than pound back a beer and just dance with your friends to. In lieu of that, [our music] winds up being more accessible, less alienating stuff-- not saying that we still don't touch with our punk rock or metal guitar roots here and there 'cause we definitely still do, but we're trying to make stuff that people are gonna love."
It's precisely that emphasis on interactive performances and a stance against genre elitism that make Caught Off Guard simultaneously aggressively punk and personally disarming.
Their refusal to comply with the clique mentality that seems to be the norm around the local indie and metal circuits represents one of many challenges faced by the group.
"It's really a boys club," says Ostick. "It's exclusive. If you don't dress the part and talk the part, it's kind of like, 'Fuck you, you don't belong here.' "
"The fact that we live in a very conservative province and our music is not that conservative, that's a big part of it," says Moreland.
That being said, the band hardly has an attitude of "punker than thou." When asked to describe Caught Off Guard's fan base, the band is quick to answer "everybody."
With plans to venture back to Ontario this winter to record a professional demo of their first single, "Double Secret Probation," the group is attempting to align themselves with a new musical focus.
"Lately we've actually decided to write good music and make sure that everything we do sell is as good as it can be," says Ostick. "We don't want to be selling inferior product . . . we're done compromising."
"You can't run around on a CD," agrees leadsinger Rafi MuÃ±oz. "The show's gotta be better than the album, otherwise no one would go to shows, they'd just buy the album."
And it just so happens that an explosive show is the band's specialty concoction, bassist's honor.
"If you wanna go see a show and you wanna see an awesome show come to a Caught Off Guard show and I'll guarantee you'll leave happy."