(Left to Right) Jeff McCloy , Josh Nickel , Alex Angel and Robin Schroffel.
Fashionism are easily one of the most exciting bands to come out of Vancouver, British Columbia. For a little over 3 years, they have been blasting out infectiously hi-energy power pop meets glam punk songs with catchy lyricism commenting on the changing importance of subcultures, wondering where the rock n’ roll girls have gone and the need for an early morning espresso. This group boasts members from many celebrated bands including Tranzmitors, The Jolts, The Orange Kyte and Newtown Animals—as well as the newly formed Night People. They are Jeffrey McCloy (vox) Josh Nickel (guitar) Robin Schroffel (Bass) and Alex Angel (Drums). On July 18, Fashionism is set to play a stacked gig with Royal Headache and Needles//Pins at The Colbalt in Vancouver. Before they kick off, I chatted with Fashionism frontman and former Tranzmitors McCloy. We discussed his anglophile inspired lifestyle, subcultural inspiration, Fashionism’s singles, playing in Calgary, Alberta with Suicide Helpline and world domination.
NixBeat: Hi Jeffrey. To kick things off, how did Fashionism form?
McCloy: Hi Nick… Joshy and I got it started together, it was conceived in between debating the cultural significance of records that nobody has ever heard. We had the name Fashionism before we had a band.
NixBeat: In a previous interview with beatroute.ca that was published on April 26, 2017, Josh stated “Subculture gave an identity and a space to people that were disenfranchised or looking for some sense of belonging. It had strict rules because it had to.” I was wondering if you could expand on the how identifying with a subculture is important and what rules Josh was referring to?
McCloy: I never saw my relationship to subculture as one limited by rules, however, I will say that I made aesthetic choices with intent. This is what I suspect Joshy is referring to in that you made choices on how you wished to be perceived by others. In a way it’s like a simplistic micro versions of orientalism, you understand what you are by knowing what you are not.
NixBeat: You have a striking Mod style. I was wondering (if you do) why you personally identify with this sub-culture and how does it influence your daily life?
McCloy: I am a shameless Anglophile and I am perfectly happy with this. I grew up in Canada in a one generation removed family who were all from England and Ireland. It’s not always good to have me answer these band related type interviews for it is very easy for me to derail into very un- rock ’n’ roll territory— like me collection of Brown Betty tea pots. I will say I am very influenced by a number of British subcultures and mod, especially the 79 revival incarnation was indeed one of them. My personal fashion choices without a question pull from a mix of mod, skinhead and I guess you could call it 80’s football fashion or casual. As for how things influence my daily life? The football fashion shockingly also dictates my weekend schedule to get up at a disgusting hour to watch the morning matches. However, the drink and pub culture that goes along with many British subcultures has very little effect on my daily life. I grew out of 80’s North American skateboard/punk culture, so I train-wrecked when I was really young then dropped everything and haven’t really drank or gotten wasted for over 25 years now… I take that back, I do spend a lot of my social time with friends in the pubs. I just don’t drink. Hmmm…I may want to re-evaluate this plan.
NixBeat: You have quite the record collection. How has collecting records influenced your musical direction?
McCloy: I don’t think collecting records has influenced my musical direction. Collecting records has mostly just impacted the wall space in my home and my personal financial stability. However collecting records has been the way by which I came to love and fully embrace music and everything that goes with it and without a doubt this has impacted my musical directions.
NixBeat: What about collecting records is important to you?
McCloy: I feel connected to things through records. I realize this kind of logic is sort of hippy dippy however I am not sure how else to explain it. The records bridge the gap between time and space. This is why someone in 2017 could hear a record like the Jam All Mod Cons and feel a connection to it the same way someone did when it first came out. The record exists without the limiters of time. Records are important to me because it’s a way for me to be part of the story of that record just from having it and being a fan. Ok, I just read that answer back and it’s totally ridiculous but I can’t be bothered to come up with a new answer.
NixBeat: Have you come across any new finds that you are pretty excited about?
McCloy: I get good records all the time, however, Joshy always makes me feel inadequate with my rarities because he deals in crazy KBD big money punk rarities. My money goes equally into my sewing studio, home recording studio, my obscene wardrobe and also record collecting. At the last record fair I found the Procession LP which is a cool psyche pop record from the late 60’s, I did get that Aces (post Menace) 45 recently, a really clean copy of the Crunch Let’s do it Again and the Boston Boppers Did you get what you Wanted. The new Jesus and Mary Chain records is getting a bunch of spins lately and I recently got Fear of a Punk Planet by the Vandals on LP which I had been wanting for years.
NixBeat: After spinning Fashionism records at my DJ nights, I can’t help but notice a theme of discontent with throwaway culture. I was wondering if you could tell me about what influenced the track “Subculture Suicide?”
McCloy: Glad to hear Fashionism tracks are getting spun at dj nights! As for Subculture Suicide it’s just pointing out that we are seeing the social shift where subculture (At least the way they existed over the past 50 years being intricately linked with music and art) are no longer the predominant way by which identity and community are established. This by no means suggests subcultures are dead or only limited to older generations. However, their social significance has changed. If you are coming of age today you have more options to create community especially in the virtual world. So in the first question when you quoted Joshy in saying “Subculture gave an identity and a space to people that were disenfranchised or looking for some sense of belonging” Subculture Suicide does tap into that sentiment but also observes that in some cases we are seeing these subcultures run their course.
NixBeat: Also what are you drawing from with the newest song “Back In The Day?”
McCloy: I am exactly of the age where you sit between the rise and fall of various social movements. Not quite old enough to have been part of the first wave of musical movements in the late 70’s and early 80’s while also being slightly older than the youth movements that took form in the early to mid 90’s. So if you are between 40 and 50 years old right now, you kind of got to be part of a string of musical movements all in stages of transition and evolution or decline. I find that people of this age group are the truest of fans and champions of the underground because they embraced these movements when they were really un-cool at least in relation to anything in the mainstream. You basically embraced punk and all of it’s offshoots after the major labels had bailed. The subcultures fractionalized and people were just part of the underground and were the weirdos before grunge and pop punk opened it up to the masses. Blah blah.. that didn’t really answer your question. This does though, by the later 2000’s you saw a lot of people from that first wave of punk start coming out of the woodworks and making claims about how things were better back in the day, give me break ok… blah blah blah….No one is denying that this musical movement wasn’t essential in setting the stage for the next 30 years of musical movements. However, we can all just bring it down a notch with all these people who all of sudden started decided they cared about going to shows again. It’s ok we can all do the math, you hooked up with someone got married in the early 80’s had a couple kids did that parent thing then the relationship fell apart after the kids left for collage, now you are single and in your mid 50’s early 60’s so you are going to show again. It’s great that you are older and going to rock’n’roll shows again just don’t bore me with stories of your youth and how important it was. I love hearing about rock ‘n’ roll debauchery and mythology but don’t try and sell someone on it’s importance. It should be said that things are not great just because they happened, they are great because of their relationship to other events or non-events in the context of history. The point is that “Back In The Day”… only means anything because of what followed.
The slightly lighter and more fun answer to the previous question would be that I love lyrics that tie themselves into other songs. The song was written to have no changes as such and just shift in key as the song progressed, kind of like something by The Fall. We absolutely did not accomplish this, but I do quite like the song.
NixBeat: Finally, what inspired “We Got It Wrong?”
McCloy: The idea behind this song was to have something similar to Cast of Thousands by the Adverts and once again like our attempt at something like the Fall this was not achieved. The lyrics for this song for sure came out of the courses I was taking in school that semester. I was just pointing out that the social constructs which establish how we determine our social norms came from a place of ignorance. My favorite line in the song is “If faith can be turned on and off than it’s already lost”. I went to this lecture once and the delivery almost felt like a Python skit. The lecture was about the spread of Christianity to the new world and was referring specifically to the Spanish and the English showing up and planting flags! There is actually a great Eddy Izzard skit about Imperial expansion from one of his comedy shows in the mid 90’s I think it was called Dressed to Kill… Anyways I love the way he says “Flags” I always imagine that my face looks like his when he says “Flags” in a sort of Frankenfurter kind of way. Sorry I rambled a bit there… The lecture pointed out that if one can have a belief system and then be shown a different one and be able to switch belief systems just like that, the switching of beliefs could go both ways. What I mean by this is that the expansion of Christianity was based in the notion that these pagan(non-Christian) belief systems could just be substituted out and replaced by Christianity. This was actually a pretty big philosophical debate in the west during the time of Imperial expansion. The suggestion that there is just a place in the mind where “faith” resides and you could just swap one for another…well this creates a problem when the Christian world is trying to hold it’s own against the Ottoman’s, the Chinese and India. What if you could just swap out Christianity and stick in something else…Anyways the balance of power shifted after the Industrial revolution but there was a couple hundred years where it was anyone’s game. Just to be clear everything that I babbled about is not covered in that song, but it sort of is.
NixBeat: Fashionism just played Calgary with Suicide Helpline. How did that show go?
McCloy: That band was something else, they were like a collision of 70’s glitter glam and ska, very odd but very fun to watch.
NixBeat: Are there plans to tour the United States soon?
McCloy: I imagine we will make a couple trips up the west coast this year, assuming the political climate between our two countries doesn’t totally erode and the borders shut down. However we do have a trip planned to the other side of Canada and we are doing a Scandinavian tour next spring!
NixBeat: Fashionism has released a number of singles; can listeners expect a full length record soon?
McCloy: There are actually a couple more singles coming out soon and all the records that are out of print will be released as a singles collection. However, we are in the process of getting a full record all sorted.
NixBeat: What does the future hold for Fashionism?
McCloy: World domination! The only answer any band should ever give to this question.
Fashionism have already released a string of singles and take it from me they are worth spinning. Need proof, check out my reviews of all the Fashionism’s records here. For about Fashionism, visit them at their Facebook.