In the early 2000s Pureblank appeared on the Guelph music scene with an impressively intense and heavy sound. After releasing an EP with Year of the Sun Records, playing loads of local shows and touring Canada, the band eventually went their separate ways and onto new musical projects. Now, approximately ten years later, they’ve decided to reunite for two highly anticipated shows in Guelph and Hamilton. We caught up with Byron Gillespie and Ben Alexis to talk about Pureblank then and now. Don’t miss their reunion show in Guelph on Friday, April 4 at Van Gogh’s.
How did the reunion come about? Why now?
BG: A while back, we decided to get together to hang out, drink booze, and eat chips again like old times. It was only a matter of time before we realized that we used to be in a band together. So we ran through the back catalogue and had a lot of fun with it. We’ve been jamming together off and on for a couple years now without any intentions but with 2014 marking 10 years since we split up, we thought maybe it’d be cool to play these songs in public as 30 year olds. We sorta want to recreate the last scene of the “Rocket” video by Smashing Pumpkins.
BA: After too many drunken conversations about getting the five of us in the same room to play some old tunes, you have to eventually pull the trigger to avoid sounding like a complete asshole. Why now? 10 years just feels right, I’ll probably attempt reliving my 20s in my 40s too.
What’s it like being back together? Has the group dynamic changed at all?
BG: The dynamic really hasn’t changed much. We still spend the majority of the time being dumb and making each other laugh. I guess the biggest difference is that nowadays, we have sore bones after playing all of these super fast songs again. I also find myself coughing a lot more.
BA: It’s kinda like getting with a girl you used to roll with and skipping that whole pretending you are awesome thing to get in their pants, you’re already there, but with 10 years of new experiences under your belt, literally.
What’s been the best and worst thing about getting back together?
BG: I think the best thing about getting back together is realizing that we are still as good of friends as we’ve ever been. Put the five of us together in the same room and it is as if nothing has changed. Given all the time that has passed, I think that’s pretty special. The worst thing? Having to use that washroom again at the jam hall. Now that’s what I’d call a challenge. C’mon, Robert.
BA: The best part is laughing myself into tears with my best friends every weekend playing these songs we all wrote together over a decade ago. It’s nostalgic and fun as hell, I encourage everyone to do something or somebody from 10 years ago asap.
Pureblank has been credited with helping spark Guelph’s metal scene back in the early 2000s. What are your thoughts on that?
BG: To think of even one person putting us on that level is very flattering and humbling. But truthfully, it was just good timing. And we had a lot of help. Specifically, J Cloth of Sellout Productions gave us some amazing opportunities and put us on some terrific bills that really stepped our game up and increased our exposure. And Rosesdead were instrumental in helping us to expand outside of the 519 and into the 905 which was big at the time. Beyond that, there were a bunch of great bands making a lot of noise locally around then – Farewell to Freeway, Childproof, Race Well Run, to name a few. We were lucky to be a part of that. To be accepted and appreciated was just a bonus.
BA: If that’s the case, I want somebody to replace the kid in the fountain downtown with a statue of me in solid gold.
What do you think is the biggest difference in the Guelph metal scene then vs. now?
BG: I think back when we were around, metal was a little more popping than it is now. Bands were still selling records and Hatebreed were being added to soundtracks for movies starring Vin Diesel. So at that time, Guelph was blessed to have established heavy acts coming through on the regular. I know there are still a lot of dope metal bands in town and it’s great to see guys like Mandroid Echostar getting some shine. But from my perspective, the scene is a lot more fractured these days and Guelph is no longer as “metal-centric”. But I appreciate the diversity and see this as a good thing.
BA: It was a different time in music and Guelph was fortunate to have somebody like J Cloth bringing bands like Hatebreed, Dillinger Escape Plan, Unearth, Between the Burried and Me and Everytime I Die to our city. So not only did you get to see all your favorite bands down the street, but a lot of us were given the opportunity to share the stage with them, pretty fuckin alright if you ask me.
What bands (local or otherwise) are inspiring you these days?
BG: Locally, I think Bowjia is the best thing to emerge from the city in quite some time and I’d love to see them blow up. I truly believe they have wide-reaching potential. Also, no bias, but I am a huge fan of what Wakeless are doing and I consider them to be the most interesting heavy act from the area. Beyond that, I listen to a lot of rap music. Oh, and I recently saw the music video for “Broken” by Jake Bugg and I got a little emotional. I was born a sensitive man.
BA: Rick Springfield and the Top Gun soundtrack, why? Because I’m old.
Many of you are still quite active in other musical projects. What else are you working on right now?
BG: Ben is in a rock band about girls with Ken Susi from Unearth called USA! USA! USA! Greg, Brent, and Derek are all currently playing together in the aforementioned Wakeless, although it should be noted that Derek plays with at least half of the active bands in Guelph. He is a beast. As for me, I sample and produce beats on a Native Instruments Maschine that I am too afraid to show to anyone. I also play a lot of fantasy sports.
You’ve got two upcoming reunion shows. What’s in store for Pureblank in the future? Any plans to record new music together?
BG: We went from jamming for fun to booking these two shows pretty quickly so there are no real plans beyond that. It is amazing to see even a slight degree of interest in these shows so I think it would be a little arrogant of us to assume we’d be capable of parlaying the nostalgia into something long term. Having said that, we have been having such a good time lately that I think we plan to continue jamming once we’ve completed these dates. So who knows? Maybe you’ll see us opening for the Rolling Stones one day on their Steel Wheelchair tour. Extra points if you picked up on the Simpsons reference.
BA: No idea, depends how many girls are into it!