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“Checking in with the Checkout Queens” - Part One: An origin story

by Scott Roos

band photos by Tara McDermott aka The Portrait Witch

Forged in the fires of a 2021 local production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Saskatoon’s punk rock heirs apparent Checkout Queens come by their self described label of “theatre nerds” honestly. Band members Spencer Krips (guitar), Braden Buhler (guitar) and Alan Nieman (bass) alongside original Queens drummer Andrew Taylor were part of the back up band for the run of Hedwig shows. In the meantime, founding vocalist  Oli Guselle had been cast in the role of Yitsak. At the time, Guselle has also been beginning to make waves and gain recognition in the classical music scene. The quartet enjoyed working together so much that they decided to continue doing so and thus an early version of the Checkout Queens was formed. 

“That's kind of where it started,” Krips tells NSMZ, “It was a music theatre production with two classically trained musicians (editor's note: Krips is a highly sought after jazz and classical trombone player in Saskatoon), Braden who came from a normal band background and Alan.”

“I’ve also done a bunch of music theatre but I’ve also been in a bunch of death metal bands. Oli and I were also in the Fireside Singers together for many years,” chimes in Nieman.

“After (Hedwig) we kinda talked about what happened next and Oli said ‘Hey, I have a bunch of songs, do you wanna come over and play them.’ So we did that. It was either ‘I Quit Smoking At Champs” or ‘Blue’ that we started with,” explains Krips.

Initially, Oli’s Yitsak understudy Savana Gallant was also part of the band but she, as well as Taylor, got busy with other projects and moved on. Guselle’s close friend, vocalist Avery Wall, was added as well as drummer Jake Decker. It was this lineup (Krips, Nieman, Buhler, Wall, Guselle and Decker) that went into the studio to record their debut EP with producer Matt Stinn at Rainy Day Recording Co.

When speaking of working with Stinn, the band members were complimentary of his work in the producer’s chair. Stinn, who many would know as guitarist/frontman of GreenWing, takes a measured approach to his work. According to Krips and Nieman, he makes the musicians he’s working with feel comfortable enough to achieve what they need to achieve during the sessions. 

“It feels like he’s a part of your group. It doesn’t feel like you’re coming into his studio and then he’s just kinda judging you as you go. He tries to pull what you’re doing out of you more and push for that. He also gives you feedback when you’re being stupid about whether the part sounds right or if you're playing it wrong. He just gets you to feel comfortable and get  everything to sound the way he wants. He makes it very easy to work which is nice,” says Krips.

“He was patient with me when I got frustrated. Part of it is he’s just a nice guy to hang out with too. He’s a good dude,” adds Nieman. 

“He has a good way of working with you.  My favourite line that he has when you screw up a part and you can tell that you’re not getting is ‘Hey buddy, so you see that blue box in front of you? Do you see the knob all the way on the right? That’s the suck knob and I need you to turn it all the way down’,” Krips chuckles. 

“That’s kind of the thing about being a producer, though. You're simultaneously working on the songs and making sure it sounds right but you’re also playing therapist at the same time,” drummer Derrick Frost adds.

Moose Jaw based Drummer Derrick Frost is the most recent addition to the band (photo by Tara McDermott)

Stinn in the producer's chair at Rainy Day Recording Co. (photo by Aaron Brown)

Frost, the most recent addition to the band, is from Moose Jaw and had been playing in Sons In the Sky. With the activities of that band sort of grinding to a halt, it gave the Queens the chance to snatch up a solid stick man. He was brought into the Checkout Queens fold shortly after the band’s EP release show this past October. Being the “new guy” he’s been pretty measured in his comments thus far but you can tell he’s a good dude. 

In the next installment of “Checking in with the Checkout Queens” Guselle will enter the chat. So stay tuned! The fun continues!

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