Grimelda: Collaborate And Conquer
By Will Yannacoulias
Photos by The Portrait Witch
So much of the spirit of punk rock is collaboration, with scene and community being major themes of punk's history and narrative. Misfits, outcasts, and loose ends who don't fit into the written roles come together to create art as an act of defiance, the rejected celebrating the counter-rejection of all things mainstream. Saskatoon's Grimelda embody that spirit, spending much of the last decade constantly seeking out creative collaborators to share in their challenging, uncompromising music. The Wednesday release of their latest EP It's So Feeling When You Rock shared six new songs, including the video single "Freedom" which saw guitarist Skyler Cafferata and drummer Blair Colwell reunite with the Peyote Ugly drag dancers and Welsh glam-punk singer Casper James of the band Telgate. Grimelda immediately went on tour tour to promote the EP, with three Canadian dates and seven UK shows bookending a return to the FOCUS Wales festival. Skyler Cafferata took a break from last minute tour preparations to chat with me about the FOCUS Festival and the collaborations that made the single, the album, the video and the tour possible.
The second single from the EP, "Freedom", is a welcome narrative step off the path for Grimelda, with a social message replacing their usual stream of consciousness lyrics. The video for "Freedom" was a collaboration with photographer and filmmaker Kathryn Trembach, whose flair for macabre moods and unsettling imagery has long been closely tied to the theatrical horror-goth band New Jacobin Club. "I wasn't very familiar with her work but her and Blair are friends and had been talking about doing something together" Cafferata shared. "Her style is weird and dark and definitely what we were going for with that particular video." The "Freedom" video also features dancers from the Peyote Ugly punk drag show, which Grimelda performed alongside last November and were eager to creatively reunite with. "We've always really enjoyed drag, and really any sort of counter-culture performance art. Playing the drag show in November went so well it lit a fire for us to do something again with them. This video was perfect because most of our songs are very shrouded in metaphor, lyrically abstract or silly, but the "Freedom"lyrics and topics are a little more intentional. We looked at some other ideas earlier on, aggressive or violent protest ideas. Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, but we decided it was more valuable to celebrate the wonderful diverse people we've met. The song already brings that dark angry energy so we thought the video would be a means for expression and individual creativity."
The song also features a cameo from Caspar James, the vocalist for the Welsh queercore glam/punk band Telgate. Telgate's social activism supporting trans rights and trans safe spaces pairs well with the lyrics of "Freedom" and James' guest vocal fits seamlessly, but the question remained; how the hell did a Cardiff, Wales-Saskatoon, Saskatchewan collaboration come about? "It all started when Casper asked me for a light!" Cafferata divulged. "It's been in the works since the last time we were at FOCUS Wales, in October 2021. Telgate and Grimelda played together at a Saturday night show and we all met at the after party. The two bands may seem like an unlikely pairing style-wise but I think we clicked because we're all weirdos! Similar values, attitudes, similar sense of humour. We became fast easy friends and were excited about each other's art." That working friendship will extend to a UK tour May 13-22, with the two groups criss-crossing the kingdom to play seven nights in historic punk venues, seedy underground clubs and hole-in-the-wall small town pubs. Telgate have a little more swagger and Grimelda a little more snarl, but should delightlfully compliment each other onstage. When asked what audiences can expect, Cafferata assured that "Telgate's live show is super confrontational and wild. Each show is gonna be messy, in your face, definitely an energetic, engaging and weird night.
Before Grimelda & Telgate merrily skip off to shared misadventure, there's the small matter of the FOCUS Wales festival, May 4-6. 20,000 concertgoers will descend upon the city of Wrexham to see over 250 artists perform at one of the world's premier music industry showcase events. Grimelda appeared at FOCUS in 2021 as jetlagged, slightly bewildered neophytes, but are approaching the event this time around with a little more... ah... focus. As Cafferata explained, "In 2021 we were just coming out of the worst uncertainty of the pandemic so we just went into it to have fun. We wanted to enjoy the experience, hang out with locals, have a good time. We really enjoyed the culture and atmosphere of Wrexham, it's a small city but it hosts this massive music showcase, every space is packed with music lovers. This time we're making more of an effort to attend the conference and participate in the workshops. We're still there to play first and foremost, we're a live band and we make our best impression when someone sees us perform."
Grimelda's Canada/UK tour is underway, with an appearance at Amigos Cantina tonight in support of B.A Johnston before flying into the wild blue yonder. It's So Feeling When You Rock is available on all streaming services.