Avoiding Ukrainian cops

Encountering the authorities while on tour is par for the course for the punks in High Five Drive

Rub a dub dub, four punks in a tub: High Five Drive do their part to save the environment (and cut down on their laundry costs) by taking group showers.

In the 1996 novel Fight Club, an anonymous protagonist escapes the monotony of a nine to five job by bare-knuckle fighting other men.

It’s one of High Five Drive singer-guitarist Greg Rekus’ favourite books, and in a way, there are parallels between Rekus and the protagonist. Rekus, too, has escaped the nine to five lifestyle, only instead of resorting to fisticuffs, he does it by playing in a touring rock band.

High Five Drive will release its third full-length CD, Fullblast, this weekend at Ozzy’s.

Recorded last year with John Paul Peters, some of the songs on the 42-minute disc, like Foreign Mantras Make Great Role Models, take direct aim at those who think playing music isn’t a viable career option.

“There’s definitely a line in there about the people who think a band could never really be serious, and who think you’ve gotta work your day job,” Rekus, 27, said by phone from a tour stop in Toronto last week. He had just finished after doing laundry with his bandmates.

“But, we’ve been doing this for eight years and there’s no real end in sight.”

Rounded out by guitarist Marty LaFreniere, bassist Steve Nelson and drummer Steve Jowsey, the Winnipeg skate-punk band is quick to point out its accomplishments on its MySpace page: three full-lengths and one EP released internationally, and hundreds of shows on almost 20 tours, including two to Europe.

We’ve been doing this for eight years and there’s no real end in sight.

Greg Rekus, High Five Drive

Oh yeah, and successfully escaping arrest by Ukrainian police.

Last year on tour, Rekus apparently disobeyed some traffic laws while navigating the band’s van. He soon found himself pulled over, thrown into the back of a cruiser with two officers shouting at him in Ukrainian – a language he can’t speak.

“I don’t know if they were planning on getting money from us or what, but eventually they wrote down a dollar amount and we paid them,” Rekus recalled. One hundred euros later, the group was let go.

It’s just one of a “barrage of crazy things that happen on tour.” There’s the time the band spent the night in a Slovenian bomb shelter. Or the time they were stopped by a herd of sheep in Romania en route to a gig, which you can see in one of the many tour videos the band has posted on its MySpace page.

“The video doesn’t do it justice,” Rekus said with a laugh. “There must have been a thousand sheep crossing the road.”

It’s experiences like those, coupled with all of the friends they’ve made on the road, that make being in a band worth it, Rekus said.

“Just being able to play your music every night is great. It’d be great to make a million bucks – if you don’t say that, you’re crazy – but there’s definitely a lot more to it than that.”

After the CD release party at Ozzy’s, High Five Drive will hit the road once again for eight shows out west. More touring will follow that string of dates.

“It’s nice to be able to disappear for three months. So, we’ll definitely keep doing that.”

Published in Volume 63, Number 26 of The Uniter (April 2, 2009)

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