Seated on a sectional couch with a bowling ball between them at their “communal living/jam space,” guitarist Marshall Birch and drummer JP Perron of the Unbelievable Bargains await bassist Steve Basham’s return home from work.
While Basham and Birch both live here, Perron hasn’t for a number of years, but it was during that time four years ago that the initial idea to form the band came to be.
“I basically convinced Steve to play bass for me because I thought Steve was awesome,” Birch says, strumming away on an unplugged guitar in between sips of Old Boy Ale.
Though it shares its members with such acts as This Hisses, The Girth and Lodged Turd & the Toilet Hands, this is no side-project band. As Basham arrives, he and Perron opt for cans of Brewhouse and the interview officially begins.
The Bargains, who formed a year and a half ago, play a ramshackle mix of punk and makeshift basement rock, with loosely Frankensteined drums and microphones that dangle from the ceiling.
The band’s as-yet untitled debut LP will be out in June on vinyl, with a digital single sometime soon. Recorded in one day with up and coming locals Will Grierson and Arthur Antony in their basement studio, the band believes the record will be a solid representation of its sound.
“The album is sorta straight-ahead punky,” Birch says of the 18 songs that made the cut. “A lot of our songs we didn’t put on it, our stranger ones, we didn’t feel that we could record that well. These just seemed like the ones we could easily do.”
“The other ones we’re maybe not as inclined to want to play at bar shows and stuff so we haven’t put as much time into them,” adds Basham of the over 50 additional songs that make up the band’s catalogue.
“Some of those songs are great but we haven’t had the time to flesh them out,” Perron says. “At our first show, we’re playing Grandma Can’t Find Her Glasses and by the time we’re at the second chorus, everyone’s singing along because Marshall’s lyrics are extremely catchy and sing-alongable.”
Though the songs are incredibly catchy, they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. As the band has a mandate not to turn down any show, the Bargains are occasionally mis-booked.
Recently they’ve been banned from a bar in Kenora, altered songs for a chilli cook-off and rocked a crowd of four legged friends.
“It was pretty hilarious,” Birch says of the chilli cook-off at Bistro 7 1/4. “I don’t think anyone there had ever heard us before. Every second song they’d tell us to turn it down more and more. They also didn’t turn off the house music for half our set.”
“Me and Marshall played in Brandon at his sister’s wedding social,” Basham says. “I played drums because JP wasn’t there. Marshall just played guitar through a bass amp and we forgot to bring mic stands so we had to tape my mic to the wall.”
“Then me and Steve played on CKUW without Marshall,” Perron continues. “It’s such an adaptable band. If there’s only two members of the band we’ll still play.”
“We also played at a kid’s stage at a dog show once,” Birch says with a laugh. “We played our song Dogs first and they got the dogs to come dance and bark at us, they were the only audience we had. It was great.”
Despite these hiccups, surely this band, made up of regulars of the local scene and rocking a name such as theirs will eventually be seen as the ultimate act for bargain-centric Winnipeggers.
“It fits into the whole Dollarama logic where you’d pay the same cover to hear any band that you’d pay to see us, but instead of 12 songs we’ll play 17,” Basham says of the band’s name.
“When you look at the ingredients of Dollarama chips you say, ‘Hey, there’s no potato in this,’ but it’s a big bag.”
Published in Volume 67, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 21, 2013)