It came from The Girth

Winnipeg five-piece’s new disc is weird, wild stuff

The Girth will measure your fun levels with its latest disc. Nigel Webber

Winnipeg five-piece The Girth has just released its latest polished basement recording and the self-titled disc is a baker’s dozen of hilarious, compact tunes about living underwater, messy men and other things that could be misconstrued as children’s songs.

“When I first started writing songs I would write things that were just three open chords and the song would just finish when I ran out of lyrics,” says singer/guitarist Steve Basham.

“I’m really insecure about those kind of songs. These are just kids’ songs, no one wants to listen to this, so after hearing (simplistic Scottish duo) The Vaselines I was like, ‘OK, people like them, I guess this is okay.’”

Basham is no stranger to the Winnipeg underground scene, playing in such outsider bands as JR Hill and the Oktars and The Unbelievable Bargains, he called on members of his merry band of collaborators to form The Girth.

“In between playing in bands I’d release little solo albums here and there,” he says. “A few years ago I did an album Thicker and I got our bass player Arthur (Antony) and our drummer Toby (Gillies) and J Riley Hill was playing keyboards, I got them together. It was recorded like a ‘live band’ album. So, I got them to play the release and we called it Steve Basham and The Girth because the album was called Thicker. It just seemed logical.”

Occasionally one-off jokes turn into real life bands, which wound up being the case with The Girth. After recording another EP with the lineup, Basham made the band official at a New Year’s show.

“Toby and Arthur play in this great band The Upsides, and they have this guitar player Ivar (Palmason), so on New Year’s we were jamming and their friend Evan (Bowness) was there. He had his keyboard set up. There was no keyboard on the album, but I was just like, ‘What the hell?’”

Many of The Girth’s songs give off the feeling that they’re being made up on the spot, not unlike Pavement’s Gold Soundz, in which Steven Malkmus sings, “And they’re coming to the chorus now,” which has long been debated as a pre-written lyric.

Though the songs aren’t improvised, the album has a spontaneity that most planned-out recordings lack.

For songs that are ever-evolving, it’s hard to know when to say, “The song is done, let’s record it.”

“There’s a point with all the songs where it seemed like we’d taken them to the perfect length,” Basham says. “If we’d kept playing them we’d inevitably just start changing them. They’re not too gratuitous yet. There’s a consistent psychosis through all the songs.”

That psychosis also involves a simplicity, in that these songs are pure entertainment.

“I’ve never found with songwriting that it’s the most important thing that someone understands what you’re saying,” he says. “I definitely include a lot of in-jokes within songs.

“Often (the songs) are just telling a story about a thing that happened while hanging out with (the band),” he continues. “Sort of the way with friends where you re-hash things like, ‘Remember that time we got super drunk and threw that pig in the dumpster?’ A lot of the songs are just so I can tell them, ‘Look I made a song about that thing we did a couple weeks ago.’ I just want to make them laugh.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 14, 2012)

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