Is Johnny Cash “punk”? According to Mike Sokolyk and Chris Snelgrove of the Montreal quartet Whiskey Trench, he sure is.
Formed in the winter of 2005, Whiskey Trench has been playing music they way it should be: For the love of it, and with a true understanding of where their music came from. “If you look where country’s from, it’s ‘roots’ music, from the people. If you look at Woody Guthrie, Jack Elliot, even Stompin’ Tom, whatever their political beliefs were, they were talking about issues. Whether it be personal or about working, I think even the backbeat of punk rock is from country music. You can hear it,” said Sokolyk. “A lot of the old L.A. bands liked country and you can hear it in the way they play.”
Snelgrove and Sokolyk have both been heavily influenced by country. “It’s working class music. All the old country singers, they had nothing. You could hear it in their lyrics, you could hear it in their songs. It was a lifestyle that punks could adhere to. It was tales of heartbreak and poverty,” said Snelgrove. “But at this point, country does suck. Look at this crap that’s passing as country! What’s that kid’s name, Keith Urban? Like come on! That’s not country! Honestly.”
Sokolyk said the band that really changed his perspective on punk rock was Social Distortion. “I remember getting Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. I had never made the connection between country and punk and that band did that for me,” he said.
Snelgrove got hooked on punk when he was about 11. Already feeling the pressures of drugs and alcohol, he found a band that kept him grounded. “I remember Suicidal Tendencies saving my life by the fact that [they were] a band which has a such a negative stigma around their name, [but] could produce such a positive feeling inside you because their lyrics are so uplifiting. I swear to god that band saved my life.”
Now the band is doing what they love best. “The fact is that regardless of anything else that’s going on, in this style of music, the seperation of all the different scenes, we actually don’t care,” said Snelgrove. “We’re just playing music to have fun. And that’s pretty much the basis of why we’re playing together. Life is short: You’ve got to have as much fun and do as many things that make you happy as often as you possibly can. And playing music with my friends makes me exceptionally happy,”
Whiskey Trench takes pride in “being in it for the right reasons.” They’re out there to play, to bring positivity back into the punk scene, and they’re not worried about making money.
“The sincerity in music has declined to the point where you see punk rock bands on TV and all over mainstream radio and kids now see punk rock as a feasible way to make money. Whereas before it was something you did because you loved it,” said Snelgrove. “When punk rock started, people used to tour in vans. They used to go out for months and not bitch at all,” said Sokolyk. “And it used to be hard, they used to just travel and be nomadic, and now people have buses and makeup rooms and everything handed to them. I don’t think it should be like that. I think you should have to work for it.”
And working for it they are. Whiskey Trench will be touring Quebec for just over a week in March, along with the Sainte Catherines (a band for which Sokolyk used to be the drummer), Dirty Tricks and Inepsy. They have plans to release a four song EP and possibly do a split record with Frenetics frontman, Malcolm Bauld. To hear some of their music visit www.myspace.com/whiskeytrench.