It’s not everyday you hear an epic story like KillaWail’s. Who knew that a random encounter at a Montreal gas station in 2010 would be the spark that lit this international funk-infused bonfire that’s raging wild and getting bigger.
Melbourne-based rock guitarist Benji Miu was touring Canada with The Resignators when he bumped into J.P. Veillet (bassman Dizzy Veillet’s brother) at a gas station asking for directions. They became instant friends and lived together for a few weeks.
Through his brother, Dizzy only met Miu twice before flying over to Melbourne to meet him a few months later. The friendship bloomed and so did the music. As Miu shared the blueprints of his craft with Dizzy, Jono James—Miu’s trombone-playing friend—joined them soon afterwards. When Dizzy returned to Montreal, he introduced Sébastien Fournier, who plays the trumpet and Sarah Dion on the drums, to Miu and James through Skype.
“On Christmas day, before I left for Australia the first time, [Fournier] called me out of the blue to jam with [Dion] who played drums. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, it was just so random, but we jammed and it was really amazing,” said Dizzy, who later asked them to join the project.
“I was down straight away,” said Dion. “Going to Australia with a guy I barely know to meet another guy I barely know, why not! After being in school for three and a half years, this was my big break.”
Through countless emails and a few Skype sessions, they built a band from the ground up. Miu and James met every week, as did Dizzy, Dion and Fournier on opposite sides of the globe. Think of a long distance relationship with five other people and five other instruments.
A year later, the five of them met in Melbourne for four months and lived in a house, rocking out from dawn till dusk. With a few shows under their belt, the lot flew back to Montreal and Josh Michaud, a trombone player, became the third horn member to complete KillaWail’s signature sound.
“It was really difficult at first,” said Miu. “This is a really hard way to start a band, it takes someone to keep the fire alive. You have to keep contact […] it was a hurdle, but we overcame it.”
Would they recommend it to anyone? Absolutely. “The best thing is, once you’ve decided you’re a band and then you see your band members get off the plane for the first time, it’s awesome.”
So what does this trans-pacific band sound like? Take a witch’s cauldron, throw in Blood Sugar Sex Magik, a few Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys tunes, vigorously stir the mix and there you have something that starts to resemble KillaWail.
While Miu is self-taught, Fournier, Dizzy and Michaud all studied Jazz at CEGEP de Saint-Laurent back in 2011, which adds original complexity. With a solid and driven rhythm section complemented by a dynamic horn trio, KillaWail are obsessed with fast-engaging rock beats that dominate the landscape of their Latin-inspired, garage-soul funkadelics.
So forget Ska—just because they have a horn section doesn’t mean they’re like that. In fact, it sounds completely different. But while they don’t identify with that genre, they do share a similar trait.
KillaWail has a pretty serious side–effect: it makes you want to get up and bust a move. All band members agree, a venue could be packed to the brim, but if people aren’t dancing to their aggressive syncopated groove, the job is not done. For these energetic wailers, it’s all about having a good time.
For the last six months, they have been touring all over the country and have gained quite a following, so now it’s time for an EP.
“We’re all really stoked about it,” said Miu. “We were only planning to do two or three songs but ended up with five in two days. We were on fire!”
When they’re not jamming to prepare for their upcoming EP launch next week, Fournier and Michaud work as DJs and busboys at a strip club, Dion works at a cheese shop in Saint Lambert and Dizzy at an Italian restaurant in Outremont.
“We do what we can!” said Michaud, chuckling. In a few months, they hope to be in Mexico City and touring around central and South America.
As Mui put perfectly: “Travelling the globe and playing music; what more can you ask for?”
Trial Track: Murderflies
KillaWail launch their EP Get me Wise at Petit Campus at 8 p.m. on Friday Feb. 15. Tickets cost $10.