After Ladyhawk wrapped up its tour in support of its last album, 2012's No Can Do, the Vancouver-based indie rock outfit entered a period of inactivity. The band hadn't broken up, exactly; it just wasn't especially motivated.
So, guitarist Darcy Hancock booked a Canadian tour for spring 2014. Dubbed the Decade of Passive Aggression Tour -- a play on Slayer's Decade of Aggression live album -- the 16-date jaunt, which includes a stop at Winnipeg's Windsor Hotel on April 24, is in celebration of Ladyhawk's 10th anniversary.
"It's hard to get us to do anything, but I thought it was a good enough reason," says Hancock over the phone from Peterborough, Ont., the first stop on the tour. "At first, I think there was hesitance, but I think we're all happy we're doing it."
Although it's been a while since the band has been onstage, Hancock is confident.
"The practices have been going very well," he says. "We're playing better than ever."
Formed in Kelowna in 2004, Ladyhawk slowly but steadily earned a dedicated fanbase on the strength of its blistering live show, as well as a pair of well-received albums: 2008's Shots -- a record that could have elevated the group from its cult status -- and 2006's self-titled debut, both released via indie heavyweight Jagjaguwar. Hancock, Duffy Driediger, Sean Hawryluk, Ryan Peters carried the flannel flag of Pacific Northwest indie rock -- and, not unlike many '90s grunge acts from the same region, were highly influenced by '70s rock 'n' roll. The music they made was visceral; Driediger's primal howls and cavernous vocals always sounded like they were coming from somewhere deep in the woods.
Back then, Ladyhawk was a rock band and operated as such. The members toured hard and partied hard; this is a band that released an album called Shots, after all.
And if records are meant to be a snapshot of a time and place, then No Can Do certainly captures where Ladyhawk was at by the end of the 2000s. Musically, the record is defined by economy; the whole thing is just 28 minutes long. But lyrically, it's an album about stasis, insecurity and leaving your 20s behind -- a reflection of the mood of the band at the time. No longer were the guys hard-partying road warriors. They were adults with responsibilities.
"That album was hard to get done and it was hard to get the band on the road at all," Hancock says. "I think we thought we'd get through that tour and then not try to be a band anymore -- but that's dumb because we all enjoy it. I think everyone was trying to be grown-up and stay home." (That last part could be the thesis statement for No Can Do; on Footsteps, a Dandy Warhols-indebted psych-rocker, Driediger sings: "I don't go out, I just stay home/ I'm so happy to be on my own.")
No Can Do was completed in fits and starts over three years and, when it did finally come out, the tour cycle in support of it was notably short. "We did 13 shows and flew out for a few festivals. But we weren't finding opportunities ourselves. Everyone was kind of going their own ways with their lives. Some people got depressed with our lack of success and thought they hated playing music -- including me, for a while."
These days, Hancock feels the band is in a better place to continue making music. Now firmly in their 30s, the guys have an emotional maturity they didn't have in their 20s.
"When we started, we were kids with nothing to lose -- although I still feel like I have nothing to lose," Hancock says with a laugh. "It kind of went by fast. We were completely different people back then. I think we can handle the stress of the ups and downs better now."
If there is going to another Ladyhawk album, Hancock hopes it can be completed in less time.
"This tour is a test, I suppose, to see if we want to make an album -- but I can't make any promises," he says. "I'm only one person speaking for four." There are some logistical considerations, too; Driediger now calls Powell River, B.C., home, making it hard to jam regularly.
Hancock has found other work -- he's been playing in singer/songwriter Louise Burns' backing band of late -- but he'd never give up on Ladyhawk.
"There is a musical connection I've never found with other bands," he says. "Creatively, it's like winning the lottery to have four people that can make their own thing that doesn't sound like anything else -- well, it sounds like a genre of music, but doesn't sound like another band. I see no reason to ever break up. I think we'll always want to play a show at some point."
And, perhaps, do more than that.
"I don't think any of us are content to just have jobs. It's money, but it's not fulfilling. I'd like to work harder at this again."