Permanent punk North Graffiti marks eight years together with debut album Modern Relics and a return to the stage

The Winnipeg punk group North Graffiti keeps defying the odds.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/04/2022 (244 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg punk group North Graffiti keeps defying the odds.

Rock groups can split apart at a moment’s notice for a host of reasons, even if their music catches the attention and ears of fans and critics.

Not North Graffiti though. The group, which includes frontman Johannes Lodewyks, guitarist Kyle Monkman, bassist Marty LaFrenière and Joel Leonhardt on drums, have stuck together for eight years playing their up-tempo ’90s sound at the city’s clubs, with only a couple of singles released prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to its credit.

“We’ve kind of formed out of the ashes of a few different bands,” says Lodewyks, 36, who has been a fixture on the city’s rock scene going back to his late teens. “We’re all about longevity. We want to be in the band for a long time, and COVID really put us to the test.

“It’s an extremely polarizing time. I can’t even imagine how many bands didn’t make it out unscathed. We’re lucky we’re all like-minded guys.”

North Graffiti’s pandemic-enhanced dry spell ends Friday with the release of debut album Modern Relics and a launch party Saturday night at the Park Theatre, alongside Mobina Galore and the 12/21.

Heavy bill

The Godfather of shock rock and a metal group that has followed his theatrical footsteps usher in the latest wave of arena concerts in Winnipeg.

Alice Cooper plays Canada Life Centre Saturday night, along with California rockers Buckcherry, almost 50 years to the day that he released the record that began a legend.

School’s Out came out April 26, 1972 and shortly thereafter rose to No. 3 in Canada’s Hot 100 chart as the title track of a No. 1 album. The song is as much a part of Cooper as his penchant for fake blood, reptiles and execution devices at his macabre concerts.

The Godfather of shock rock and a metal group that has followed his theatrical footsteps usher in the latest wave of arena concerts in Winnipeg.

Alice Cooper plays Canada Life Centre Saturday night, along with California rockers Buckcherry, almost 50 years to the day that he released the record that began a legend.

School’s Out came out April 26, 1972 and shortly thereafter rose to No. 3 in Canada’s Hot 100 chart as the title track of a No. 1 album. The song is as much a part of Cooper as his penchant for fake blood, reptiles and execution devices at his macabre concerts.

He’s even spoofed the song, and his image, in a commercial for Staples, promoting a back-to-school sale.

Expect School’s Out to be Saturday’s show-stopper, although Cooper and his band will play tracks from his latest album, Detroit Stories, which rose to No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart upon its release in February 2021.

Tickets are on sale at Ticketmaster.ca, ranging from $50.25 to $136.75.

More chaos, gore and loud music will be on the bill Monday night, when Slipknot brings its Knotfest Roadshow to Canada Life Place.

While Slipknot’s heavy metal sound has earned the group 30 million records sold and a Grammy award, like Alice Cooper, the group formed in Des Moines, Iowa, is known for stage theatrics, strange costumes and masks, and not the ones audience members might wear.

Also on the bill are Los Angeles group In This Moment and Florida’s Wage War. Tickets are selling for between $95 to $406.97 on Ticketmaster.

It’ll be the group’s first live gig since late 2019. They’ve been able to shake off some rust in rehearsals and a 17-minute YouTube livestream (http://wfp.to/northgraffiti) that came out March 31 but Lodewyks admits it’s no replacement for setting the groove for people right in front of you.

“It’s going to be a return to form for all three bands and showgoers who have left that part of themselves for two years now,” he says. “I’m sure that room is going to be full of positivity, as everybody is just dying to get back to it.”

They recorded Modern Relics in 2018 and 2019 — a collection of 25 or so songs whittled down to 11 — and had plans to release it in the spring of 2020.

North Graffiti had to either adjust their timeline or their expectations, like so many people who’ve stashed hopes and dreams on back burners for two years or abandoned them altogether.

“We debated a few times, ‘Should we put it out through COVID?’, but in the end, we decided we didn’t want to be somebody’s soundtrack to somebody’s lockdown,” Lodewyks says.

“It’s going to be a cathartic release for us to finally get it out there and show what we’ve been working on for years.”

Like so many punk rockers, the Winnipeg foursome’s gateway was via the Clash, and they often, pre-pandemic, took part in Clash and Joe Strummer tributes at the West End Cultural Centre.

It was punk’s 1990s next wave, which included bands like Green Day and the Hold Steady, that steered North Graffiti into what they call “boutique punk.”

“It’s somewhere between Rancid and Bruce Springsteen,” Lodewyks says with a chuckle. “They’re not as far apart as some people think they are but certainly, that’s the kind of fence we’re on.”

Not only are Monkman and LaFrenière playing guitar and bass, they provide skills that benefit the band away from the stage. Monkman is an audio engineer besides being lead guitarist, while LaFrenière’s video-editing skills can be seen in the video for the North Graffiti song I Was a Lone Wolf, which includes some stop-motion animation.

“The whole video is thousands of pictures all cut together. It was made to look like one single take,” Lodewyks says. “That cemented our DIY ethic. We’re always punks at heart, but that really drove it home that we can do this without a label, without a whole team behind us.”

The group’s love of writing and performing their songs has been a big reason for North Graffiti’s staying power. They know how fickle the music scene can be.

“The music industry is not very giving in return,” Lodewyks says. “It takes up a lot of time and energy and you’ve got to be in it for the love of it because it’s not going to give back as much as you put in.”

Alan.Small@winnipegfreepress.com

Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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JOEY SENFT Saturday’s show at the Park will be North Graffiti’s first live gig since 2019. ‘I’m sure that room is going to be full of positivity, as everybody is just dying to get back to it,’ says Johannes Lodewyks (second left), with (from left) Marty LaFreniere, Kyle Monkman and Joel Leonhardt.
Alan Small

Alan Small
Reporter

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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