When was the last time you found yourself in a club sweating to live, authentic Gypsy music? I see. Well, that's a good thing because Vancouver, B.C., band MCGNARLEY'S RANT doesn't play authentic Gypsy music. Theirs is a Celtic/folk/punk hybrid with something more than a pinch of Gypsy flavor. Or as members of the Rant themselves attempt to describe it: "Tom Waits meets the Dead Kennedys in Eastern Europe." The group will perform this exotic and stimulating abomination at Mootsy's on Saturday night. You'll dance, you'll cry, you'll ponder. You may well wonder: "Where has this band been all my life?" The answer to that, mi amigo, is in the bio.
Though the six members of McGnarley's Rant hail from all over Canada, their paths crossed just two years ago at the Selkirk College Professional Music program in Nelson, B.C. There, in the heart of the Kootenays, the Rant came together, pooled their considerable individual talents and formulated a truly wicked sonic brew -- one that's hard enough to keep bottled up, let alone label. Elements of acoustic rock and folk are energized with punk urgency. Odd time signatures and scales (characteristic of Gypsy music) form the foundation of many of the songs. Atypical instrumentation (in the form of fiddle, mandolin and bouzouki) fleshes out the group's unique sound.
"I grew up in a Croatian household in Toronto and was exposed to a lot of ciganska muzika, Gypsy music," says bassist Mike Brcic, accounting for the group's obvious Eastern European influences. "It makes its way into the songwriting in various ways, both subtle and not so subtle. We all come from different parts of Canada with very different backgrounds. That's reflected in the diverse nature of our music."
Moreover, Brcic and the rest of the band have led a very communal, Gypsy-like existence since they packed up their gear and hit the road more than a year ago. They've adopted stage personas and, in a show of solidarity, tagged each with the same surname (what else but McGnarley?). Seamus (Brcic) plays bass and sings. Tipsy (Ramsey Reid) is the band's gravelly voiced lead vocalist. Sally (Sara Hart) plays the fiddle. Folkface (Marco Bozenich) is the guitarist. Paddy (Rob Larsen) plays mandolin and bouzouki. Little T (Tyler Piercy) beats the skins. They've been hauling ass around Western Canada and the Northwest USA for the past 12 months in a prison-gray school bus known as "George" -- just six people, one bus and no permanent address -- shuttling between one high-octane gig after another (more than 200 in fact) with an occasional break to do a little recording.
Like the Rant's rousing live performances, the band's debut nine-song CD, Fisherman's Pride, is fresh and unpredictable. It swings more in mood than in style -- from the contemplative slow burn of the opener, "Drink Up" and the growling, unsettling "Catch-22" to the sweet and lively Irish-flavored romp, "Lost Man's Epitaph."
The band recently moved its base of operations from Nelson to Victoria. And though they plan to take yet another break soon to record a follow-up to Fisherman's Pride, the group sees no immediate end to their current nomadic life as wandering minstrels.
"We all miss having a home, for sure," admits Sally. "But for now we're committed full-time to the caravan. For now, the road calls."
McGnarley's Rant plays Mootsy's on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 9:30 pm. Cover: $5. Call: 838-1570.