The Killer Virgins are an Indie Punk Band from Toronto consisting of Samantha Weinstein (Guitar/Vocals)
Gabriel Corindia (Drums)
Drew Brazier (Bass)
They have a very well produced, rich sound that would put many larger bands to shame.
The new video, shot on location in Toronto is about a banana chased by a gorilla, playing the part of the monkey. The one thing both have in common, a craving for bananas, and this monkey is determined to catch it’s prey, as our eventual victim runs by some of the historic Toronto music venues.
Watch the video and see if you can identify the three venues!
To fully get to know a band, you have to go to their origin story. I asked Gabe (Drums), Drew (Bass) and Sam (Guitar/Vocals) to picture themselves as a child, maybe flipping through their parent’s record collection and remember that moment when music went from something they heard, to something they felt.
Gabe’s dad was a big fan of bands like U2, Peter Gabriel, Peter Frampton, and Genesis among others of that genre.
It was Phil Collins that stood out to Gabe, based on his repetitive viewing of the movie Tarzan.
Not only was his solo career going well, he was the singer of Genesis and he was also making music for movies.
Of course, when In the Air Tonight played on the car radio, his dad turned it up all the way while saying: “He’s singing and playing drums at the same time…how cool is that?”
His dad had dropped a bombshell of a revelation, and his mind was blown.
“Even though you are playing an instrument that typically isn’t seen as the frontman, and you are the singer…you can still do that. There are no rules saying you can’t.” says Gabe of the lesson he learned.
That unlocked a freedom of choice, that Gabe could be an artist and a writer, without having to settle for the obvious frontman instruments.
At the age of about 10 years old, when all his friends wanted to be in a band, they all picked the guitar. “I’m not just going to be “another” guitar player, so I just picked up drums and haven’t put sticks down since then.”
The foundation of a great song is the drums and the bass. When these two players are in sync, it allows the song to soar, as guitars and voice are added to the mix.
Drew also grew up on his dad’s music, an art school snob, he says in jest. “There was a lot of folk. Saturday was Jazz day; Sunday was classical day. I found my own musical identity when I found bands my dad didn’t like.”
Ahhhh…that moment when your musical journey diverges from your parents and you find a style of music you can call your own.
The band he discovered was one his dad went to school with: Rush.
Like Killer Virgins, a 3-person band where “I could hear melodic parts coming out of all three players. Nobody was holding back in that band.”
After further exposure to King Crimson and Yes, Drew’s instrument of choice would be the bass.
The magic of paying an instrument, according to Drew, is: “You figure out how you do it. Getty plays bass with 1 finger! If he used both fingers…we’d all explode!”
Drew will use a “big, weird pick” and use vintage basses and changes out his electronics to create his own landscape of sound.
When I mention Primus, Sam exclaims “There we go.” like I just unlocked some hidden level on a video game.
For Sam, her first guitar was a Fender “Tele” (Telecaster). “I didn’t like my guitar, but it was the only one I had, so I had to do what I could.”
Her heart fell instead for the “Strat” (Stratocaster), as she reminisces on picking out just the right one, with the right finish. This is also a favorite of Jamie Cook of the Artic Monkeys, which as we will soon see…may have had a connection with Sam’s choice.
Her parents were Punk Rockers, playing the Sex Pistols and The Dammed in the car, with toddler Sam singing along in the back.
Sam would run around the house at 3 years old singing Courtney Love songs and playing air guitar. “I just wanted to be Courtney Love…minus some of the drama.”
Another band that awoke an emotional connection was the B-52s. “My head just about exploded.”
Her first song writing crush was hearing the Arctic Monkeys for the first time.
I sensed a pattern with Tarzan and Arctic Monkeys…Bananas.
Before we discussed Bananas, we had to talk about the venues we lost in Toronto.
For Drew, his heart broke when he heard the Rivoli was looking for a buyer. It holds a special place for him because “we performed there a month before lockdown.”
“It was a real high moment for us,” shares Sam. Drew remembers the scare with Sneaky Dee’s, that will eventually become a Condo building with an eventual relocation. “It’s a Toronto institution!”
The Hideout was also a sad loss because the band played a few shows there, and Drew was a regular at their open mic.
“That was a home base for us, whether in or not in this band.” laments Gabe.
The Silver Dollar was the one that hurt Gabe, noticing that COVID was not the only reason for venues to shut down, but an earlier pattern “that just got amplified over the past year.”
It was in the heart of the music district and nightlife, sharing a home next to the El Mocambo and a few speakeasies.
“The Boat, if I’m being honest, was nothing but a big room.” comments Drew. “But my g-d, the shows you could put on in that room. I’m so sad to lose just a simple venue like that.”
We attach sentimental value to buildings for their historic purposes, and history with incredible shows, maybe by a small band at the time that would later blow up.
That nostalgia factor is hard to replace, even if a new venue opens with the same name, it’s not the same. There will never be another CBGB, even if you try to recreate the infamous restrooms.
The important thing is that live music survives, no matter in what shape or form it may evolve into.
The new video features Sneaky Dee’s, the Bovine and Supermarket.
Sam recalls the day they filmed the Sneaky Dee’s shot, and even with all the permits, they only had 3 opportunities to get it right.
Sam was like the girl in between two cars ready to roar down the road at a drag race. She would wait till all the cross walks lined up and would yell: “GO!”
Samson, playing the part of the banana would start running, followed by Wyatt, their producer in the monkey suit. He would also be responsible for the monkey noises in the song, after getting fully into character.
To round out the Fruit of the Loom ensemble was Max the grape and Theresa the Strawberry and their mortal enemy Chef Steve.
Let’s focus on bananas as we bring up facts and see how they relate to the band.
Banana Fact #1: The banana is classified as a berry
Do you find that as a band, you fit a different classification than the punk label that is put on you?
“Oh Yes!” exclaims Sam without a second to lose. “For me, punk is to not fit into the genre. Do your own thing. Do uncharted territory. Do the unpopular thing and stay true to yourself.”
“For whatever reason, we are a rock-n-roll band.” believes Drew. “What that means in 2020 is weird. Rock-n-Roll sounded different, no matter what era it was made in. This is what it sounds like in 2020.”
For Gabe, “A lot of people say it has to have a certain feel or style to it. I see so many iterations, even now with the hardcore punk scene in places like Pennsylvania with hate5six videos.” The lines are blurred as to how to classify a band if, for instance, if they use bizarre instruments, intricate arrangements and interesting song writing techniques.
“They are all doing it in the DIY aesthetic, much like ourselves and our punk idols. That is what really makes a band punk.” concludes Gabe.
Think of Talking Heads or Blondie back at CBGBs. They were punk, even if I didn’t necessarily classify them as such, until I made the connection, much later in life.
Banana Fact #2: Bananas float in water
What floats your boat, so to speak, when it comes to music?
“I love a lyric that stays with you”, shares Sam, “whether it’s deep, just conk’s you over the head or gets stuck in your head. That’s what inspired the writing of Banana.”
Sam remembers someone randomly saying: “Hahaha, I want your banana.”
“It was like lightning struck. Whoa…that’s the song!”
Sam wrote it, almost all in one take.
For Gabe, it’s all about the riffs. He grew up listening to a lot of Metal. “With bands like that, you want the money riff.” He juxtaposes that with bands that have a unique, almost experimental sound. “I’m never going to hear anything like this, except from this artist.”
The bands that sprung to Gabe’s mind were Tom Waits, Death Grips and Talking Heads. “I live by the theory that every artist deserves a chance. You have one chance to wow me.”
Drew agrees with “give anyone a chance.” Drew and Gabe would stick on a record like Swans or Daughters and either find things wrong with it or find something to enjoy. “I love noise and experimental stuff and like Gabe, anything I can’t hear again.”
Drew has his top 10 records on his wall, but he is constantly churning new bands to admire. “I’m a musician’s musician. If you are trying hard and this sounds like something, I’m there for it.”
Drew will even venture outside his comfort zone and enjoy seeing Opera, or some other genre that will stretch his musical boundaries.
Banana Fact #3: Humans share 50% of DNA with bananas
Finish this sentence: Killer Virgins shares 50% of our DNA with this band…
Drew guessed that Sam would pick Arctic Monkeys, and he was right on the money…or the monkey in this instance.
“There is a huge influence there, it shows in what you do.” comments Drew about Sam. There is a similarity with production values and the way their songs are constructed.
“The way that the Arctic Monkeys create songs, stuck with me, feeling true to that pull of what feels right and what they need to do.” confesses Sam.
Sam’s aspiration was to bring that song writing style and mesh it with the punk she heard in the back of the car growing up: Samartic Monkeys.
Like a master chef, the band will pick ingredients from the Chili Peppers, Sex Pistols, Le Butcherettes to create their own version of what feels right.
Banana Fact #4: The inside of a banana peel can help relieve itching and inflammation
What healing effect does your music have on both yourself and your audience?
When Gabe was younger, he had many anger issues.
When his brother came home with stack of records from a friend, Gabe found an outlet for his issues with bands like Linkin Park, Slipknot, In Flames, Bullet for My Valentine and Behemoth on the extreme end of the spectrum.
It was the speed and aggression that initially attracted Gabe to those bands. The lesson he received, as a drummer in training, was that he was now given permission to play faster and harder.
He channelled his energy and pent-up emotions into his drumming, rather than trying to imitate his dad’s Genesis records. Even when he borrowed a Back in Black album from his aunt, it was too slow for his intuitive ears.
James Maynard said in the movie Blood into Wine basically that he would write songs to move through some pain or work out some issues, but that if he is successful in his art, there should be a logical progression. The industry expects artists to keep screaming, but if they don’t feel better, how effective was the screaming and how will it help someone else if it didn’t help them?
Gabe has noticed a pattern of bands wanting to introduce more melody into their singing, like Corey Taylor of Slipknot or Code Orange’s new record. “It’s more singing then screaming and I’m all for it. Once you paint yourself in a corner that all you can do is scream…where do you go from there?”
“The word of the day for many musicians is catharsis.” pipes in Drew. “That’s what a lot of us get out of this. It’s nice to walk into a room and be really loud for a couple of hours. In our day to day lives, we don’t get to do that very often. I get a confidence in that, that I’ve never found in anything else in my life.”
For Sam, writing and creating music is like “shining a flashlight on a wound.” Maybe not Banana, “that was just something that sounded fun to me”, but Keep the Corkscrew was shining a flashlight on a wound that she didn’t really want to look at. But “here it is…let’s create some art about it.”
Sam’s gift is to take something ugly and transform it to create something beautiful. Behind the tongue and cheekiness is a depth of storytelling, wrapped up in a catchy beat. It’s the sugar coating to a pill to heal our wounds.
She recalls a recent experience with visual arts, an experiment from her roommate in watercolors. Sam was having a “cruddy” day. She was determined to show this blank piece of paper how she was feeling. As she removed the layer that covered her creation, “I immediately felt this release, and thought: Oh…this can be beautiful.”
It’s interesting that many bands will put their pain into a song, but once you peel away that paper wrapping, one could say it’s beautiful. Pain can be beautiful, especially if it’s pain you are releasing. It’s beautiful to see it go…into eternity…no longer a part of your life, only a part of your story.
“The idea that we can punish ourselves to get better isn’t supported by science as much as the idea of reinforcing and loving ourselves and putting that out there. Releasing can be a form of therapy and self-love.” according to Sam.
Banana Fact #5: Patrick Wightman (UK) ran a just under 3 hour marathon dressed as a banana
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done as a band?
“Make this music video, honestly.” bursts Sam.
Getting the reaction of those on the street was “the best part” according to Sam. It’s not every day you see a gorilla frantically chasing after a Banana in front of legendary Toronto music venues like the Bovine or Sneeks.
When asked if they invested in the costumes or rented, Sam mentioned that they did purchase the banana suit. Drew shared that it was a real close call for the monkey suit. Wyatt calculated that if he used the suit 6 times in his lifetime, it would pay for itself. They brainstormed and came up with 3 instances…but alas…it wasn’t enough to tip the investment needle.
Banana Fact #6: A man in India once ate 81 bananas in half an hour
“Bananas as slightly radioactive” contributes Drew, who is entirely correct.
What is the biggest accomplishment you have as a band?
“Our show at the Horseshoe for me.” confides Sam.
While significant to Gabe because of artist who have played that stage such as U2, David Bowie, Talking Heads, and Rolling Stones…there is a more personal one in his memory. “It was our show at the Rivoli, because we felt out of place.”
They were sharing the bill with Paper Parachutes and Soulish, who have a softer blue eyed soul feeling.
“It was intimidating to see these high-level musicians and the place completely full to the brim. These people aren’t here for us.” Yet the nervousness was replaced by calm when he was told: “Don’t you think that because you are here, you are at this level?”
To play on a bill where you have little in common with other bands yet are well received is the highest form of praise.
Sam adds that as an actor, she appreciated donning the producer hat, this time around…”a trial by fire.” Despite the mountain of work needed to pull this off, this was her personal accomplishment highlight.
“If we are going to make a video, we have to have an amazing time doing it.”
Her bandmates Gabe and Drew also had a blast. “I was screaming all day.” Drew said.
“We got to the studio at 8 AM and left at 9 PM. In those 13 hours, I smiled the whole time. I had such a blast.” confesses Gabe.
You will also have a blast watching it.
In these perilous times, we might feel that chasing after happiness is as elusive as that speedy banana.
In the end, we will all get a piece of it, just like the band did and hopefully…we can all peel better.
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Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs with out of the box advice from Ted Talk Speakers, Best Selling Authors and other interesting Entrepreneurs and Creatives.Share this :