“I am into juicing,” explains Erin Jenkins, after being asked how she keeps her voice in shape. I assume the Catholic Girls singer/guitarist is talking about extracting nutrients from vegetables, but based on the superhuman screams that punctuate the band’s self-released debut EP, Sheila Joined A Cult, a listener should not be faulted for suspecting Tour de France-levels of performance enhancement.
The Calgary four-piece formed last year in the aftermath the June 2013 flood that displaced three of the four members. Jenkins “literally lost almost everything except a guitar and her minivan.” Singer/synth player Cian Haley had actually been out of music for nearly three years dealing with health issues including a heart transplant surgery that doctors said would leave him unable to speak or sing ever again.
Against the odds, Haley’s voice returned and he was working with long-time collaborator Ted McCormick on some new music when he met Jenkins at a TRST show and the foundation of the band was laid. The trio recruited Galen Colbeck, an established bass/guitar player who essentially learned to play drums for Catholic Girls. As far as origin stories go, not many bands can count catastrophic floods and near-death experiences among the events that led them to where they are, and Jenkins believes the band’s difficult genesis provides motivation.
“We suppose our past influences who we are as people and a band, and for some reason these tragedies/miracles seemed to only fuel us further,” the singer explains, with a positive outlook that contradicts the shadowy themes of the band’s music.
Sheila Joined a Cult is four songs of dark, heavy synth punk that is equal parts accessible and punishing. Heavy, dense and melodic, the EP recalls ’80s new wave and 2000s dance punk. Jenkins’ vocal delivery is especially captivating, as she alternates between cheeky neurosis and unhinged ferocity. The record is intense, and the band has gained a reputation for fantastic live shows and are embarking on a short tour of the West Coast this month.
In Calgary, Catholic Girls will play two shows during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival, one at the Republik on Wednesday, June 18, the other at the National Music Centre on Friday, June 20. In BC, they perform at Shake/Arama Festival on Thursday, June 26 at Buick 6 in Vancouver with NEEDS, Gun Control, and Modern Aquatics and Friday, June 27 at the Copper Owl in Victoria.
By Justin Penney