A local punk supergroup made their first formal stamp on the Winnipeg music scene last month.
After playing their first live show at the Handsome Daughter on Dec. 29, Agapito – named after lead vocalist Jim Agapito – let their first studio recordings drop on July 7. The aptly named 3 Song Demo features original content from the four-piecme band.
Agapito consists of Agapito on vocals, Ryan Nash, of Union Stockyards and One Of These Days, on guitar, Jordan McConnell, of The Duhks, on bass, and Mike Peters, of Cancer Bats and Julie & The Wrong Guys, on drums.
The four bandmates have extensive personal histories, with some relationships dating back as much as 20 years. Nash, McConnell, and Peters have strong roots in both Winnipeg and Canada’s music scenes – Nash and Peters even played in hardcore punk bands together in the early 2000s – while Agapito works as a documentary filmmaker and film technician in the University of Manitoba film studies program.
The band’s live performances have been sparse so far, limited by Peters’ out-of-province touring schedule, but Agapito puts on a wild live show. The instrumentalists are consummate performers with a tight sound, and their frontman brings a frantic energy to live shows that’s enthralling.
3 Song Demo
The brief EP is a burst of punkrock aggression with hints of melodicism, comparable to Fugazi in tone and diversity of sound.
The band had few expectations in terms of musical tone or direction going in to the writing process.
“I think when we just went in, we just wanted to do something that just sounded like us,” Nash said.
“I guess we’re not really trying to go for like a certain genre or anything like that. We wanted to sound raw and dirty a little bit. I think we all have pretty wide musical tastes, you know? Like, we all like all kinds of stuff. It all kind of seeps in there a little bit.”
“It’s hard to describe what this band really is,” Agapito said. “Every guy comes from a different kind of world. I like soul music and that’s definitely not like what I think we sound like, but I also like punk rock and I like melodic stuff. And then there’s a lot of funk in it, like groovy stuff, which I really like too. So I mean, it’s hard to say.”
The band’s writing process generally starts with riffs from Nash on guitar that are transformed by the layers added by McConnell and Agapito.
“It seems to be just like, when we’re writing music, it starts off one way, like there’ll be one riff, it sort of has a vibe, and by the time the song is done, it’s totally f**king different,” McConnell said.
“The songs take on a life of their own. And everybody adds something that’s really cool somewhere along the way that sort of shifts the perspective of the song. And so it just sort of grows like that. It’s a really organic process.”
Nash agreed, adding “I think it’s just the result of a bunch of guys who trust each other musically. So, we just let it go and see what happens.”
Agapito writes the band’s lyrics, and draws on personal experiences to do so. The first track, ”No Pipeline, No Problems!” features the EP’s most explicitly political lyrics, based on his experience speaking with an Indigenous matriarch while in Haida Gwaii, B.C., who opposed pipeline expansion into her ancestral lands and challenged other local Indigenous leaders who were partnering with companies in the energy sector.
“I like to read a lot and I like to write all the time,” he said. “And […] these guys are great musicians and in terms of singing, I just go for it. I’m just the kind of guy that, if we start playing, I’m just gonna start singing and I’ll start looking at things I jot down, and I’ll just start going for it.
“I mean I have no ego, I don’t give a shit. I’m not embarrassed.”
With three esteemed musicians being joined by the newcomer Agapito on vocals, and as a new group with no previous history, the band has a solid foundation and a strong platform to experiment musically.
“I like playing with these guys especially because it helps me grow as a musician,” Peters said. “I get to try different things and be more creative in different ways. It’s awesome. I do have bands that I’m trying to pay my bills with. So, with those bands [it’s as if], I have to write the part for the kids to sing along to, ‘cause like that’s what they like.”
“This band has no fans yet,” he added, “so we can do whatever we want.”
“The freedom to do that is there,” McConnell said. “There’s no producer saying, ‘That’s not going to fly on the radio.’ And [we don’t have to] worry about if something seems kind of out there, to not go there, and see what’s going to happen.”
All the instrumentalists in the band expressed excitement over the possibilities the new group gave them.
“For me, in the last 12 years or so, music’s kind of been my job,” said Peters. “This has been like Monday night’s jam night, drinking beer with the buddies […] It’s been almost refreshing in a way. Kind of like how you do it when you’re a kid.”
“It’s been interesting to me in a similar way,” McConnell said. “The Duhks, when I was playing in that band, […] you know we had a record deal and we had these records we needed to make every year-and-a-half or two years, and it was always a really intense process […] They were fairly big records that we were making in Nashville, with you know with some fancy producers. And you know, that’s great, it’s one thing. But this has been just way more fun. It’s been about fun, at least for me, since the beginning.”
“I thought we’d jam, and I thought I would suck at bass,” said McConnell, who put down his guitar and picked up a bass just for this band. “You know it’d be this fun thing, and we’d all hang out and drink some beers on Monday night and jam but it seemed to click pretty well and it was just so much fun that it was like ‘OK, you’ve gotta keep doing this.’”
Agapito is already working on a second digital EP and has plans to produce a music video, both of which they are expecting to put online in the coming months.