The Girth
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The Girth

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"It came from The Girth"

Winnipeg five-piece The Girth has just released its latest polished basement recording and the self-titled disc is a baker’s dozen of hilarious, compact tunes about living underwater, messy men and other things that could be misconstrued as children’s songs.

“When I first started writing songs I would write things that were just three open chords and the song would just finish when I ran out of lyrics,” says singer/guitarist Steve Basham.

“I’m really insecure about those kind of songs. These are just kids’ songs, no one wants to listen to this, so after hearing (simplistic Scottish duo) The Vaselines I was like, ‘OK, people like them, I guess this is okay.’”

Basham is no stranger to the Winnipeg underground scene, playing in such outsider bands as JR Hill and the Oktars and The Unbelievable Bargains, he called on members of his merry band of collaborators to form The Girth.

“In between playing in bands I’d release little solo albums here and there,” he says. “A few years ago I did an album Thicker and I got our bass player Arthur (Antony) and our drummer Toby (Gillies) and J Riley Hill was playing keyboards, I got them together. It was recorded like a ‘live band’ album. So, I got them to play the release and we called it Steve Basham and The Girth because the album was called Thicker. It just seemed logical.”

Occasionally one-off jokes turn into real life bands, which wound up being the case with The Girth. After recording another EP with the lineup, Basham made the band official at a New Year’s show.

“Toby and Arthur play in this great band The Upsides, and they have this guitar player Ivar (Palmason), so on New Year’s we were jamming and their friend Evan (Bowness) was there. He had his keyboard set up. There was no keyboard on the album, but I was just like, ‘What the hell?’”

Many of The Girth’s songs give off the feeling that they’re being made up on the spot, not unlike Pavement’s Gold Soundz, in which Steven Malkmus sings, “And they’re coming to the chorus now,” which has long been debated as a pre-written lyric.

Though the songs aren’t improvised, the album has a spontaneity that most planned-out recordings lack.

For songs that are ever-evolving, it’s hard to know when to say, “The song is done, let’s record it.”

“There’s a point with all the songs where it seemed like we’d taken them to the perfect length,” Basham says. “If we’d kept playing them we’d inevitably just start changing them. They’re not too gratuitous yet. There’s a consistent psychosis through all the songs.”

That psychosis also involves a simplicity, in that these songs are pure entertainment.

“I’ve never found with songwriting that it’s the most important thing that someone understands what you’re saying,” he says. “I definitely include a lot of in-jokes within songs.

“Often (the songs) are just telling a story about a thing that happened while hanging out with (the band),” he continues. “Sort of the way with friends where you re-hash things like, ‘Remember that time we got super drunk and threw that pig in the dumpster?’ A lot of the songs are just so I can tell them, ‘Look I made a song about that thing we did a couple weeks ago.’ I just want to make them laugh.” - The Uniter


"Keeping up with the Girth"

The Girth frontman, Steve Basham, likes to keep busy.

Right on the heels of his own solo album, Don’t Swimmin’, and the Girth’s improvisational EP, the Girth Diaries—both of which were released on the opening night of his visual art exhibition, Cardbored, at the Edge Gallery—comes the Girth’s self-titled debut album, set to be released at the Cavern on Oct. 6. The self-recorded album was produced by their bass player, Arthur Antony, and features 13 tracks.

“We wanted to go for live sound on the album, something representative of how we [sound] without too much window dressing, just the songs captured at their best.” explains Basham.

“Since we got together initially to play a solo EP release of mine, we started off playing mostly solo songs from my weird little back catalogue, though these were significantly expanded and developed through countless hours in the Girth basement. The album is made up of those songs that we felt we had really changed and made into something of our own, as well as Girth originals that were conceived and incubated in our collective womb.”

As for the recordings themselves, the band diverged from the tried-and-true yet again, instead opting for a more novel approach. Rather than recording tracks for one song at a time, they recorded them in three song batches over the course of a few weekends. Each day, they would lay down the bed tracks for all three songs, and then spend the remainder of the day laying down the rest of the tracks. By the end of the day they would have three complete songs, this afforded them a chance to do something different each time.

“I will say that in just about every case, I ended up nearly last in line to do the lead vocals, usually in the 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. range, so that when the time came to sing, I’d spent the better part of the night sipping bourbon waiting for my turn, so every ‘cut’ is a little half cut you could say – and sometimes just cut, or even split in twain,” says Basham.

It may be hard to believe that the Girth have only been around for a year and a half, but members of the band share a long history.

“I met most of those guys through my old band the Fo!ps, as we used to play with Toby, Ivar, and Arthur’s band, the Upsides, all the time. More recently, our drummer Toby and I played together in J.R. Hill & the Oktars. Basically, though this is our first band together, there is a long incestuous history of musical inbreeding and mutual admiration,” says Basham.

The Girth’s much-anticipated full-length musical offering will be available for the first time at their album release party, where they will be sharing the stage with special guests the Bad Nerves (formerly the Nob Gobblers) and Mahogany Frog. This diverse line-up promises something for every connoisseur of musical eclecticism – even Basham himself is excited.

“Although each band is quite different, I think it’s kind of nice that there will be at least one synth on stage at all times. I think it’s appropriate to have a punky band and a proggy band playing with us, as I’d say we land somewhere in the murky gulf between those traditions.”

The Girth take the stage on Oct. 6 at the Cavern. Doors open at 9 p.m., show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets will be $5 at the door. - The Manitoban


"The Girth – The Girth (album review)"

Winnipeg has this amazing ability to breed musicians and great bands. On The Girth’s debut album, they prove themselves as incredibly talented local musicians that have loads of fun with music. This quality shines through on this release, and the result is one of the most unique records released last year. Messy men, pretentious douche bags and underwater living are some of the hilarious stories/issues addressed on this gem. The delivery is straightforward but comes off with an amazing laid-back fun vibe. This album will translate incredibly well to a live setting, and coupled with the Girth’s live show, some good times will be had when these guys hit the stage. “Seriously Not Serious” demonstrates the feel you get from the entire album, as Steve Basham sings “I’m at my best when I’m a mess and art’s an afterthought.” The Girth do not take themselves too seriously and as a result we get an album that is immensely entertaining in its catchiness and hilarity. Highlights “Messy Man” and “I’ll Cut You,” the former with its goofy voice and the latter with its awesomeness, are great examples of the storytelling and songwriting that make this local act one to check out.

Scott Wolfe - Stylus Magazine


Discography

The Girth, self titled, full length. 2012.
The Girth, The Girth Diaries, EP, 2012.

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Bio

An eclectic lounge-punk party sandwich of a band served in a light béchamel sauce. The Girth are increasingly improvisational, persistently suggestive and thickly coated in hooks, puns and scary voices.

Their musical anecdotes about undersea adventure, magical dogs and nights of significant insignificance are brought to life with whimsy and a leer. Though often abrasively psychotic, they can also be gentle enough for small children and sweet old ladies.

Started at the tail end of 2010 when shouter/songwriter Steve Basham wanted to get a band together to play his 'Thick Cuts' EP release and recruited friends Arthur, Ivar and Toby of of the Upsides and keyboard/gardening wizard Evan.

After a only few jams, they realized that they were developing far too serious musical feelings for one another to leave it as a one night stand, and have since spent many happy hours together jamming like mental patients.