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Victoria, British Columbia, Canada | SELF

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada | SELF
Band Alternative Pop


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Wand - Mt. St. Helens"

Out of sheer coincidence, I happen to be reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. In the book there is a chapter that deals primarily with volcanoes, and there are two pages devoted to the disaster of Mount St. Helens, the volcano that erupted in Washington in 1980. The point Bryson makes in this chapter in that we as humans know astoundingly little about how volcanoes work, and this is very dangerous.

So how does the actual Mount St. Helens relate at all to Mt. St. Helens, the latest release from Wand? Derek Janzen, the man behind Wand, does well in relating the unpredictable volcano to the human condition. We as humans are just as irrational as volcanoes (though usually not nearly as destructive).

Nowhere is this parallel more apparent than in the album’s closing song, “My Heart is Not at Peace Anymore.” It’s a long song (like slightly over half of the songs on the album) that features a melancholy tune from keys alongside a steady drum machine. “My heart is just a volcano,” Janzen sings. Or you could look at “Empty Places,” a song that almost seems like reverence. “I saw a darkness, that fiery mountain” is a powerful line in that song.

And just like its namesake, it’s hard to predict what Mt. St. Helens will do. It opens with a 13-minute song, and surprisingly the song doesn’t actually feel like it’s dragging. The beat is fairly steady, combining electric guitars and a drum machine that will be heard often in the album, and features (at least what sounds like) horns and some instrumental chaos around the nine-minute mark.

Other songs are more or less completely electronic, such as the ghostly “We Will Never Write You Off” or “Beach People.” Janzen manages to make the songs completely his own thanks to his rather unique vocals.

First single “There is a Place” employs a sound that could be more generally called “indie rock” thanks to the use of electric guitar, but Janzen keeps the song fresh with the backing of the drum machine to create one of the album’s most stellar tracks.

At 59 minutes, this is certainly lengthy for an album consisting of nine songs, but listeners will find that listening to the whole thing is more than rewarding. As a bit of an aside, Janzen is based in Grand Prairie, Alberta, a place that also hosts plenty of other creative individuals such as Goose Lake, whose EP I reviewed last year. - Grayowl Point

"Wand - Mt. St. Helens"

In today’s culture, artists making the effort to make an epic, start-to-finish record are roughly as common as Drake investing his cash wisely or hinting that a life full of supermodels, fame and dollars isn’t terrible.

It’s easy to talk about the ADD generation and throw around terms like “post-internet” to reward unfinished thoughts and fragmented melodies, but ultimately, we are sadly floating further and further away from the grander scope.

Derek Janzen, a bedroom composer, has spent years fine tuning and evolving his sound. His output in the past was some what limited by his gear, but his vision scanned to the horizon. Within the confines of those four walls he constructed electro-fused anthems that exploded through ceilings and took flight.

While more ambitious, Mt. St. Helen’s is a less defined entity than previous efforts from Janzen and loosening his grip on the reigns certainly helped the end results. Working with a full band, Janzen was able to introduce new sounds to the more electronic focused creations.

This LP was a two year endeavor (making the creative process roughly 729.95 days longer than any kreayshawn song took to write) and the extra time resulted in enjoyable proggy builds and a smoother finish.

Janzen still controls pace with intricate patterns and the programmed heartbeat thumps with adrenaline, but it’s the more subtle, restrained moments that sound the best. The soothing horns that sneak into the tambourine and kick drum heavy “There is a Place” and the remarkably polished eight-minute closer (“My Heart Is Not At Peace Anymore”) showcase a maturation and patience that weren’t present in earlier works.

Janzen might be moving in the opposite direction of the popular sound, but those kinds of risks are the ones that result in something great. - Herohill

"Wand - Mt. St. Helens"

This album is a masterpiece. It maintains the cantering wildness of the (né) First Nations records, while expanding the structure and instrumentation substantially. Janzen’s voice moves up in the mix, the arrangements are daring — sometimes challenging but always captivating. It is a record full of infectious synth, cheeky guitar, smooth saxophone hooks, heavy beats, violent lyrics.

The true genius of this record lies in the percussion. There is a tribalism in the swirling arrangements and steady pound of the drums and the programmed beats. It is this careful balance between the electronic and organic that is at once unimaginable and completely natural to the listener. The last few times I saw Wand play, in Edmonton and at Landisfest, the percussion stuck such a chord with my body — I danced and swayed, swept up in the ebb and flow of the record.

There is an intrigue in the long tracks, but it is the pop sensibility of the shorter ones that catch my ear the first few times through — “Beach People” or “Where Did All The Light Go Now,” the latter a climax for the prevailing theme in the record. These are the entry points, but the best experience comes from a full submersion.

This album might be a masterpiece, but there is another thought here — what if this album is not a culmination but a graduation? This is a band in full stride, one to pay close attention to. - Argue Job

"Wand - Mt. St. Helens"

Mt. St. Helens sounds like it was recorded at the height of the summer solstice: hand claps and drum machines abound; fields of back-up singers, ebullient brass instruments and strings weep joyously; major keys melt over nooks and crannies; “Holy Mountain, Holy Ghost” crescendos victoriously; blithesome beach people frolic, experiencing spring and summer concurrently; Derek Janzen drops joyous vignette after joyous vignette; birds sing and fall passionately in love, fornicating wildly in the trees; drunken waltzes overtake those usually too shy to dance. Now that we have passed the tipping point and the sun has been appearing at its lowest altitude above the sweet horizon, put this on if you feel a longing for endless summer and the perfect wave. - Weird Canada

"First Nations - Wand"

When I first heard Victoria’s First Nations – known to his family and business associates as Derek Janzen – I was blown away by the intricacies and reach of his bedroom symphonies. He refused to limit his compositions, adding surprising textures to even the most standard melodies, somehow challenging and exciting the listener at almost every turn.

That’s why when I first listened to Wand, the new LP from First Nations, I wasn’t that all that surprised by the larger sound the band (Derek recruited three friends to help thicken the mix) introduced. Instead of hushed bedroom confessions, Derek’s yelpy vocals hint at grander visions and fit nicely with arrangements as suited for live venues as private headphone listening parties. The mix of chimes, banjo and guitar that dance around the intimate “A Light Is Above You” is as warm and comforting as a flannel sheet (and ensures fans of early efforts by the band won’t be lost), but when the foursome put the pedal to the floor on tracks like slow building “Ferocious King” and “Royal Blood” you can easily envision how the roof could get blown off a gritty bar when the band takes the stage.

What ties all the songs together is Derek’s unique and malleable voice. When needed, he pushes his voice to the point of cracking, almost in a Wolf Parade like frenzy (sans apocalyptic conspiracy) but can control a more organic, rootsy riff with an almost Gord Downie delivery. No matter what direction the band moves – including the epic pop nugget “I Cut Off Both My Hands” that closes the record – Derek’s vocals fit perfectly and the results ooze talent. That’s why Wand captivates the listener for every note of the 50-minute affair.
- Herohill

"First Nations - Wand"

Stewing in the northern isolation of Grand Prairie, First Nations’ popular brew sharply morphed into an ambitious platter of cross-provincial musicalia after lead singer Derek Janzen darted westward. Derek’s dark velvet vocals are layered over ambitious mountains of rural mystics and sprawling piano pop while a dense harmonium and brooding kick hold Wand‘s ritual to pace. The album is a highly imaginative journey through Alberta’s north, British Columbia’s vacant island, and Canada’s penchant for immortalizing creative brilliance on crisp discs of plastic-wrapped digital mirrors. This really should have come out of Calgary. - Weird Canada

"First Nations - Black Beach"

Derek Janzen the terrific writer and artist better known for his musical presence as First Nations, the prolific and naturalistic folk noir artist of Grande Prairie and now Victoria returns with an eighth album, Black Beach. Derek’s tunes usually channel influences like Akron/Family and Mount Eerie so you know from the get-go that his taste is impeccable. This new album incorporates a lot of casio goodness too. Black Beach will deliver you some ballads, some bangers, and a lot of sing-together-now opportunities to boot. Look for keyboard procussion, tribal toms, banjo, tambos, horns, and other such flourishes to lend the songs some unique texture. Most importantly, I would like to comment on his signature snowy caterwaul and what it communicates—a very naturalistic primordial sort of poetry that narrows in on concepts and images ubiquitous to mankind from time immemorial, ie. wind, fire, house, swimming, friend, snow, blood, beach, mountain, singing, colours. Personally, this is my favorite variety of poetry. You will see it a lot in poets like Olaf Hauge, Phil Elvrum, Marie Claire Blais, and, more so by circumstance, Du Fu, Li Po, Rumi, etc. Set to music, the strength of the concepts are obviously amplified. That is, of course, what music is meant for. And that too is from time immemorial. Janzen’s particular brand of this poetry is made his own by his contemporary presence in time and his point of reference being uniquely a) Canadian and b) coming from a place of youth in a thoroughly modernized nation. Those personal filters through which Janzen sees the world will at times produce a different affect in his poetry that Du Fu or Hauge could not have produced. Poetically, those are his strongest moments. Cop Black Beach when it’s available and next time First Nations plays in Edmonton, make a point of being there! - Argue Job

"First Nations - Black Beach"

The melodies are bound tight; sinewy and powerful. The casio melodies and guitar are soft and billowy, but the kick drum threatens to break through the protective cage around your heart and expose the beating organ to the world. Black Beach, the new LP from Victoria based First Nations, is a one-man revolution.

Tribal drums fuel our march but it’s Derek’s yelpy vocals that bring the loners and miscreants out from the dark basements and away from the glow of the screen with his own understated take on those infamous words, “can you dig it?”

Over the last three records, Derek’s bedroom creations have become more fleshed out, thicker and more accessible, but they’ve never lost the heart and energy that propelled his words. He still executes restrained builds – the opener, “Your Waves, They Grow”, proves that – and booming triumphs (the guitar, banjo laced “Mt. St. Helens) but he seems more and more inspired by slower moving scenes. “Swimmers” is as touching a song as he’s put to tape so far, his tone is gentle but the percussion beefs up the tender piano and twinkling textures helping the listener settle into a reserved, reflective second half that starts with the delicate piano ballad “I Sang On Your Heart I” and ends with the sprawling, inspiring 9-minute title track.

It might be quiet enough that you barely hear him, but First Nations is letting everyone know, “we got the streets suckas.”

-Bryan Acker - Herohill

"First Nations - Wand"

First Nations’ Derek Janzen just dropped a new album! And it’s gorgeous. Wand is big, foggy, and full of snow. It towers and sways in icy billows. We have here some new songs, some old songs made new. You desperately need to dig your claws into this at your soonest available 50 minute slot. Put it in the headphones, lay supine, let it knead you. PS These dudes are operating out of a cool cool label called Lazer Moses. Check that too. - Argue Job


Has Green Felt Eyes (EP) - 2009
Trans Canada (EP) - 2009
Before There Were Mountains (LP) - 2009
Slow Horns (Split Tape w/ Tyler Butler) - 2009
Real Life (Split CD w/ Butterbones) - 2010
Organ Songs For The Feral Night (EP) - 2010
Wand (LP) - 2010
Black Beach (LP) - 2011
Mt. St. Helens (LP) - 2012

The track "Son, We Are Animals" from the album Before There Were Mountains has had radio play on Halifax radio CKDU during an interview with Stacy Lloyd Brown.
Also, the track "We Faced Each Others Homes" from Black Beach played on CFUV radio in Victoria.
Interviewed on UMFM radio in Winnipeg May 2011
Numerous plays on CJSR in Edmonton
Songs from 'Mt. St. Helens' has frequently been played on CFUV and one week made it to #7 on Earshot's college radio charts.



Wand is an experimental pop band from Grande Prairie AB, led by multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, Derek Janzen. Originally a solo act named First Nations in which he released low-fi, bedroom pop recordings, First Nations eventually evolved into a full band with the help some local friends to help create a much larger live sound. In early 2012 First Nations changed their name to Wand.

Over the years the band played with some great acts, including Blackout Beach, Radical Face, Cousins, Himalayan Bear, Jordan Klassen, and Snoqualmie. When playing live, the group incorporates trumpet, drum machines, various synths, delayed guitar and driving percussion to create their unique and grandiose sound. When doing solo shows, Derek builds large arrangements piece by piece using looping pedals and samplers.

Wand are influenced by quite a few artists but some of the most prominent are Sunset Rubdown, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Sufjan Stevens and Phil Collins. Also an influence is south african electro, choral, and gamelan music.