Writers' Strike
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Writers' Strike

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Band Rock Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"The First Aid Kit - Still Standing"

I feel like I owe the folks in energetic Halifax quintet The First Aid Kit an apology. I've had their excellent new EP Still Standing for a few weeks now, and I feel a bit guilty that I'm only getting the review up now. As it happens, my tardiness in this case is not, as per usual, an indictment of my blogging work ethic, but rather a positive - I've been enjoying it too much to break it down in any kind of review-like manner. Is that wrong?

Well, I guess me not reviewing something doesn't do you, the blog-lurking public, any favours. After all, what do you care about my personal happiness? Bunch of mp3 scrounging ingra...wait, what was I talking about? Either way, you can hardly blame me, as the six songs on Still Standing positively float by in a burst of exuberant harmonies and breakneck guitar riffs.

I've been a big fan of TFAK since being introduced to them through their debut EP Rocket Summer last year, and although still geared-up to make the indie kids crash the dance floor, it feels like there's a slight change in mood this time out. Rocket Summer was indeed more summery in tone, urging you to shake your snug-fitting jeans through the power of positivity. Things feel a bit more somber and reflective on Still Standing, but at the same time, there's still plenty of opportunity for head nodding and pants shaking.

The EP opens with My Resignation, a big, guitar-driven song that kind of feels like an anthem for all the kids in bands who find themselves wondering if the time and effort is really worth it. I have no idea if this is what it's really about, but songs like this certainly prove it's worth it for The First Aid Kit, in my humble anyway. Come On Baby not only mentions being born in the 80's (which makes me feel old, thank you very much) but it sounds like an 80's-inspired sing along, with group vocals, driving drums and some some raucous piano, it might be my favorite song on the album. Then again, I'm kind of partial to the synth-powered bounce of New York City and it's shout-along chorus.

Anyway, this is one review you can put squarely in the better late than never category. The First Aid Kit is one of my favorites amongst the Halifax bands that aren't too well-known outside the city, so I'm happy to help give them whatever bit of exposure we can. Still Standing is pretty excellent, and I hope band is back in the lab working on a full length (or at least a seven song EP, to continue the 5-song, 6-song pattern they've started thus far). - Herohill

"The First Aid Kit w/ Rich Aucoin and The Stance"

Coming from a sunny city like Los Angeles, you'd figure Darryl Smith would bemoan dealing with the Canadian winter he faces in Halifax. Don't be fooled---the singer/guitarist/bassist for The First Aid Kit says he'd much rather be here in Halifax than in his self-described "paralyzing and strange" hometown.

"I don't like the winter, but LA is the worst city in the whole world, so anything is better than it. I'll take one hundred winters here over driving in LA any day," says Smith.

It's surely swell to be in Halifax when your band is preparing to unleash a brand-new EP on fans and friends. The First Aid Kit's first EP---Rocket Summer---was recorded shortly after the band came together in 2006. They went with recording in a studio for the new release, Still Standing, and nowadays feel better about the music they're creating.

"With this one we've been playing shows for a year or year and a half, so these songs were more of a culmination of what we're trying to do," says Smith, who first met the band's other main songwriter, Matt Davidson, at a summer camp in his youth.

The music is energetic, emotional and laden with sharp hooks, which isn't surprising when you consider some of their favourite artists are The Clash, Bruce Springsteen and The Beach Boys. Smith has tried to work with these musical ideas in other locations---even in Glasgow, Scotland, a move he calls "the worst decision in my life."

As was the case in Glasgow, he came to Halifax without knowing a soul. As Smith sees it, things couldn't have worked out better. "We came here with a similar situation, but everyone was really friendly." Thus, The First Aid Kit is still standing.
- The Coast

"The FIrst Aid Kit and Entire Cities"

The First Aid Kit and Entire Cities

After that folky good time, we headed north to get wild with the First Aid Kit at Gus’ Pub. The Halifax band crafts indie-dance that’s practically sunshine in a bottle—if you can hear “New York City” and remain still, you’re probably just a big jerk. Vocalist Conor Hancey danced like a maniac onstage, and came dangerously close to punching a hole in Gus’ ceiling, but all in the name of a sweaty good time. - Guttersnipe

"Halifax Pop Explosion"

Friday, Halifax's First Aid Kit augmented their joyful pop rock with signs and sunglasses, followed by Toronto's Entire Cities, who crammed onto the stage and brought some people to tears with their emotive, rowdy anthems. Somehow, a mosh pit had formed at the Seahorse for Japanther, despite the bar's best efforts to the contrary. With Ramones covers and a rousing chant of "We want fun!" the set was punk punk punk and just about perfect. - Exclaim

"The New Kit"

The First Aid Kit should be careful on the small stage at Gus' Pub. There's little room to stand among the band's guitars, piano, bells, synthesizers, pedals and drums. One false move could put out an eye.

And yet, Darryl Smith twitches and bounces like a fly caught between a screen and window pane. He smashes his tambourine the only place he can, high above his head, belting out the lyrics to "Rocket Summer."

The First Aid Kit fills every corner of the stage and has aurally filled every corner of its first EP Rocket Summer. Each track is an indie-rock gobstopper, layered thick with rich pop sounds.

"If you have a good melody you've got enough to hook the listener, but it's when you saturate a song with other bits, that really builds it up," says Matt Davidson, who splits songwriting duties with Smith.

Those are big words for a band that's just eight months old. But the group's been winning fans through energetic performances and catchy songs.

Most of the band isn't from Halifax. Only Amy Bolliver, on keys, is from here. Conner Hancey, on guitar and vocals, has called Halifax home since he was 12. The rest are from Ontario and came to Halifax for school.

Together they form a mix of one part '70s Brit-punk energy (Buzzcocks/The Clash) and two parts Brian Wilson harmonies and handclap pop sensibility. The result is a drastic juxtaposition to the good-for-listening, not-for-dancing Halifax indie bands. The First Aid Kit has crowds dancing.

"Indie-rock is boring 60 percent of the time," says Smith. "We don't want to be boring. We care about doing everything with lots of emotion."

That same enthusiasm was in the studio as well, but in a more subtle way.

Smith says it would have been easy for them to make a record that sounded the same as First Aid Kit shows. Instead, the band devoted five months to fattening up every track with layers of sounds. The result is not only enjoyable, but something you can chew on and digest.

"A record makes or breaks perceptions," he says. "Some bands are great live, but when you take their album home you feel let down. We're trying not to let people down."

Fans will not be let down with Rocket Summer. The record's success comes from the band's self-awareness. After recording its first jam session, the band was shocked to hear that it sucked. So they started practicing vocals twice a week, and altogether three times a week.

"Some bands know what they're doing. We know we don't," says Smith. "We like that small bit of instability."

When they decided to record the EP they started with just the drum tracks. The rest came together in a series of checks and balances. Everyone contributed and the band members would second-guess every choice, sometimes arguing for days over just three seconds of organ.

"Whenever we did find something new to add to a song we would assign it an arbitrary percentage," says Smith. "Like, that synth line just made this song 16 percent better."

The band agrees it's better as the sum of its parts. Members bring out the best in each other, like with the small choir they've assembled. With four vocals they slide easily between raucous shouts and ballad harmonies.

Smith is "straight up proud" of the EP, but thinks of it as a line in the sand. "Rocket Summer is something people can have and take home," he says. "If they like it we'll be double pumped."

Never one to go easy on himself, Davidson says the best is still yet to come.

"It was fun because we're still so new. Making Rocket Summer allowed us to understand our sound more, but it's just a glimpse at a full-length," he says. "We've come a long way putting out this EP, and now we can get to where we want to go." - The Coast

"Stock Up On The First Aid Kit"

I don't often use sports analogies (for good reason, as you'll see in just a moment), but The First Aid Kit are essentially the musical equivalent of a baseball player like Ryan Howard (or, if you want to keep it in the Maritimes, Matt Stairs): every song on the band's Still Standing EP (available via their Myspace) feels like a swing for the fences. Sometimes, of course, they whiff completely, as with "Come On Baby", which leaves you feeling as though the band had a great idea, but couldn't quite execute on it. Other times -- particularly on tracks like "My Resignation" and "New York City" -- they connect, resulting in an awe-inspiring blast of hooks and handclaps...

Clearly, that simile has been strained about as far as I can take it, so I'll just stop now. Besides, I'd originally wanted to work in Three True Outcomes, but with The First Aid Kit, there's really no in-between point that would represent a walk. Throughout Still Standing, they either go down swinging with grandiose intentions or they absolutely nail an idea, with no middling or mediocre songs to muddy up any evaluation. Consequently, it's a fun album that's easy to root for, even if it's occasionally a let-down. It's incredibly catchy when the band is on, and even when The First Aid Kit miss completely, it's still possible to appreciate them for their efforts.

It makes me suspect that the band will be a lot of fun live when they stop in Ottawa this Thursday (May 7th) at Café Dekcuf. They're a band that sounds like they put everything they have into their songs, and while that's hit-and-miss on record, live it generally means a guaranteed good time. - I (heart) Music


Rocket Summer EP - 2007

Still Standing EP - 2009

New York City from the Still Standing EP received substantial airplay on CBC Radio 3 and Campus Radio.



Writers' Strike (formerly The First Aid Kit) are a band from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Matt Davidson, Darryl Smith and Conor Hancey grew up across North America, from North Bay to Los Angeles to Halifax. They all met at a summer camp in Northern Ontario. After failed experiments in high school punk bands, bedroom projects, and ambitious relocations to Glasgow, Conor, Matt and Darryl decided, in the Fall of 2006, to move to Halifax, settle in and start a band for real. They quickly recruited Craig Koziar on drums and Amy Bollivar on synths and began recording the Rocket Summer EP.

The recording was a tense affair, as the diverse musical influences of songwriters Matt and Darryl were tethered together. What emerged was some sort of indie-Clash; The First Aid Kit pull influences from the last fifty years on both sides of the Atlantic and squeeze them all into tight pop songs full of aplomb and immediacy. After recording through the roughest of winters, the summer came, the record came out, and the band found themselves with a following and a reputation for raucous live shows.

They followed up the Rocket Summer EP with a second EP, entitled Still Standing, in January of 2009. They have been steadily touring the Maritimes and Ontario since its release, building a considerable fanbase across Eastern Canada. To date, they have played the Halifax Pop Explosion for three years running and have played shows with The Rural Alberta Advantage, The Most Serene Republic, The Golden Dogs, Rich Aucoin and Ruby Jean and The Thoughtful Bees.

Writers' Strike are currently working on their debut full length album.