Artist spotlight: A-Bomb

Within A-Bomb’s first year of existence they have already been making an impressive name for themselves within the Calgary scene. Their list of achievements has included belt notches like playing Sled Island, being prize winners at the Ship & Anchor’s songwriting contest, winning a Sound Recording Grant from FACTOR, and being a guest on CJSW’s Saved by the Bell. For a band who has struggled with finding venues they could play (due to members being underage until quite recently), that’s a pretty impressive timeline already. Add to it the fact that this band actually shreds and it’s a pretty powerful formula for growth.

Vamp sat down with this femme-tastic group to chat about the past, present, and future of Calgary’s favourite hot-dog inspired rock band (yes, they are actually named after the tasty Tubby Dog concoction).

So far, the group has 6 songs on their bandcamp page (some recorded live at CJSW), and from listening there or seeing the band live, in an instant it’s easy to recognize what chops these girls have. There is a heavy dose of 70’s heavy metal, in Faith Schadlich’s ripping guitar parts and in the powerfully projected range where her voice sounds most at home. There is a striking complexity in Nicole Niewinski’s sometimes punk, sometimes rock, but always frenetic and driving drum sounds. And while Mira Riselli on bass is a new addition to the band, her live performance already rounds out the lineup nicely, speaking to her jazz background and becoming the perfect compliment to her bandmates.

With the average age of the members floating around 18, it might be easy to assume that the band is made up of child prodigies. You wouldn’t be wrong, but what is most striking about the band’s history with music is that they all very determinedly carved out the path for themselves. “When I was four I really wanted to play drums,” Niewinski recalls, I don’t even know why, it kinda came out of nowhere. I remember my dad used to listen to this music that I just loved. It was something about the drums.” After being forced into piano lessons for three years(“I really didn’t get any better for three years. That’s how much I hated it”), then playing trombone in high school band, Niewinski finally took matters into her own hands.  “As soon as high school started I decided to quit school band so I could take drum lessons. That’s basically the reason I got a job…so I could pay for them myself.”

In a similar vein, bassist Riselli was at first trained in piano as well. She recalls her first memory of wanting to play bass at the age of 6. “My dad put on this song and it literally starts with one bass note and the sound of that instrument just stuck with me. I said ‘I wanna play bass,’ and my parents were like ‘Now what are you gonna do with that?'” She laughs. “And I thought I could play bass in the jazz band at school so that’s what I started doing.” For lead vocalist/guitarist Schadlich, after her mom’s urging to “do something with music,” she began taking guitar lessons from her father, and then started to look deeper. “I started to get into guitar players like Stevie Ray Vaughn and going to blues jams and playing for people. Then I decided I wanted to start my own band. I actually went through three all-girls bands before this one stuck.”

When asked how they feel about being largely recognized for being an “all-girl” band, Schadlich replies with a storied grace. “I think that we want to make music that’s unique. Even if we weren’t all girls it would still be unique. It’s still cool though because there aren’t a lot of female rockers out there.” Riselli adds, “It’s definitely not irritating at all. What would be is if people were saying ‘You guys are good FOR a bunch of girls.’ But they aren’t. I like being a girl and I think it’s good for girls to see others playing in bands.” She then recalls being inspired by Esperanza Spaulding. “When I was trying to play bass there wasn’t really any other women and when I saw her it was like ‘Oh my god, women can do this!’ It wasn’t that I thought they couldn’t but there was no examples that I could see.”

Another tale of why representation is so important in the music and arts scene.

A-Bomb also carries a fair amount of hometown pride with them. Aside from their band-name which came to them after sampling Tubby Dog’s chip-laden treat for the first time, the band also has a song called “YYC.”The lyrics of the song tell a tale of truly Calgarian experiences with a large helping of rock-and-roll ideology:

“Guided by volume,
following the sounds,
listen to the Sloth,
sing a pretty tune,
beards beers and bikes,
all symbols to me
these pieces of art,
surrounding me
Don’t wanna go to sleep till the keg is dry and the rock has rolled,
cause this downtown livin’ is the only thing I need.”

Aside from the city itself, A-Bomb also mentions how they are inspired by a ton of local musicians. Chron Goblin(who the band shared the stage with at Sled Island), Napalmpom, Julius Sumner Miller, Miesha and the Spanks, High Kicks, and Schadlich’s own brother’s band, Hazzerd are all spoken of with reverence. With so much burgeoning inspiration, another stand-out feature of A-Bomb is how much they wish to create their own sound through it all.

Niewinski speaks of no longer wanting to learn covers, and instead trying to carve out something new. “I like pushing myself to do something weird or really challenging.” The sentiment is echoed by her bandmates and is quite obvious in the songs the band has written so far. There may be parts that smack of certain eras or artists, but A-Bomb’s sound is distinctly their own.

With pockets now laden with FACTOR grant money, the three-piece is currently writing up a storm in preparation for going back to the studio in February. Additionally, with all band members finally of legal age, they hope to book more shows locally and out of town. A-Bomb also has a big local show announcement to make in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that.

When asked about other goals they have for the band, Niewinski replies, “To go out and see a random person wearing one of our shirts. That would be pretty cool.”

A humble goal, and one that is sure to be achieved, if things continue the way they’re going. Great things are on the horizon for this talented young band, so don’t sleep on getting to know them now.