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June 10, 2004

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The hottest thing from Saskatchewan since, well... ever. Inspired by Fugazi, Wire and plain ol' Prairie boredom, childhood friends Dagan Harding (guitar/vocals) and Leif Thorseth (guitar) teamed up in 2001 with high school pals Joel Passmore (bass) and Brenan Schwartz to stir up spiky, spidery post-punk agit-pop that all but guarantees we never snigger at the word "Regina" again (unless you're still in Grade 2, of course). "It's not like we're totally isolated here," a groggy Harding says over the phone from his home, minutes after my wake-up call. "People like to take that angle, because they're retards."


The band's recent signing to Delaware label Jade Tree Records -- who recently re-released the band's debut, The Emergency Response EP -- may set off your internal Emo Alert, but it's a false alarm. If anything, Despistado are closer in spirit to another US indie institution with whom they came into recent contact -- the Pixies. Despistado were tipped to open the Boston noise-pop legends' recent reunion-tour stop in Regina, and though the artistic debt isn't immediately apparent, like the Pixies, Despistado can assume seemingly contradictory forms -- intense yet playful, spastic yet danceable, cryptic yet melodic -- without ever being defined by one.

"I love rock 'n' roll," Harding says. "Everybody's doing that dance-beat thing nowadays -- which isn't a bad thing; I like Gang of Four and New Order -- but it's going to end eventually. I think rock 'n' roll is the solid state, and everything else is peripheral."


No, just a little worried. Harding does admit to being an early Rage Against the Machine fan, and the band's website, includes a link to the John Graham Defense Committee, an activist organization seeking a fair trial for a Yukon native charged in the US last year (under dubious circumstances) for committing a murder in 1976.

But the six songs on The Emergency Response take a more abstract political tack, employing lyrics and imagery whose meanings have been cut up like letters on a ransom note, and it's up to you to paste together their unifying logic. The disc proffers an impassioned yet detached perspective befitting concerned citizens living in the relative serenity of Central Canada, while the world burns in chaos thousands of miles away.

"We were actually just talking about that last night at the pub," Harding says. "About the how the world appears to be in shambles, at least in the big urban cities -- people there are constantly being confronted with stuff -- and at some point, in the smaller urban centres or even rural centres, it's going to trickle down.

"We're not a preachy band, but lyrically I try to create imagery that is interesting, and expose people to ideas and images and contradictions and policies, creating dialogue or thoughts around things that haven't really been discussed. That's important in any scenario, not just music.


No -- because , as Harding points out, everywhere is the new Seattle. "There's always been a lot of great bands here," Harding says. "We're trying to push the idea that, circumstantially, there are bands all over the planet and just because a certain number of them get exposure doesn't necessarily mean they're proportionally that much greater bands. There are great musicians everywhere."

Eye Weekly