The Unbelievable Bargains are one of Winnipeg’s quirkiest musical acts, with song topics running the gamut from monotremes to bowel movements and everything in between.
The Bargains are set to put all of their eccentricities to good use after releasing their first digital single, Deals On Wheels, as well as the upcoming release of their first full-length album coming out this summer, the aptly-titled Fun Times Why Not. The Manitoban caught up with Marshall Birch (guitar/vocals), Steve Basham (bass/vocals), and JP Perron (drums/vocals) in order to inundate them with questions.
The Manitoban: What was the inspiration behind this album?
Marshall Birch: I guess the main inspiration was just wanting to record the songs we’d been playing. Actually, a lot of the songs on here were originally going to go on a solo album that I had been planning on recording since my last one was finished three years ago.
I kept trying to figure out a way to record drums for the songs, but I was held back by a lack of [recording equipment], a lack of a drum kit, and a lack of the ability to play the drums. Eventually, we started the band and it just made more sense to record them as a band.
JP Perron: I feel like we are trying to go for a sound that is easy to grasp. Marshall writes nice ditties, then Steve and I try to put a solid pulse behind it. We are all into early punk rock from the 70s. Most of those bands went back to the root of rock and roll, playing simple songs. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
M: You guys seem to have created a genre unto yourselves – did you set out to be trailblazers or did it just sort of happen?
MB: I’m not sure if I ever set out to blaze any trails, and I’m sure anything unique about us can be traced back to something somewhere, but I think I kind of have a different philosophy towards songwriting than a lot of people. Basically nothing is off-limits as far as subject matter – no matter how mundane, stupid, childish, or what-have-you. I see no reason why a song about a dog or a plate of spaghetti should be seen as less serious than whatever other people sing about. I’ve also never been one to “push” a song. Usually, if I can’t finish writing it in one five-to-ten minute sitting, I’ll just let it end there.
M: Are any of these songs based on true stories, or are they more so about your hopes and aspirations?
MB: I think they’re almost all true, ‘cause they’re just rhymes about things I see or do. Coffee totally makes you poop, little bugs are totally everywhere, feeding ducks is totally awesome, and dogs are totally neat. “Second Motorcycle” is maybe the biggest stretch, ‘cause I don’t actually have a motorcycle, but I still think it’d be pretty cool to have two motorcycles. Maybe that one’s about my aspirations.
M: If you were an aquatic mammal, what would you be and why?
MB: Golly! Maybe some kind of whale – but not a blue whale, ‘cause I have this idea of them being big and lonely. Maybe a beluga – they always look happy. A baby beluga.
Steve Basham: Gonna have to disagree with Marshall on this one – I would totally be a blue whale. They play by their own rules. As I understand, they just eat whatever the heck floats into their mouths. Mostly like sea crud or whatever, but [they’re] so big and majestic!
JP: The platypus is semi-aquatic. I didn’t know too much about ‘em until Marshall sang that song. Educational.
M: What types of foods are best for making music?
MB: I like the idea of maybe dropping something like a big hunk of meatloaf to make a sloppy noise, and looping that for percussion. Maybe slap a couple of pieces of pizza together. I guess one could imagine spaghetti guitar strings, or better yet – spaghetti double bass strings. Oh man, this could be one of the world’s greatest thought experiments! Don’t be surprised if there’s a new Bargains song about playing music with some kind of food soon.
SB: Sharing pizza is a great way to build camaraderie, and that environment is very conducive to playing music. The band that eats together, plays together. One time, I got some pretty funny sounds out of some curry (squish squish that is, not fart fart).
M: What’s the most unbelievable bargain you’ve ever snagged?
MB: I’ve had my jacket for about eight years and it cost me five bucks. It’s a good’n. Batteries at Dollarama are pretty cheap. I got this Alfredo sauce at Pal’s the other day and it was only like two bucks when I was expecting four or something. Not bad!
JP: I am constantly hunting for used treasures. I was particularly stoked on the matching Garfield racer jackets that my gal and I found at the Goodwill on Princess.
The Unbelievable Bargains play at the Park Theatre on May 24 alongside Surprise Party, Hostile Life, and the Thrashers. Deals on Wheels is now available online at unbelievablebargains.bandcamp.com.