War Baby drummer Kirby J. Fisher is the first to admit that his band has "anxiety issues." In fact, he says, that's one of the reasons he and singer/ guitarist Jon Redditt became friends.
“Jon has this real obsession with insignificance, to the point of where, if he stares up at the sky for too long, it overwhelms him,” Fisher says. “I do it a little bit, but he gets really obsessive. It's almost to the point where he's having psychedelics, but he's totally not, trying to figure out everything. His themes are constantly dark – but by juxtaposition, he's the loveliest, nicest guy in the world."
Fisher is meeting Westender at the Cobalt, where he and Redditt played their first gig, as a two-piece, in late 2008. Fisher had only just arrived from Australia earlier that year, meeting Redditt at one of his first jobs in town, when the two were working as pickers for vintage clothing company F as in Frank.
"Long story short, we started hanging out and realized that we had the same taste in comedy. And decided to start a band, which seems really weird..."
War Baby's third release, Death Sweats, is due out just in time for Halloween. The title, according to Fisher, evokes the experience of "standing on the railroad track and you can hear the train but you can’t see it. You think you're going to get hit by it, but you're not sure. And that's kind of what the band is like, period. I think we're okay, but this could implode at any moment!"
The smouldering, menacing jams on the album – think Bleach-era Nirvana coupled with noisier riffage of local avant-rock heroes Shearing Pinx – bring War Baby's darkness to the fore, compared to 2013's Jesus Horse.
"It’s a little more evident on Death Sweats, maybe because we now have this dark and drony bass tone that helps shape things,” courtesy of newest addition, Brock Allen. But this feeling of human insignificance has "always been the theme for us – this sense that this all means nothing, to someone like Jon or myself."
This existential anxiety is nowhere more overt than on "God Is Dead." The song approaches stoner/ doom territory in its opening riff and chorus, which obsessively reiterates that God is dead, man is dead, and that, in fact, "death is dead". ("Which is pretty ridiculous," Fisher quips, smiling.)
"The way Jon writes, he likes to create the illusion that it's all in good fun,” Fisher says. “But then just under the surface, it's very honest, it's not as sarcastic or as ironic as what he's presenting. Like, when he's screaming 'God is dead,' he actually believes that, he's not just saying it to get a reaction."
But Fisher and Redditt's dark sense of humour is still evident – in song titles like "Swamp Kunt," say, but also in the board game on Death Sweats' back cover.
“Not everyone knows what we based it on," Fisher tells Westender. "Do you remember Nightmare? Nightmare was a VHS video board game, and it was set in a graveyard. You put the tape in, and it was like Death – this Grim Reaper/Gatekeeper character – who would instruct you through this maze. We used to think it was hilarious, we would get stoned and watch it on Youtube all the time.”
The Death Sweats game is a “death maze," the board design of which is "essentially a spin on Snakes and Ladders. It’s hard to design a game when you’re three drunk musos,” Fisher admits. There is, however, an online component, which, Fisher promises, "is hilarious."
"It's all three of us as different characters, and we instruct you through the maze. And we reward and we punish you throughout it,” he says. “There's an egg timer – you have 30 minutes to complete it. I don't want to give too much away, but the theme of death is very much prevalent."
• The Vancouver band celebrates the release of their new album, 'Death Sweats', with guests Twin Crystals, Invasives, Dirty Spells, Hole in my Head and 42 this Friday at The Hindenburg. Doors at 8pm. Tickets $10 at the door.