by Fraser McCallum
The Death Avengers are “a happy, healthy family” says lead singer, Aaron Jackson. “This band’s one of the best things that’s happened to me. I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else.”
It’s a family affair of sorts with brothers Aaron and Ryan Crane on keys and guitar. The electro-pop band is rounded out by Kelly Rayner on the Casio keyboard. The brothers have led popular PEI band Smothered in Hugs for years but the Death Avengers are barely a year old. The three boys all grew up in Morell and met along the way in school. Ryan and Kelly met later (she was a “townie” as he describes, tongue-in-cheek). Needing a live band for a party they were throwing, the Cranes pulled the foursome together, playing to friends at 3 in the morning. Something worked, as a year later, the Avengers already have a steady following, a thrilling live show, and funding for a demo CD under their belts.
Tinkerbell. Spacecar Racecar. Rattlesnake Jim. These are just a few of the band’s hilarious, yet electrifying tunes. “I had no musical knowledge when we started,” laughs Jackson. “But, I did have a binder full of lyrics from high school. I was ecstatic I could use this stuff!” When it comes to the writing phase Jackson’s job is to come up with slogans and abstract lyrics, says Aaron Crane. “We build around Jackson’s ideas and themes. Kelly adds a sweet Casio hook or tone and then Ryan and I fill in around it.”
Jackson’s big influences include Guided by Voices, beat writers like Kerouac and Gatsby, and even the Power Rangers. This strange blend leads to a dynamic show that features tons of vocal chants, all-too-catchy riffs, and a thumping drum machine. Ryan adds, “I think if you come to an Avengers show, you lose the impression that this a side project. Aaron is just amazing.”
For Kelly it’s a slight adjustment being on stage. After years of dropping her boyfriend Ryan off to Hugs practices, she’s now writing songs and playing under the lights. “I’m getting used to it. It’s weird…but exciting.” When it comes to their working relationship Ryan makes it clear. “Kelly and Jackson are the fuel and Aaron and I are the machine that helps it work.” Ryan enjoys the contrast from the Hugs, where he writes and sings lead. For him there’s less pressure and more space to focus on guitar and really enjoy the music.
Although less business-heavy and perhaps more about fun than the Hugs, all four members are excited about the Avengers’ future. “There are tons of jokes but we take our shows seriously and want to accomplish something,” Ryan ensures. The Death Avengers recently received a grant and are now recording a demo with local producer Adam Gallant. Jackson wants to keep these tracks as live-feeling as possible. “We want that same sound. A little bacteria around the edges.”
As for their thoughts on the buzzing local scene the DAs are inspired. Ryan feels that Charlottetown is at its organizational peak these days. “There are so many bands right now. It’s a good thing.” The guitar player credits Steve Barber of Hunter’s, producer Adam Gallant, promoter Matt Dixon, Music PEI, and good old Baba’s as just some of the forces that are really helping to build a more professional local music scene.
The Death Avengers can be seen December 22 at The Guild’s Food and Warmth show in Charlottetown.