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Basement Revolver Rise Above

The Hamilton-based dreamgazers sharpen their storytelling skills

by Bryen Dunn

Hamilton-based “dreamgaze” band Basement Revolver have come a long way since forming in 2016 – not only with regards to their success as a group. While the band prides themselves on their live shows, a pandemic-induced hiatus led the group to refocus themselves, look back on their past, and let the long-buried stories that desperately needed to be told finally come to the surface. 

The band’s new album, Embody, is full of the tension of a world that was shut down but still expected productivity. Living through a confusing yet highly fraught time to be alive motivated the band to hone in on their messaging and the  stories they wanted to tell, their latest project containing some of their most poignant and deeply important songs yet. Frontwoman Christy Hurn-Morrison calls the somber acoustic ballad “Blackhole,” addressing emotionally-charged moments trying to hold her relationship together while dealing with a tragedy, “the song that I will hold closest to myself,” but their latest single, “Circles,” might be the greatest example of all. 

Although the song  is a breezy slice of dream pop on the surface, its lyrics are powerfully personal to an extreme degree as Hurn-Morrison delves into her reeling mindstate in the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault.   Her vocals shine  through as she offers her  most vulnerable, yet strongest state of mind, simultaneously grappling with her darkest thoughts and unleashing a barrage of righteous anger at her attacker. Written with her partner, it’s a song of catharsis for Hurn-Morrison, with the hope that it helps listeners who are going through similar experiences.

“It’s about capturing the feeling of trying to do everything in your power to get better, but there is just that one thing that it always comes back to — knowing that it is a slow and long journey,” she says. “As much as it is about this heavy, shitty thing that happened, I feel resilient. I feel a little bit stronger every time I hear it — a little bit more like I can stop hiding parts of myself.”

Hurn-Morrison is no stranger to the feeling of being unable to fully express herself – as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, completing undergrad studies at the Calvinist private college Redeemer University was far from the most comfortable place to be. “While it is a great place if you fit into a Christian Reformed ideal, as a baby queer who struggled with some pretty heavy mental health stuff, it was absolutely not a safe space,” she says. “When this article came out, I knew that I could not stay closeted anymore.”

Coming to terms with her experiences growing up and admiring the equally inspiring journeys of her bandmates as they stepped into their fully-formed identities was another major catalyst behind the band’s more outspoken lyrical content on their latest project.  “One thing I have learned is this, speak up when you see injustice,” she says. “So far we had kind of held off sharing political views, but we were realizing that our silence was actually just violence. We realized that to be who we are fully and authentically, we needed to share our voice. Watching [bassist] Nim grow into themselves has truly been one of the biggest privileges of my life. We both grew up in a highly religious setting, and I think that kept us in the closet for much longer than most.”

There’s a lot of complicated reckoning with a faith-based upbringing to be found on the project, but at the very least, the music of the community left a lasting impact on the band’s members. Hurn-Morrison even cites Christian act mewithoutYou as being “the soundtrack to most of my life,” and their release, Pale Horses, to be the best album she’s ever heard. “Growing up on mewithoutYou shaped my worldview,” she says. “As a teen I only listened to Christian music, which mewithoutYou was considered to be at the time. There is so much nostalgia tied up into their music for me.”

The band’s modern sound often draws comparisons to 90s shoegaze acts such as Slowdive or the Cocteau Twins, which wasn’t intentional – there’s just a lot of overlap between those influences and the music that Hurn-Morrison grew up on. “ “Christian hardcore and post-hardcore essentially took a lot of influence from 90s punk and shoegaze, so when you look at the lineage, it makes sense that we landed in a dreamgaze-esque space,” she explains.

With live music finally back on the horizon, the band are overjoyed to have the opportunity to perform for their fans again. “I miss touring so fucking much. I miss the grind of it. I miss the repetition. I miss meeting new people. I miss long car rides,” Hurn-Morrison says..

“Expect it to be loud, expect it to be fun, expect Jon to break most of his guitar strings. We are first and foremost a band that loves playing shows. We have missed it so fucking much. Expect us to bring our all.” 

Basement Revolver play The Garrison in Toronto on Saturday March 19 in support of the new release, as part of a RANGE Presentation. 

Embody is pressed on opaque sky-blue vinyl in a limited edition of 500. Available from Hamilton’s Sonic Unyon Records, who are also the team behind the hugely popular Supercrawl concert series.