By Will Yannacoulias
Since 1995, the painted face of Saskatoon’s underground art & music scene has been the New Jacobin Club. Renowned for the visceral Victorian horror-goth theatre they bring to their live show, New Jacobin Club have amassed a fervent following on both sides of the Atlantic. Fans eager for new material from the veteran band were rewarded with the recent video single “Behind the Veil”, followed by the announcement that a seven-track ep of unreleased songs, the felicitously branded Plague Tales, is slated to be unleashed on March 12th. We excitedly dusted off the NSMZ Ouija board and contacted New Jacobin Club ringmaster The Horde to discuss Plague Tales on the eve of the compilation’s release.
“Behind the Veil” will undoubtedly sound familiar to fans of the band. As Horde explains, “It is a brand new release, but not a brand new song. We’ve been playing that song for over five years; it’s the theatrical centerpiece for our live show.” The Plague Tales version of “Behind the Veil” is one of three electric tracks recorded in 2016 by producer Trent Heiber. “Trent is a former student of mine” explained Horde, who is a private music instructor. “He had recently graduated from the Recording Arts School in Saskatoon, had this wonderful studio he’d put together and asked us if we’d want to do some songs with him. We were writing and rehearsing new material for a tour, not planning to do anything with them, just recording them for fun.” The remaining Plague Tales tracks are acoustic numbers; three originally intended for an unplugged project in 2017, and the raucous “Two Dollar Man” recorded just before Christmas 2020.
The eerie video released to support the “Behind The Veil“ single is the perfect combination of live footage from New Jacobin Club’s Canadian and UK tours and concept footage from long time photographer & videographer Kathryn Trembach. Horde considers Trembach “literally the seventh member of the band. Kathryn is an inseparable part of what we do. Between her and vocalist Poison Candi, they do all our graphic representations, video, photography, artwork; by the time you see it, it went through her. That relationship has helped define who we are.”
New Jacobin Club’s infamous reputation for an over-the-top live show has sometimes overshadowed their music. The challenge has always existed for the band to strike a balance with their audience, emphasizing their songcraft and musicianship while still celebrating and embracing the dark, Dionysian performances that spawned their success. That dynamic has become even more complex in a post-pandemic world where live performance is simply no longer an option. As Horde elaborates, “We’re a band that exists to play live and we haven’t been able to play live for a year. We know that we’re a visual act and I think we’ve tried very hard in the last 5-10 years to show people that we’re musicians too. We went through a period of time when people were just coming to see what we’d do onstage. I think now we can write good music and people will enjoy it for what it is and not just what they remember the live show being. I think my proudest moment was being able to take a step back and say ‘yeah, we write good music, we record good albums, we don’t just put on a crazy show that everyone will talk about,’ which I know was the case in the past.”
New Jacobin Club’s sixth full length album has been teased online for some time, and Horde strongly emphasized that album is still in the works, with a release date this year on the horizon. “We’re really trying to drive home the point that Plague Tales is NOT the new studio album. It’s more something to tide everyone over. We’ve been delayed on that full length album for four years now because we keep getting involved in new things. We did a tour overseas, we did a mini tour with Steampunk Funk Bizarre, we did the soundtrack to the film (the score to the Jekyll & Hyde silent film, which NSMZ covered here).” Almost a veiled threat, Horde concluded "Plague Tales is just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t let all our cats out of all our bags just yet.”
Photos courtesy of Kathryn Trembach