Enter Sandman Viper Command

Sandman Viper Command are bringing their unique brand of spazz-rock to Kingston for not one, but two shows

Their name is inspired by a scene made famous by the yelling of “Sandman to Viper Command!” in the 1995 film Outbreak.
Image supplied by: Supplied
Their name is inspired by a scene made famous by the yelling of “Sandman to Viper Command!” in the 1995 film Outbreak.

Their name might be a mouthful, but Burlington-based four-piece Sandman Viper Command just want to rock out. Fresh from a gig-packed summer playing alongside big name acts like Hollerado, Still Life Still, Wavves and Japandroids at NXNE, lead singer Rob Jansen took some time to catch up with the Journal.

How did the band come together?

“We all went to the same middle school but didn’t really know each other. I met Aaron, the bass player early on through music class … we all sort of became friends and after our first year of university we all said, ‘screw this, let’s start a band.’”

Did you always play and have an interest in music?

“It was really my first dream when I was a kid. When I was in grade three I was writing songs being like, ‘I want to be in a rock band!’ Our first band in grade five, I think we were called Three Cool Guys … pretty sweet. It’s always been something I wanted to go after at some point, I’ll always have the chance to go back to school, but I’m only going to get this chance once in a lifetime.”

What’s the Burlington music scene like?

“Burlington doesn’t have much of a music scene for our style of music, so we kind of just bounced to Hamilton pretty quickly. That’s where we got most of our footing, we played a place called the Casbah a lot and we met other bands there just to find our scene.

Burlington’s scene to me was pretty emo at the time when we were in high school and when we were growing up we went to all these Burlington Y shows with Silverstein and Boys Night Out playing. We didn’t fit in there too much because the scene had a little more of a hardcore vibe. Hanging out with bands like Huron and Young Rival really helped us out getting our footing in terms of that.

Hamilton’s our musical heart so to speak.”

How was the recording process for Everybody See This?

“It was wicked. We actually recorded that a couple years ago now, so it’s definitely something that’s sort of in the past even thought we keep playing the same songs and talking to people about it. Its kind of interesting though because a lot of the songs we wrote, a lot of the lyrics I wrote were our 19-year-old selves, in the past, kind of completely different from where I am now in terms of what I’m thinking about and what’s affecting me and what were trying to tackle.

Recording though was super sick, we went to this place called the Barn … Dave King saw us play at a local bar and was like, ‘I like what you’re doing, come on out, check out my studio’, it’s this super sick century-old barn, gutted and filled with any instrument you’d possibly want to hear, it was pretty awesome … We were kind of young so we had to work up our musical skills but it was a really wicked experience all in all.”

What are you inspired by?

“In terms of musical influences it’s super hard for us to tackle that … back [when we started] we were really into 1960s rock, we were all tackling The Kinks and the Eagles and the Stones. At first we were like, we want to party and do the whole 1960s revival thing, now I think were just kind of floating through the music scene taking whatever we can get, you know any kind of influence we can get from other bands were playing with.”

How was working with Dave King?

“He’s kind of like our music mentor. He’s our guiding light, he led us through all the stuff we didn’t know, any questions we had … he was totally sick … he really turned us into a band rather than just four kids.”

How was your experience this year at NXNE?

“It was unreal. The first night we did Hollerado’s nacho house. They do this thing at SXSE and at Pop Montreal. I think they did it last year too…They just basically throw a huge party and make free nachos for everybody and get a bunch of other really cool bands to play on the bill.

We were lucky enough to do that on top of a roof right off Spadina, I think that was the first day. The second night we played an Audio Blood and Easy Tiger showcase at Sneaky Dees, then right after that we went over to Lee’s Palace to play with Wavves and Japandroids which was absolutely insane … I think PS I Love You played too … That was a really incredible show, we played at two o’clock so there weren’t that many people there for us but it’s such a good resume builder … Even if the show isn’t the best for you sometimes, we got to see Wavves and Japandroids for free so it was totally jokes anyway.”

Is your live performance important?

“We like to make it more about the music rather than the performance or, I don’t want to say tricks or gimmicks, but those are the words that are coming to mind … were more about taking what we’ve practiced and turning it into something sort of superlative to that.”

Do you feed off the audience?

“Yeah totally, if you’re playing a show, sometimes you can get into a really weird heard space when there’s only a few people in the room because you’re trying so hard just to impress two people … it’s always better playing to a crowd of a hundred people at the front sweating and getting into it rather than four people at the back, not paying attention and talking louder than the music … the crowd is everything, that’s why you do it right?”

Do you like touring?

“Yeah, we love it. I mean, we haven’t toured extensively yet. We haven’t hit the whole cross-Canada tour, we actually just got back from the East Coast which I think was our longest tour so far. We only played five or six dates out there but we were gone from home for a while … this next tour were doing with Dinosaur Bones across Ontario should be a nice little addition to that to keep us sharp, you know what I mean? When you do like little mini tours and then stop for a month and then five shows and then stop for a month, you can really fall back into a rut, its like starting over every time your get out on the road. When you do like 15, 20 shows in a month it really just builds and builds, I’m looking forward to that personally because I think were going to be a way tighter band when we get out of that.”

Practice makes perfect.

“Oh yeah for sure. We practice a lot though that’s the thing … we need to stay super sharp by practicing like six times a week but to each their own … it’s totally good for our craft, a lot of it is that there isn’t much else to do in Burlington.”

Do you have any advice for bands starting out?

“Really all you can do is just find bands that you like in the area and find ways to align yourself with them, obviously don’t go up and try to stalk them or anything, but see if you can get on shows with them … we started out by just emailing band’s managers and stuff … make calculated decisions about the shows you’re going to play, don’t play shows that you feel aren’t a good fit for you. Keep at it, if you’ve got passion and you’ve got good music, it’s bound to happen at some point and if it doesn’t then you know you gave it the best shot you could.”

You’re playing two shows coming up, this Thursday and Nov. 26, any hopes for the shows?

We’re really excited. We’re playing eight or nine shows with [Dinosaur Bones] so it should be really good to party down with those dudes. Then at the end of the month were playing The Mansion … we’ll turn on some extra distortion for that one … The Mansion’s really sick and the guy who booked us, Terry Young, he’s always been really good to us … we just hope people come out … we just want to have fun and be able to give people what they want … we love Kingston so both shows should be good times for sure.

Sandman Viper Command play Clark Hall Pub Thursday Nov. 11 and The Mansion on Friday Nov. 26.

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