Sinkin’ Ships, 2002-2013

A year and a half ago I informed my bandmates that I no longer wanted to continue on with Sinkin’ Ships. I was totally burnt out and not feeling the joys of playing in the band any longer. I’ve made many sacrifices over the past decade in the hopes of achieving even the slightest bit of success with the Ships. At the end of the day I am very proud of the band, and I know we meant a lot of things to a lot of people. However, all good things come to an end. It’s time to focus my energy and efforts on new projects. I have to admit that it became tough playing in “the band that should have, but couldn’t.”

Sinkin_ Ships - Live 2012

After a few discussions with the Ships about my not wanting to continue on, we laid out a plan. Originally, it called for us to record and release our third and final CD then play a few shows. We aimed for a November release with a final show in January/February 2013. In June 2012 we began recording, and by late August we had finished. I was hoping that the recording session would bring us closer together, and in some ways it did. It was great to spend that much time with the ones I considered to be my best friends for so long. Yet it also showed me how different we had all become. People grow, and people grow apart.

We recorded 10 songs for the new CD. As a band we all put our own touches on the songs regardless of who wrote them. Musically, it’s probably our most “punk” sounding album yet. It was our first recording with Gary on drums, as well as our first time working with producer Ian Blurton. The average song length is three minutes, and the entire recording clocks in at a half hour. The opening track “Spill Your Guts” was written a couple of weeks before recording took place.

The mix took quite some time to get right and by that point it was early winter. Keeping momentum up is very important during the recording process, and having the mix take so long really took a toll on us. The working title for the CD had become “Late For Everything,” which was fitting to say the least. By the time we had all 10 songs mixed and in our hands, the excitement was gone.

As our plan was majorly derailed, we decided to play our first of three shows without the CD finished. We played the Bovine on Dec. 28th and most of our fans thought it was our last show. I actually heard a number of people saying that it was our reunion gig. The club was at capacity and the vibe was awesome on that winters night.

We jammed a few more times after that, but with nothing being certain I suggested we stop practicing until it was time to release the CD and play a farewell show. My life has changed a great deal in the last few years and jamming every week with two bands as well as working on my solo set was too much for me.

One of the big changes was that I had started my own business and if I didn’t give it the time and attention it needed it was sure to fail. Back in the day we were work horses when it came to practice. We rehearsed twice a week for years. We were as tight as any band could be. In recent times the jams became less frequent and less productive.

As I reflect back on the Ships, I really appreciate the magic we had. There were times when songwriting was so damn easy. As an acoustic three-piece sitting in my living room for days on end, Naomi, Mark and I wrote with my four-track recorder and a notebook full of song ideas.

I remember when Jeff first joined the band and the two of us would spend entire evenings just working on my bank of riffs and assembling song after song. There was no limit to what I could ask him to do on drums.

I would pick up a guitar and show Naomi a new song and within minutes she had the entire vocal melody worked out. There were times when we really had to keep an eye on the songwriting because before you knew it the songs would be well over four minutes long with endless vocal patterns, guitar leads, bass leads, and plenty of breakdowns. In fact, our aim when writing first began for “Late For Everything” was to keep everything as short and simple as possible.

We played some amazing shows over the years. I can proudly say that we were never boring on stage. We never just stood there. We always gave you your money’s worth. Plenty of blood, sweat and tears. I remember our first gig ever in the winter of 2002. We played as an acoustic 3 piece for the Joe Strummer tribute show at Rancho Relaxo. A month later we played a string of gigs at The Planet Kensington.

Our first big show was playing with NoMeansNo and C’Mon at the Horseshoe in 2003. I literally went from begging to making threats in order to get us on the line up. Over the next 9 years I did the majority of the booking as we played with virtually every punk band in the city. We played at most venues in Toronto, and hit capacity at Sneaky Dees many times. I’ll never forget selling out of our “Stephen Harper – Not My Prime Minister” t-shirts in Newmarket before even getting on stage. I’m haunted by the memory of Naomi and I getting electrocuted while performing in my hometown of Woodbridge. We played all over Ontario and Quebec on countless occasions and were fortunate enough to tour out to Eastern Canada twice, as well we played three weddings over the years. Our greatest accomplishment was probably touring with Leatherface for a week. Being a longtime fan, and so heavily influenced by them, it was one of the greatest times of my life.

Over the years we released two EP’s, three full length CD’s, and a 7 inch, as well as appeared on numerous compilations. We’ve had our songs featured in many Independent films and a TV show. We were even covered on a Fallout CD. We’ve worked with a few cool record labels, and were recorded by some awesome producers.

I’ve learned more in the 10 years than most musicians will learn in a lifetime. I’m a better guitarist, songwriter, promoter and person for being in the Sinkin’ Ships. I might not know what it takes to make it to the next level, but I know what not to do….

Over the last 10 years I’ve held onto everything, and I mean everything. I have all of our t-shirts, sealed copies of records and CDs, pins, patches, handbills, posters, stickers, newspaper ads, reviews, magazine articles, all the press, all the promo, videos, photos, and hours of unreleased demos, acoustic sessions and live recordings. It’s all tucked away in a suitcase.

After a year, we’ve finally released “Late For Everything”. I have to say I am very proud of it and feel it’s our best work. I hope to one day be able to listen to it as a fan. I’ve never been one to listen to my own band that much.

I highly doubt that there will be a final show. However, I could be wrong. Only time will tell. If December 28th has to go down as being our final live performance, then so be it.

I would like to thank everyone I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with through Sinkin’ Ships: every band we played with, and everyone who ever came to one of our shows. Thank you to JDM & Rubber Factory Records, Wounded Paw, Leatherface, Ian Blurton, Rob Sanzo, Ben Pearlman, Merchguy, Sneaky Dees and The Bovine.

And finally, thanks to all the Ships throughout the years: Hawco, Mark, Naomi, Gary, Dan, Jeff, JDM, Kearzsie, Dignan, Rick and Gabor.

Diamonds are forever, and so are Sinkin’ Ships. Even though we’ve moved on, you can still enjoy the music we left for you.

– Cactus Vella

The entire Sinkin’ Ships collection can be enjoyed (and purchased) here:

About Cactus

Cactus is a Toronto-punk rock connoisseur. You can follow him on Facebook [here]