Simply put, Ian Fraser and Luke Gruntz want to make guitar music that matters. Together as cleopatrick, they’re churning out heavy-hitting rock songs that are steeped in growing up, getting knocked around (and, later, standing up for yourself) and wanting to leave everything behind—all bounded by decimating feedback that’s become the band’s signature. On their long-awaited debut album, BUMMER, out today via Nowhere Special Recordings/Thirty Tigers, cleopatrick are entering a new era.
BUMMER, chiefly, is ingrained with a deep love for hip-hop and steep walls of distortion. Across 10 tracks, Gruntz conjures the aggressive honesty of some of the best MCs (Kendrick Lamar, DMX, etc.). That turbulence is matched with an affinity for the classic-rock songs they grew up listening to—capturing the same magic that the duo experienced as children when they first heard AC/DC’s “Back In Black” and played back the opening riff over and over again.
“We want our music to feel as big as hip-hop does in the club—big subs and loud drums and vocals right up front,” Gruntz stresses in a press release. “But lyrically, we want to sing songs that everyone in the crowd feels comfortable singing along to. There’s a [historical] formula to rock music where people sing about drugs and alcohol and sex, and it’s so fucking phony.”
From the start, cleopatrick establish their penchant for distortion and noise—and low tolerance for fakers—with Fraser’s strong downbeats setting a tone on “VICTORIA PARK.” Gruntz questions if he’s the “only real motherfucker in this town,” slamming all the phonies who only want to hang around now that his band have received some traction. “They say, ‘Lukey, brother, hit my phone when you’re around’/Man, I only hit the road and you should really know by now that you ain’t a real one,” he sneers.
Next, three of the singles follow in succession, with “THE DRAKE” paying respect to their small-town roots. The song recounts a time when cleopatrick played one of their first major gigs at The Drake Hotel in Toronto circa 2017, expressing the horror and powerlessness they felt as they watched a former high school tormentor mistake a mosh pit for a personal assault during their performance of “hometown.” Ultimately, it culminated in “one of the worst shows [they] ever played.”
“FAMILY VAN” possesses a similar sense of powerlessness, this time stemming from discovering that another band ripped off one of their songs rather than some asshole throwing punches in a crowd. Beginning with Gruntz’s low vocals and a guitar line that hints at something bigger to come, the track simmers with rage until it finally erupts into fuzzed-out catharsis. Meanwhile, “GOOD GRIEF” easily embodies cleopatrick’s greatest qualities: Gruntz’s visceral flow, explosive choruses and a DIY mentality (the music video was dreamt up, shot and edited in one day, featuring a rotating cast of their friends belting the song in the middle of an empty pool)—all in three minutes. These are songs that are designed to kill live. As tours start coming back into the fold, it’s only a matter of time before they take on a life of their own.
It should come as no surprise that their innate chemistry coincides with the duo being lifelong friends. Since they were 4, to be exact. Even the album’s cover is an ode to how long they’ve known each other. It’s an old photo taken by Fraser and Gruntz’s kindergarten teacher when they both unknowingly came to school wearing matching sweaters. They’ve always been on the same page, so when Gruntz sings about feeling small on “NO SWEAT” or breaks into a devastating wail on “WHY JULY,” Fraser can match the mood and back him up with enormous drum hits.
“YA,” a 32-second interlude, leads into “PEPPERS GHOST,” a song that plays on an optical illusion technique used to project apparitions that aren’t really onstage. In this case, Gruntz is doubting himself and those he let into his circle, singing, “I thought I could verify who was on my side, man/I swore I’d seen it with my own two eyes, man.”
By far the most vulnerable song on the album, and their most vulnerable song to date, comes by way of “2008.” It’s one that transforms their barrage into balladry, with the vocalist pleading, “If you need me, won’t you let me know?” overtop a simple guitar riff that shifts all focus to the lyrics.
The final track, “GREAT LAKES,” ends with an onslaught of misgivings. After spending much of the record accusing others of being fake, Gruntz wonders if he’s been the fake one all along. He’s shrouded in self-doubt, contemplating if he’s an asshole, a faker, too bashful. Plus, what if his crew isn’t with him past the Great Lakes, out in the world where it really matters?
Yeah, BUMMER is an album destined for house parties and long highway stretches, and maybe blowing out your speakers along the way, but it’s also an album destined to make you question your values and consider whether or not you have the right people backing you up—hopefully, you do.
cleopatrick’s BUMMER is available everywhere now, and you can order it here.