Strange Ways will make your brain fall out of your head – simple as that.

I saw them for the first time doing a heavy, thrashy set at Grooves’ Record Store Day.

Strange Ways’ guitarist, Chris Belanger, was in his Pizza Hut uniform. He’d made a pit stop on a delivery shift to play the gig.

For 18 minutes, children cowered at the legs of parents.

Shop assistants reached for ear plugs.

The room vibrated.

It’s a perfect example of the band’s commitment to their craft.

Strange Ways have put out three releases in their two years together, including May’s Unholy Rest EP.

I met up with the band – guitarist Chris plus drummer Louie Hennessy and bassist Dylan Specht – for a photo shoot at their downtown rehearsal space. Despite the menace of their music, they’re good dudes and easy to get along with – cheerful and a little dorky in the manner of all young men who spend a little too much time together.

Strange Ways band
Thrash trio Strange Ways blast hot metal in their downtown rehearsal space. Photo by Allan Lewis

After a few slugs of vodka straight from the bottle in Dylan’s backpack, the band ran through some tunes and we took some photos. The session ended when Chris’ amp head blew a fuse, so we hooked up a few days later for an email interview.

You guys have been part of the band scene separately for a while. What were the roads that led the three of you to each other?

Chris: We’ve been playing music in different bands in London for a long time. Everyone knows each other some way. Our old singer Kevin introduced me to Dylan and Louie when they were playing in another band from around here called Vice Ring. Dylan works at Grooves downtown and said we could practice there after they were closed.

What’s the background behind the band’s t-shirt inspiration? Are you guys all into darker stuff?

Chris: We all come from a background of playing heavier music so when it came time to think about the imagery we wanted to associate with the band, it was just second nature to put something heavy on our shirts. I helped design the artwork for my other band Lapsaria’s last release with the singer, James. It’s from an old medical textbook. It’s some dude getting a lobotomy before hospitals were really taking off. We made a shirt.

How do you find playing in a three piece?

Dylan: I love it. The smallest band that I’ve played in has been a four piece so it’s cool. This is also the first band that I’ve done vocals in so that was also another change to throw into the mix.

Strange Ways band
Strange Ways hanging outside their City Centre jam space. Photo by Allan Lewis

Louie: Playing in a three piece is definitely cool. I do miss Kevin being in our band. He’s an extremely talented musician and lyricist, but having only three members makes it much easier when it comes to things like coordinating time off, and making big decisions as a group.

Louie, you’ve said that playing fast, heavy music is the only way to go. What’s the appeal for you guys and what makes it so rewarding?

Chris: It’s heavy.

Louie: When it comes to the live show, nothing really compares to the energy and intimacy that you see at hardcore shows. Playing shows and seeing people get into it and have this energy is such a rewarding feeling.

Why did Strange Ways decide to go to California to record your EP? Where are you recording? How’d you guys hook up/finance the trip?

Dylan: That was all Chris’s doing. He’s been corresponding with Taylor (Young). I’m very excited to go though. I think it will be one hell of an experience

Chris: We’re headed to The Pit recording studio to record a full-length with (owner/engineer) Taylor Young. He’s played in and recorded a lot of bands that have been influential one way or another. I emailed him to see if he would be interested in doing this full-length release with us and that was it. This trip has been financed through a combo of t-shirt sales, and delivering pizzas.

Riff, melody or lyrics? Which one matters most?

Dylan: Riff.

Chris: You pray for my riffs to stop

Louie: Riff

Strange Ways play Call the Office on Wednesday, September 7, and Mavericks in Ottawa on September 9.

Feature photo by Allan Lewis 

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