By Joe Ryan
“All cards on the table, we’re not very influenced by DJ’s,” said drummer Will McQuarrie.
“What about weed then?” I asked.
“Oh well there you go,” said Will.
“Now you’re getting it,” added bassist Emily.
Ottawa based siblings Emily and Will McQuarrie, along with their Montreal stationed cousin/guitarist Louis Warnock, are DJ Smoke Weed Guy. Since summer 2016, DJ Smoke Weed Guy have released two tapes and played a short American tour. The band went to the United States without a visa and did not tell border security they planned to play music.
On paper, the band resembles a traditional rock band: guitar, bass, and drums. On tape and in person, however, the band is strange and earnest. DJ Smoke Weed Guy songs experiment with structure and tone. They include spoken word skits and riff on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” for the sake of doing it. Their lyrics are a combination of stoned and silly, as well as serious and sad. For instance, in “Mango Django” Emily sings “Getting high / eating fruit / without you.” It’s a pop song for depressive goofballs.
The way Emily’s voice pitches up in “Toenails” is similar to Old & Weird songs like “Welcome to my home new fries” and “You Idiots Talked Me Into This.” DJ Smoke Weed Guy fills the gap between more experimental bands like Fet. Nat and poppier artists like Jay Arner. They demonstrate an understanding of both forms on the album and, through blues riffs, create a sound which comfortably sits between their peers.
Audiences who cannot contextualize DJ Smoke Weed Guy are a challenge for them. The band learned to deal with apprehensive audiences well in the United States.
“Even in the venues where we would finish a song and there was dead silence, at least one or two people would come up to us afterwards and say it blew their mind,” said Emily.
While on tour, the band took a detour to Florida to check out some alligators. Aside from checking out ‘gators, Emily recommends that bands planning a similar tour should ask everybody they know for help, meaning friends who live in cities that you want to play in, as well as bands you know who have played there before.
“We really took a risk when we went into the United States because we banked on the fact that they weren’t going to search our car,” said Emily. “I would not recommend it.”
The tour was a confidence builder, especially their house show in Atlanta where they received a warm welcome.
Back home in Ottawa, the band took a moment to reminisce about their first time toking.
“I remember saying something stupid like ‘My tongue feels weird,’” Emily said.
Louis was in Grade 9 the first time he tried weed. “I didn’t get high,” he said. “Classic situation.”
Will got high for the first time before a screening of The Hobbit with a group of high school friends.
“I was standing there completely zoned out, staring at a sign and my friends had to call my name a few times before I reacted. Then I bought a $4 bag of M&M’s,” said Will.
This spring the band is focused on setting up summer shows, recording new songs and smoking more weed. You can see them along with Freak Heat Waves, FRIGS, and Fountain on April 21 at Zaphods as part of Debaser’s Spring Thing series. •