Local minivan-inspired ska-punk group turns up the heat with new album

By in Culture

On Feb. 2, Louis’ Pub is going to get a lot louder, as local party-rockers minivandal storm the stage for their debut CD release, Turn Left Here — an album you’ll want to check out.

Mixing Latin influences with a sonic core stylized as 90s skapunk since Oct. 2015, minivandal is a jaunty sextet that just wants to make you move. The band will be joined on the Louis’ stage by Ellen Froese & the Hot Toddies and the Clara Lessa Band for an evening of upbeat tunes.

Turn Left Here is the first full-length release from minivandal.

Self-stylized as a high-octane party-machine, minivandal’s founding member Ben Fortosky — vocals, trumpet and guitar — states that the group’s goal is to compete with the crowd’s energy.

“It’s a bit of a cardio workout, as we’re running around and playing pretty fast lines. The goal is to be moving as much as the people in the audience,” Ben said.

Turn Left Here is the band’s first release, featuring 11 impressively byzantine songs that hearken back to weird parts of 90s musical numbers. You could basically swap the soundtrack to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater with minivandal’s latest record, and it wouldn’t feel out of place — and I mean that in the best way possible. What’s more, Turn Left Here is an independently recorded and self-produced album that has been a year in the making.

After listening to Turn Left Here, I can assure you that the album is competently melodic and loads of fun. Founding member Emmett Fortosky — bass player and fourth-year music education student at the University of Saskatchewan — believes that fun is in the very fabric of the band, going back to the name minivandal itself.

“We were trying to think of a name that is fun for us, but was also a fun party name. I play upright bass, so I need a minivan to get around, and my brother [Ben] uses one to get around. We thought it would be funny to associate minivans with skapunk. We just rolled with it,” Emmett said.

Ben explains that even the album’s name — Turn Left Here — comes from this goofy concept. “If you listen to ‘Cruise Control’ off the album, it’s a line from there. We contemplated calling the album Cruise Control for a really long time, but we wanted to give it a unique name — there are other albums with that name,” Ben said. “We turned [‘Cruise Control’] into a concept song around driving a minivan. Someone came up with the lyrics ‘turn left here,’ and it kind of stuck.”

Despite the universality of minivans, it may initially appear that minivandal stands out conspicuously in comparison to most bands in Saskatoon. However, Ben explains that minivandal’s sound isn’t that out of place, despite Saskatoon’s temporal and geographical distance from 90s Californian ska-punk and the traditional homes of Latin music.

“Emmett and I used to do rock climbing somewhat competitively when we were younger. The guy who owned Vics Vertical Walls was in a ska-punk band called North of Shorty. They would play that music over the PA in the gym all the time, and I really got into it. That’s kind of how I got into that,” Ben said.

Though I say that minivandal’s strange sound works well, I’d recommend seeing minivandal in the flesh, as their music is made to be experienced live. Besides, I think we have all needed some more upbeat music lately.

Turn Left Here will be available digitally on iTunes and Bandcamp on Feb. 2, but you should pick up a physical copy from their Louis’ Pub show. The show is 19 plus, and tickets are $12 at the door.

Tanner Bayne / Culture Editor

Photo: minivandal / Supplied