Seriously, what goes together better than punk rock and beer? More punk rock and more beer! And no one knows that better than Ben Sir. As the frontman of Worst Days Down, he’s had a busy year with hitting the road for numerous tours in support of the amazing album Elsewhere, started work on it’s follow up, and recently announced the launch of Sea Change Brewing Co. Of course in all he does, his love of music is always front and center. So to get all the latest on his newest adventure I went straight to the source to see how they all connect.
PKA: From the outside looking in, starting a brewing company might look like a departure for you. How did Sea Change Brewing Co. come together?
Ben: The short answer is that Sea Change sprouted from the Edmonton music scene. The owners are a collection of people who largely met through playing in bands, and the subsequent relationships we’ve developed in life.
The longer story is the genesis of my friendship with co-owner Ian Mcintosh. Ian sings in a band called Owls By Nature, that is now inactive. We were casual friends for a couple of years, but in 2015, him and I toured together across North America, The UK and mainland Europe. Owls had been signed by a label called Gunner Records (that Worst Days Down is now on, thanks Gunnar and Ian!) and we did 33 shows in 32 days over there. All told the tour was 9 weeks long, and we developed a close friendship. When Ian decided to focus less on music and more on the brewing business, we continued to work together. He operated The Yellowhead Brewery here in town, and the bar I run (The Buckingham,) was/is their largest account. When he decided to start something of his own, it was a no brainer to join up. Though I know absolutely nothing about brewing beer, and have zero plans to learn, I love the prospect of connecting with Edmontonians and the arts community in a new way.
PKA: Will Sea Change be available outside of Alberta?
Ben: For now Sea Change will only be available in Albeerta (see what I did there?) There’s a lot of formality, taxes, bureaucracy and work that goes into getting beer across provincial borders, and we’re pleased to take a slow approach in building Sea Change. Of course I’d love anyone interested to get to try it but slowbuilding allows us to learn and do this right. Gather a following (hopefully,) and expand accordingly. It’s a lot like a band, which I think is the lens I look at most endeavors. My younger brother Ethan is a stand up comedian, and him and Ian have to often listen to me comparing it to music. There’s a lot of overlap for anything you pursue passionately.
PKA: Along with Sea Change, the plans included sponsoring bands and shows. What bands are you working with?
Ben: I haven’t formally approached any bands yet. With Yellowhead, Ian and I launched a band sponsorship program that was a lot of fun, and hopefully benefitted the bands.
It’s exciting to do this on our own, because like most things, it’s more motivating that working for someone else. I even found hauling kegs down flights of stairs was easier. I also want to ensure it’s helpful to bands. I understand the “getting paid in beer” analogy (not literal, if the AGLC is reading,) may not seem directly beneficial to bands. But if we can find ways to throw events and shows that see the liquor sales go towards a band going on tour, buying a van or putting out a record, then I think we are doing something worthwhile.
PKA: Have you lined up any shows?
Ben: We have our first couple of Sea Change sponsored shows coming up. This weekend we have a Punk Rock Formal Charity show, and then Chixdiggit at The Buck on New Years. It feels good that we’ve only been announced for a week and are already participating.
As for Worst Days Down, things are just kicking back into high gear. Now that the frigid winter has arrived (truthfully it’s bizarrely warm in Edmonton at the moment,) always makes sense to get back on the road right? In January I fly over to The UK for some acoustic shows before meeting the band for a month of European dates. After that, I’m back in Edmonton for one day before taking off for an opening slot on an acoustic run of dates. A busy couple of months, but it feels good to keep pushing the album. I’ve been home for most of the last couple of months and truthfully am going a bit stir crazy.
Ben: We have started work on the followup. It’s pretty loose at the moment and only have one song finished, but I’m excited about that jam, but also the arc that we’ve figured for the album. Elsewhere was very much about getting out into the world and this next record definitely will deal with the consequences of that. A lot has happened in the time since those songs were written, and both myself and our bassist Murph have been writing a lot.
PKA: Worst Days Down hit Winnipeg on their way to Montreal for Pouzza Fest, how was the festival?
Ben: Pouzza Fest was, as always, a blast. Sometimes I like to let the tide take me where it may, but this year the focus was definitely seeing as many bands (familiar or not,) as possible. Honestly I think Murph and I have to be in the top ten people for who saw the most bands. That said, I also had plenty of time to catch up with friends, not feel rushed, and enjoy Montreal for the amazing city that it is. Highlights were seeing a couple thousand people sing every word back at The Flatliners, and see just how loved that band is, being blown away by Gouge Away, and other bands I’d never heard of, and even going for a run up Mont Royal on Sunday morning. To have a moment of quiet and loom over the city, amidst a backdrop of loud and crazy bands.
PKA: Is there a chance for a return for the 2018 edition?
Ben: As for 2018, we are not doing Pouzza. Though it’s always regrettable to miss, we are working on a Western Canadian tour that people are definitely going to be excited for. So, if you can’t make it to Montreal, believe me, you will be pleased. Though, many friends will be there, so I shall miss them, but not the Quebec hangovers. I say this now but I’m sure once the full lineup is announced I will be livid I’m missing out.
PKA: What Alberta bands should be on everyone’s radar?
Ben: Alberta bands! So many. And it ties in with the brewery, running a bar/venue. Though punk rock is forever my reference point, I honestly don’t give a shit what kind of hobby you have or music you play if you’re a nice and driven person. Some bands to watch out for are Wares, Suicide Helpline, Sister Ray, Unban Jace, Bad Buddy, Feminal Fluids, Grizzly Trail and The Neilsens out of Edmonton. Of course there are the friend favorites like Audio/Rocketry, Fire Next Time, No Problem. As for Calgary, Ghost Factory, The Riverjacks, Shiverettes, Napalmpom, Miesha and The Spanks, High Kicks, Sean Hamilton and many others knock my proverbial socks off. It’s really lucky to live only three hours away and have the chance to see these bands often. And though they are no secret, I have redeveloped my obsession with the now (tragically) defunct Knucklehead. Top 3 Canadian bands of all time. We are actually going to do a cover set. I fucking love Knucklehead.
Thanks to Ben for filling us all in on Sea Change Brewing Co. , and now it’s time to get to work finding all these bands to fill my head.
Check out the following links for all the latest on Worst Days Down and Sea Change Brewing Co.