To be arcane is to be “understood by few; mysterious or secret.” One could even say invisible. Canadian alt-rock trio Arcane Ghosts are stepping out of the shadows and into the light with the release of their brand new 5-song EP Distant Youth. Born out of the local Brampton hardcore scene, Jason Diaz (vocals/guitar), Steven Wolwyn (bass/vocals), and Spasimir Vasilev (drums) take all of that relentless raw energy and brilliantly combine it with their own keen pop sensibilities and technical prowess, making for one of the most catchy and irresistible rock projects coming out of Canada in quite some time. We had the opportunity to chop it up with the guys this week on the eve of their Distant Youth EP being released.
You guys are one of the hot rising buzzworthy alternative bands coming up right now in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) scene. How did you guys meet and come together?
Steven: I suppose we all met each other through different gigs and whatnot in our prior bands. As far as the chronological order of us meeting each other, I probably met Spas first toward the end of 2012 when we were both in high school and playing in our respective high school bands. And eventually, we started playing together and jamming with some friends. We ended up in another band together called Minority 905 where we played together for a couple of years. I think Jason and Spas met sometime in 2014. Spas had joined Minority 905 before I did and they played with Jason’s prior band Triumph Over Adversity and developed a friendship there. I met Jason in 2015. Minority 905 was doing a lot of YouTube covers and Jason joined in as a guest star for one of them, that’s where I first met him. When his band Arcane Ghosts needed a bass player in 2016, I joined and then left a year later to pursue Minority 905 more. Right around 2020, I left Minority 905 and was asked to fill in on bass and eventually was asked to join. Eric, the prior drummer, left in 2021. I asked my longtime pal and bandmate Spas to fill in on drums and he eventually decided to invest his time fully in this and became a permanent member. That’s a crash course on how we all met.
Jason: And there’s the tea.
What was the scene like in Brampton when you guys were coming up?
Jason: The scene in Brampton was pretty alive at the time. I feel like now it’s slowed more than it was before. I don’t live in Brampton anymore but before there were tons of bands. Every single week there’d be a show. People tried to do a lot of DIY shows. We would always play All Stars Bar & Grill, which was maybe 15 or 20 minutes from my house. That was where all the local bands would play. The bigger bands like Silverstein would come around every once in a while. I was going to tons of shows. Me and my buddy David (one of the founding members of Arcane Ghosts) used to always go to shows and hang with people. The fact that everyone was just like you should come in, come see the show, hang a bit, etc. It was all about communication and connections. It was awesome and that’s how I met Spas and Steven. Then branching out from Brampton, playing other venues and in places like Toronto and Milton. I think the first time I met Spas was in Milton for a three day run. It was my birthday at the time and we played Kitchener with Minority 905 and then in Milton with a band called Setback and possibly another in Oshawa. It’s been a couple of years now, but there were a lot of good shows back then.
Where did the name Arcane Ghosts come from?
Jason: When choosing a name, it always comes down to something cringy, something funny, something serious or something that means something and we really wanted to make it something that meant something to us. We always felt like we were unknown in the scene, and still do sometimes. We felt like ghosts in our local scene. Not many people had heard of us, not many people had heard the tracks. We really liked the idea of having ghost in the name. At first, we we’re going to use Unknown Ghost but it was too on the ball for what we were trying to say. So we ended up using a synonym generator, put unknown in it and the word arcane came back. We were like Arcane Ghost? It’s pretty cool but there’s still something missing. We realized that there were four of us in the band at the time and we should just make it plural. Arcane Ghosts.
Listening to your stuff, I definitely hear a lot of pop-punk, but your sound is very versatile: there’s some pop, indie rock and like almost even a bit of ska or electronic music in there in some parts. Either individually or collectively, what bands or artists do you draw inspiration from?
Spas: For me, it’s pretty much the punk, metal and post-hardcore bands. For punk, it would be Green Day, Blink-182. For metal, it would be like Avenged Sevenfold, Metallica. For metalcore, it would be something like August Burns Red where there’s crazy breakdowns. The strongest is the punk side on my end.
Steven: For me, I also love punk stuff like Green Day and Blink-182. They’re my biggest influences, particularly the way I play bass. Mike Dirnt and Mark Hoppus. There’s also a jazz player that I really love, Jaco Pastorius, arguably the greatest bass player who ever lived. Those are my big three. Something I thought about today, I find that aside from a few bands that you take direct influence from, when it comes to the pop and indie rock that you brought up – it’s not really specific artists that we take influence from in those genres. It’s more the essence of those genres themselves. We just brought them into our music and put the Arcane Ghosts flair on it.
Spas: I’d say we also listen to a lot of pop or whatever is on the radio at the moment. We definitely draw influence from that for hooks and melodies and things like that.
Jason: I think for me, personally, I’m a huge Dance Gavin Dance fan. They really have a way of bridging the pop with the technical ability on the guitar from Will Swan. I still really do love pop and hip-hop. That’s where I take most of my vocal influences from. But for the guitar and technical side, that’s more from what I grew up listening to which stems back to Protest The Hero, Alesana and all these post-hardcore bands that were pretty big in their time. Pierce The Veil is a pretty big one. All Time Low. It’s just a variety and range for me. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop and R&B. I listened to SZA’s new album, which was great. The new All Time Low record was really good too.
Have you gotten to open for or share a bill with anyone cool or that you’ve been inspired by?
Jason: There was one show we played in Brantford, it was called Blackout Fest. They were on much later than us, but we shared a stage with Illscarlett. They’re kind of like local hometown heroes here in the GTA area.
Spas: Before I joined, I watched you guys open for Courage My Love. I thought that was pretty cool.
Jason: People probably don’t know them as Courage My Love. They’re called Softcult now. The sisters, Phoenix and Mercedes. They’re amazing. That was a really cool show we played in Brampton. That being a hometown show made it more special.
Your new EP Distant Youth was largely written during the pandemic, how did that experience impact the writing or sound?
Jason: It really gave us the extra time to change the way that we were doing things. On Human Interference (the band’s 2019 sophomore EP), I wrote a lot of the songs including the lyrics, lead guitar, the vocal, the melody, brought it to the band and asked them for their input and to add their parts to it. With Distant Youth, it happening during COVID was kind of a blessing in disguise a little bit. We were really able to strip down because we couldn’t be in the same room all the time. We resorted to doing things one at a time. I would come up with a melody or the guitar part and send it to them, without creating the song itself. Just the one section and ask them what they think. They’d say they hate or they love it, let’s work on this, let’s continue. It was a process that was very meticulous and detailed. It gave everyone the chance to put their input on every part of the song, whether it was the lyrics, the guitar part, the bass part, the drum part.
And as you know, with COVID, shows stopped in general. So pretty much all we could do was write and promote. We really tried to make use of the time and reflect on how we were doing things in the past. See what we could improve on, what could we change. Almost like changing strategies and looking at what has or hasn’t worked. That’s when we went with the different approach of releasing singles one at a time instead of giving the EP all that once like we did with Human Interference. I’m happy to say that it’s been a great strategy so far and we’re super stoked that the EP comes out tomorrow. We’re excited for everyone to hear those songs that we poured our hearts and souls, blood, sweat and tears into.
You touched on shows coming to a stop during the pandemic. Are you excited to get on stage and perform the songs from the EP?
Jason: Oh yeah! We’ve already done a couple shows this year playing the songs. We’re playing tons more shows this year as well, so we’re stoked to get out there and meet the new fans. Just really play shows again. COVID was longer than we all expected.
How did you decide on “Fever Dreams” being the next single?
Jason: That was kind of a decision we all made together. At the time, the song “Paralyzed” on the EP wasn’t recorded. When we were doing the recording, we were doing the songs in twos, like two at a time. “Fever Dreams” was the kind of song where once again it comes back to strategy. “Fever Dreams” was such a strong song that hooks you in right from the get go. We knew we didn’t want to give too early. We wanted to save the best for last in a way. With “Paralyzed”, that’s a song that came in after we knew we wanted to do an EP but we wanted to give something more. We also did a video for “Paralyzed.” So this is our first EP on record that has a music video for every single one, which is something we’d never done before. We’re super excited about it because we’re able to give a visual representation to the person watching to have that experience go even further.
What’s it been like doing videos?
Steven: I mean, they’re fun. They have their moments where they’re fun. The “Fever Dreams” video was definitely one of the more fun ones, just because there’s that variety with the three different sets. I got to wear a fun robot costume and get pushed down into these cardboard buildings. “Rollercoaster” was kinda neat too because there were these different shots of Jason and the actress showing the relationship’s ups and downs. It took a couple days of filming, but we got a great product out of it. “Butterfly” and “In The Blue” were filmed during peak pandemic lockdowns, so there was only so much we could do there as far as being outside or filming in public areas. “Paralyzed” is arguably the best video out of them. It comes out tomorrow and everyone will get to see it. I especially like that one because we only filmed one minute of the song for band shots and I got to chill after that. That was a highlight of sorts.
We’ll have to keep an eye out of the “Paralyzed” video. What’s next for the band? The EP comes out tomorrow. Everyone’s gonna hear it. Any show plans? Gonna hit the road?
Jason: We’re playing two shows in April. One in Hamilton at The Doors Pub on April 15th, I believe. And we’re playing one in St. Catherines on April 16th. We’re going to be that small run with the band In All Fairness, a band that’s local to here as well. Other than that, I know Steven has been brewing his magic at home and planning a big show for September time. I’m stoked to see who we can get on that bill.
Steven: We’ll have a little headlining show there. Not a large venue, but it’ll be our own headlining show and the biggest venue we’ve played in. I’m also trying to think about if there’s other shows we want to book in Montreal or Ottawa, the other bigger cities around where we are aside from Hamilton. No US tour or any of that yet, because that’s a lot of money and we’d love to have some label backing and tour with a well-established band. Local bands going from Canada to the US is quite risky. And well, yeah…that’s all I have to say about that one. But hopefully one day we can play in the US.
What can people expect from an Arcane Ghosts show? What can they look forward to?
Jason: Tons and tons and tons of energy. I feel like me personally, working a 9 to 5 five job, you get so caught up in your head with deadlines and everything. Sometimes you just want to explode. The stage is the perfect place to do it. Anyone that’s seen our live shows can vouch that we give it 110%. We do our best to get the crowd involved and moving their feet. As you’ve heard from the music, it’s very versatile. We are luckily able to have the ability to get everyone dancing and moving but at the same time, we can start a mosh pit.
Check out Arcane Ghost’s new music video for “Paralyzed” below.
Follow Arcane Ghosts: Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify
And stream their new EP Distant Youth here: Spotify & Apple Music
Distant Youth Tracklist:
- In The Blue
- Fever Dreams