Neighbourhood Watch reform for a series of East Coast shows.
By Matt Carter @m_j_c73
Ask any Canadian punk rock fan about influential bands from the East Coast and you’ll undoubtedly hear the name Neighbourhood Watch. Formed in Fredericton in 1985, Neighbourhood Watch were one of the first bands to introduce the aggressive sounds of punk rock music to the province’s sleepy, conservative capital city, forming at a time when bar bands played cover tunes and any sound that contrasted with the likes of April Wine or Trooper was confined to basements or parent’s garages. They were the pre-influence-influence, inspiring everyone from Chris Murphy of Sloan to Damian Abraham of Fucked Up. Abraham even made a point of acknowledging the band during Fucked Up’s set at Sappyfest in 2012. While the band only stayed together for little over three years, in that time they laid the groundwork for an entire generation of Fredericton bands to come.
“We all used to gather every Friday and Saturday night at a place called The Woodshed which is where The Cellar Pub is now,” said Grant Forsythe, the band’s singer. “One day Ciaron [Lewis] walked in, sat down and asked if I wanted to start a band. I was like, ‘I can’t play an instrument but fuck yeah’, and so, that’s how it started.”
Forsythe and Lewis were already immersed in the city’s outsider community, inspired by everything that stood in defiance of the norm and the status quo. And at the time, music was still a powerful means of expressing discontent.
“Putting this together, I wanted people with the right attitudes,” said Lewis. “Shortly after Grant and I hooked up to get this going, Nick and Rob came on the scene.”
14 year old skateboarder and bass player Rob Melvin joined with drummer Nick Oliver to round out the group’s lineup.
“Back then there was really f-all else to do,” said Lewis. “We weren’t getting any good acts coming through. The only thing we were getting was tribute bands and the Canadian 80s bands like Platinum Blonde and the bigger country acts that use to play the Aitken Centre. There was nothing for kids to see or do in this town. So everyone just said ‘fuck it’ and started to form their own bands. The scene just grew from that.”
Neighbourhood Watch were instrumental in bridging together likeminded communities of East Coast youth fed up with what they heard passing for popular music at the time. They traveled to play in Halifax and toured to Ontario twice, where they gained an unearned reputation as troublemakers, often taking the blame for the unruly actions of others.
In that time the band released some cassette demos and the 7” EP Death at the Hands of Time before deciding to call it quits following a series of lineup changes.
“In the end, we were spending more time teaching people the songs we already had, instead of working on new material,” said Forsythe.
This month, the four original members of Neighbourhood Watch will perform together for the first time in almost thirty years, playing a series of shows with dates in Fredericton, Saint John, Halifax, Moncton and Charlottetown.
“One of the things that absolutely amazes me is that while we were going back and relearning this stuff, I was looking at Grant’s lyrics and the themes for some of the songs that we were doing,” said Lewis. “We were a bunch of kids coming out of the Reagan-era where some senile bastard had his finger on the nukes and trickle-down economics was put in place and now we’re seeing the result of all that. The material we put out where we’re talking about challenging authority, racism, religious fanaticism and all that is really resonating now. This is one of the reasons why we [originally] came together. Looking at the material we thought, ‘fuck man, if there was ever a time to come back and play this material, now is the time’.”
A lot can change in thirty years but sadly, a lot can also stay the same.
“Everything Grant was singing about 25 or 30 years ago stands the test of time,” added Melvin. “And the worst part is, not one fucking thing has changed since then.”
Visit Neighbourhood Watch online for more information and detailed tour info.