The Pygmies is a fitting moniker for veteran rockers Jim Blood and Brendan Tincher’s most recent musical foray. While Blood and Tincher are both of average height, The Pygmies are a curious anomaly in the context of Calgary’s burgeoning music scene. Their departure from fellow duos such as The White Stripes and The Black Keys couldn’t be more pronounced: instead of approaching rock and roll with a bluesy swagger, The Pygmies choose to access rock and roll by way of Ray Davies’ abandoned, dusty garage. The Pygmies are a rare breed, indeed.
Blood and Tincher have been bandmates for over a decade and best friends for more than twenty years. Braeside Elementary School’s playground provided the space for The Pygmies’ first meeting in the mid-80s, but, as Blood explains, his first impression of his future bandmate was tenuous at best.
“I was actually friends with Brendan’s brother, Jeff, first. Jeff is the same age as me and I hung around their house a lot. Brendan, a grade below Jeff and I, was kinda like the annoying younger brother I never had. But he had Metallica tapes and I was into Mötley Crüe, so we started trading tapes with each other — it’s how we became friends. We always talked about forming a band, but we didn’t get on that until the end of high school when we started a band with the guys who eventually became the Neckers.”
The Neckers occupied Tincher and Blood’s musical energies for the next several years. They recorded three albums and toured across Canada in 2006. While The Neckers lived many a schoolboy’s rock and roll fantasies, playing shows to upwards of five people in exotic cities like Saskatoon and Toronto, Tincher and Blood’s relationship was often put to the test.
“In our twenties we had total blowouts at practice and we even got into fights on stage,” Blood says. “When you’re young, you are always ready to fight, but now we are older and calmer. The things we would have fought about back then are laughable now. Brendan has always taken care of getting a hold of people and getting publicity. Back then, I’d feel like I had to get in there and say something like, ‘What are you doing? Why’d you call that guy?’ but, now, I’m just appreciative of what he does. If he wants to take on all that work, I’m thankful. There is just way less ego as you get older.”
Blood and Tincher have clearly put aside their respective egos with The Pygmies, but they’ve also managed to circumvent an entire genre of music they’ve been making for the past ten years. The Pygmies engage the very kind of music which laid the foundation for Tincher and Blood’s enduring friendship. Instead of taking up a blues-laced rendition of rock and roll made famous by other contemporary duos, or making the “lost Neckers’ album,” The Pygmies carry on their first conversations about music — this time, using their singing voices and instruments. Thanks to Tincher’s grandma, Fern Kunard, who funded The Pygmies’ inaugural release, we get to listen in on their musical discourse.
“This whole project started with failed Neckers practices,” Blood laughs. “Bren and I were the only ones who showed up, so we ended up doing cover songs of bands we both really liked. When things got more serious and we started getting better, we started playing shows… some of them were really awful. Thank God there were only a handful of people there to witness it. But, we kept on going. We started sharing stuff with one another more. It’s amazing what you can do now. I write whole songs using some shitty drum beat on an app and Bren gets an idea and takes off with it. He’s started writing more, too. He wrote his first song in twelve years… it’s a safe environment to explore.”
The Pygmies’ safe haven for songs has led to a wealth of new material. A month prior to their first CD release party at Broken City, Blood and Tincher have already accumulated enough material for their next album and yet they still have the self awareness to be realistic about their limits.
“With The Neckers, Jim and I discovered that we are both homebodies,” Tincher says. “We don’t have dreams of being rock and roll stars. We plan to tour this album a bit. We might do a couple mini tours to the West Coast and stuff like that, but we’ll never do a cross-Canada tour again. We love to make music. We want people to hear it… so at the CD release party we’re gonna sell ‘em all for super cheap.”
And so, on March 22nd, Calgarians will have the chance to see the flowering of a seed that was planted in the fertile musical soil of Braeside Elementary School over twenty years ago. Be advised, you should check your faulty assumptions at the door: The Pygmies won’t indulge preconceived notions as to how a two-piece should sound, nor will they play old Neckers songs. Rather, Blood and Tincher will play the infectious breed of garage rock that brought them together in the first place.