The Planet Smashers combat grumpy climate with ska 

Veteran Montreal band set to play the Dubh Linn Gate on Thursday, May 30

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JEN ARNOLD - Smash it The Planet Smashers are celebrating their 25th anniversary as a band this year. Catch them in Whistler at the Dubh Linn Gate on May 30.
  • Photo by Jen Arnold
  • Smash it The Planet Smashers are celebrating their 25th anniversary as a band this year. Catch them in Whistler at the Dubh Linn Gate on May 30.

If you're like many Canadian music fans who grew up in the '90s, you have blasted The Planet Smashers' "Surfing in Tofino" at least once while navigating the winding Pacific Rim Highway.

Despite the fact that the beloved ska gem turns 20 this year, it might still be the most infectious ode to the West Coast.

"My brother still lives there," says Matt Collyer, frontman for the long-running Montreal ska-punk band. "The song is about him. Right after university, he was trying to make my parents keep the summer cottage. My mom said, 'If you put in a washer/dryer, I'll consider it.' ... It took him the whole summer to do it—and they sold it after."

In reaction, he dropped everything, packed his bags and moved to Tofino.

"My bass player, Dave (Cooper), was like, 'We've got to write a song about your brother Mike,'" he recalls. "We still go visit him once a year. It's a fairytale land. Whistler's kind of got that, too."

The Planet Smashers—who are celebrating their 25th anniversary and a recently released ninth album, Too Much Information—have always done well in towns whose raison d'être is having a good time.

While the popularity of ska music has ebbed and flowed over the years, pockets of fandom have remained steady, particularly in Canada—and now the upbeat, good-time music seems to be coming back in a more widespread way.

"We're seeing a resurgence," Collyer says. "I think also with the climate, politically, it's OK to hate everything. It's OK to say, 'I hate this, I hate that.' It's old man grumpiness. But that's perfect because ska music is happy. It's gonna be, 'I'm so sick of everyone hating. This is happy.'"

For proof of that, consider that Collyer—who also runs the Stomp Records label—helped host a massive Montreal festival on the May long weekend, called Pouzza Fest, featuring everyone from Andrew W.K. to Against Me!

"It was a huge outdoor show," he says. "I don't want to toot my own horn, but I will. My band had the biggest crowd. There were 9,000 people there. It was unbelievable and it was super cool."

Now, The Planet Smashers are set to embark on a Western Canada tour that includes the major cities as well as smaller venues in Banff, Rossland and at the Dubh Linn Gate in Whistler on May 30.

"Our roots are playing in small clubs; that's where we know how to do our stuff," Collyer says. "It'll be a really fun show. You cannot leave a show not feeling happy or better. That's what we're all about."

With nine full-length albums to their name, he promises crowds will hear old favourites, but they also plan to introduce some of the tracks from their new album—which tackles everything from eating too much ice cream to our current propensity to over share.

"We're old dogs and it's hard to teach us those new tricks, man," Collyer says. "When we play the new songs we get a little nervous. That comfort level isn't there yet with the new songs, but it is fun for us to play them. It's not as fun for people who don't know the new songs, so we'll play from the past eight albums with a heavy dose of tunes from Life of the Party."

One encouraging sign that ska is here to stay: the multigenerational crowds at many of their shows.

"In general, our crowd is 30 to 37," he says. "Recently, we've been seeing a younger crowd getting into it ... When you get to play these large festivals like Pouzza Fest, we'll probably see an influx of younger people getting into the music again."

Catch The Planet Smashers with K-Man & The 45s at the Dubh Linn Gate on Thursday, May 30 at 9:30 p.m.


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