CALL THE CITY with QUITE TESTY and 2ND FLOOR SUICIDE22 July 2009 at The Railway Club | Photography by Mike McHolm

My first encounter with 2nd Floor Suicide occurred at a rather eclectic show at the Biltmore Cabaret only two weeks ago. Lead singer and guitarist Reggie Electric used that evening to try something different; he dressed up as a pirate. In my growing relationship with this local rock band, I learn that this stems from Reggie’s desire to put more show into their live show. As I take my seat in The Railway Club, the little venue that could, Reggie arrives in yet another costume. This time, however, it is in keeping with the venue: he is dressed as a train conductor, complete with matching hat. Bandanas adorn his neck, guitar, and mic stand, and the three musicians of 2nd Floor Suicide are ready to rock. After making their rounds with the locals in attendance, they take the stage with confidence. Using a curtain for this particular evening, they are revealing both their musical talent and a new set, and this performance proves even better than last time.

Photo by Mike McHolm

Photo by Mike McHolm

I’ve only seen them two weeks ago, but it seems I’ve forgotten just how good they are. I’m already impressed by how tight their music is! Their songs end promptly, a la Arkells. One of their songs, as Reggie explains, is “about the army, but not about us in the army, because that would never happen.” It has a great guitar solo from Reggie, and I really enjoy the backing vocals by drummer Derek Simpson. Great drumming always distracts me, and Derek has incredible talent. I like to think that it’s his short-burst, controlled drum rolls that give him away, as well as his skill at stopping a cymbal after only a split-second. I’d also like to take this moment to give Derek a virtual high-five; not only does he play the drums and sing, he plays two sets in a row! He is also the drummer and backing vocalist for Quite Testy. The different musical requirements for each band really showcase his abilities, and I’m excited to boast that I’m getting to know him (at least through his bandmates, for the moment). Understandably, he goes through about four shirts this evening, and it isn’t just the weather that is hot. 2nd Floor Suicide is swiftly becoming one of my favourite local bands.

They also play a song “about slavery, and how much it f***ing sucks.” I’m sharing a table with Marc of Quite Testy, who throws coasters at his friends across the room. 2nd Floor Suicide’s friend Tamara Lee joins them on stage for the rest of the set. They begin this second half with a cover of “Time Is Running Out” by Muse. It shows how gifted they all are on their respective instruments. I spent some time watching each of them individually, and they really are very good on their own, making them even better as a unit. I didn’t catch the name of their second-last song, but it was my favourite. They end the set with “Rat a Tat Tat,” which is on their MySpace. Reggie introduces the song as a “slow couples love song.” We all laugh, knowing that it will be anything but. True to their nature, 2nd Floor Suicide’s final song begins with a ridiculously complicated drum intro. It’s fast and intense, but does feature the lyrics, “I’ve been lost ’cause I’ve been waiting for you,” which could have something to do with love. Reggie almost falls on the drum kit, but he is a pro at live performance; no matter what happens, they incorporate it into their show. Derek almost fell off of his stool at the end the song, the momentum of his drumming to blame. Or the vodka shots that they all had halfway through their set. 2nd Floor Suicide’s live show is tight, fluid, and practiced to perfection, no matter what they may say about working on their new set.

Photo by Mike McHolm

Photo by Mike McHolm

Quite Testy is another friend of mine. Consisting of Marc on bass and Derek on drums, this two-man band manages to use these typically accompaniment instruments to concoct music that is just as testy as Marc. Despite deciding to be nice this evening, Marc begins by threatening the audience, demanding they sit right in front of the stage. He drags some tables and chairs up, and people trickle forward. Marc tells us “this isn’t a show, but a lesson in good bass playing. That means you, Mike McHolm.” Mike, the bass player of 2nd Floor Suicide, has nothing to worry about. I’ve watched him on stage, and he pretty darn good on the bass. They open with a song that features the lyrics, “Tell me where’d you get that information from?” Derek has a pseudo rap verse that follows the chorus, and it’s great! Marc claims to hate that song, saying “Derek makes me play it every show.  I think the lyrics don’t even make sense.” It’s this feisty banter that really puts the love-hate in his relationship with the audience. It’s all love though, deep down. Their third song is their single, “This Is Me, Is This You?” (available for listening on their MySpace). Derek does the lead vocals for this song. Then they play “Where Did I Put My Keys?” Derek’s backing vocals alternate between high falsetto and low semi-screamo. Their incredible range of bizarre variety makes every performance an adventure. “Virgin Mary on my arm” is one of Marc’s favourite songs, and another song that contains “I can see by the look in your eye” is very fast, a borderline dance number. If you enjoy mean humour, band-audience repartee, and crazy music that doesn’t care what you think, then you’ll love Quite Testy. I know I do.

Call The City

Photo by Femke Van Delft (November 2008)

Call The City’s lead singer, Vanessa Lee Sorenson, looks like Jenna Malone from that hilarious Christian high-school movie, Saved! They’re like an 80’s rock version of Paper Moon, with bite. Mike McHolm of 2nd Floor Suicide insists that they remind him of the B-52s, but I’ll stick with my Paper Moon theory until I look into his. Their set list includes “Mr. Muse,” which can be heard on their MySpace. Guitar player Julian Grawcott is amazing, with warbling sounds that are mesmerizing to watch. Ben Wilson’s drum kit is minimalized with only three drums and three cymbals, proving that it isn’t the size that counts; it’s what you do with it. I really liked their third-last song, featuring lyrics “Here we go, take me to a show,” and their last song features a delightful reeling of things that rhyme with “Caffeine and nicotine, turpentine, gasoline, amphetamines,” the list goes on.

All in all, it is another great evening of some rocking local music, and I would highly recommend all three bands for their live performances.

Comments (4)


  1. […] of Katastroyka as well, so his dedication to playing two sets in one evening matches only that of Derek Simpson. Their former drummer is currently being replaced by Adam Veenendaal, the front-man of The Ludvico […]

  2. […] flames. Her music, in true good-girl-gone-bad style, contrasts the cutesy vocals of a Paper Moon or Call The City lead singer with the powerful punch of threatening and generally naughty lyrics. Wary of some […]

  3. […] wave goodbye to drummer JQ as they transition into a new stage. Meanwhile, Derek Simpson (Quite Testy, 2nd Floor Suicide) will take over until a replacement can be found (though I’m sure JQ isn’t the only one […]

  4. […] seem to result in victory on either side. I haven’t seen such intense, sweaty drumming since Derek Simpson played two sets in one evening. ”Eenie Meenie” contains a period of almost-rap, and the Fake Shark Real Zombie talk […]