Propelled by a desire to rekindle a fulfilling musical partnership and motivated by
a lingering feeling that they had some unfinished business to take care of, 90s alternative rock band Acid Test have reformed and are set to release a powerful, delightfully raw and insistent new six-song EP called Jus’ Rite.
Twenty-five years after the release of their major label debut album Drop (Sire/Warner), the wizened and revitalized band, comprised of original members Lucy Di Santo (vocals), guitarist Steve Fall, keyboardist/producer Adam (Atom) Percy, and new drummer Tim van de Ven are picking up from where they left off.
In the early 1990’s the band toured Canada, the US and the UK, and shared the stage with such artists as Nine Inch Nails, Grace Jones, and The Sugarcubes. Their single “Mr. Skin”, which was featured in the culturally groundbreaking Bruce McDonald film Highway 61, was the second most requested song of 1992 on Toronto’s CFNY.
Acid Test’s new music is as adventurous, as genre-bending, edgy and visceral. But there is also a gravitas and vibrancy to the songs – something that has come through the lives each of the band members have lived over the intervening two decades before the initial thought of a reformation took hold in 2012.
“We see this almost as a new band, a fresh start. Yes, it’s a revival but we’re not trying to recapture something from the past. We do feel that because of the way things ended all those years ago that there is a lot of unfinished business. There are things we still want to say, music that we still feel people want to hear. We just didn’t think it would be 25 years before we got to this point,” said Percy, who now
lives in British Columbia, while Di Santo resides in Toronto, van de Ven in Quebec, and Fall in Halifax.
“In some ways, at least musically, it doesn’t feel like 25 years at all. But in terms of the overall tone and the lyrics and the things we’re talking about now it obviously is different. Back then we were writing more about future hopes and dreams and aspirations and looking at the world that way. Now it’s more about life experiences and lessons learned,” added Di Santo.
Changes in technology over the past 25 years meant that during the songwriting stage the band was able to use file sharing to swap around ideas and build the infrastructure of the new songs – melodies, chord structures, and a basic vibe – virtually.
“When we did Drop back in 1993, we did our record to tape, but even just a couple of years after that, making a record went digital and soon people were making records in their bedroom. Essentially this time around, a good portion of our demo recordings were done on cell phones. Steve and Lucy would record something on their phones and send it to me and I would throw it together here on ProTools. It
was a very rough demo, but it was neat to be able to send Lucy a sequence, ask her to sing over it, and the she would send me back the phone recordings of her vocal line,” Percy explained, adding that once they were happy with the demos, the band convened at Toronto’s Iguana Studios, joined by Adam’s long time-collaborator Tim on drums. As the band recorded what became Jus’ Rite, it was clear that the chemistry was strong and things started to fall into place.
Acid Test brings together a unique blend of musical styles that defy easy description. At the time of their initial foray into the music business, they were
a delightfully unpredictable and unpretentious blend of the burgeoning electronic industrial sound that would be perfected by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Filter, alongside hard rock, techno-pop, and even a little 1970s funk.
The fickle fortunes of the music business preempted what should have been a meteoric rise for the band, as business considerations led to them finding themselves back on the indie scene, eventually disbanding with each member going their separate ways in 1994.
Fall and Di Santo later formed the bands ON and Innerstate, while Percy went on to be a sideman for the likes of Bif Naked and Econoline Crush, as well as building a career as a producer after moving to B.C about a decade ago. Later Di Santo stepped away from music to pursue a post-secondary education and is now an addiction and mental health counsellor working in Toronto.
The death of former member Mike Harland in 2012, shortly after the band decided to start writing again, acted as a catalyst for not only the reunion but also the music. The EP is named Jus’ Rite in his honour, after his DJ moniker.
“We had already started talking about getting back together and were throwing some ideas around, and Mike was an important part of that originally. We knew that if we were going to do this, we had to do it right. Mike would want us to put our best foot forward and release something that we were all proud of and something that would make an impact,” said Percy.
The result of their inspired writing and recording sessions are songs that are a remarkable blend of edgy grit and superlative production values. The visceral emotion of Di Santo’s vocal performances are bracketed by a musical dynamic that indeed hearkens back to the core of Acid Test’s influences, but with a forward-thinking vibe that will appeal to a wide and diverse array of music lovers.
This is typified with the first single, Slipping Away, which sees the band’s in-your- face attitude on full display.
“Slipping Away is a really good example of our collaboration, musically and lyrically. It is, in many ways, biographical as it talks about some of the things that
happened to us as a band back in the day. But we’re also saying, ‘hey, we’re here, we’re back, screw you, we’re going to do something amazing.’ So it’s a real
attitude song,” said Di Santo.
Percy calls the song Thick As Thieves a thematic sequel to the evocative Mr. Skin from 25 years previous, as it follows up a little on one of the film’s key characters.
“When I was writing it, I was thinking about what might have happened after the movie when the character of the devil realizes what happened to him and how far he has fallen. It’s a parallel to us, where at one point we thought we were awesome, we were the s*** and then, ‘oh, we’re dropped’ and it all falls apart. So how do you get yourself back together again?” he said.
Ordinary Ways is a very personal song for Di Santo, as it is written and sung from the perspective of someone living with mental illness or addiction, pining to live a
“It’s how I used to think and I realized that I was always putting myself in that train of thought where I longed for ordinary ways – basically, wishing I was normal. Music has always been a way for me to process my own issues and my own struggles. The track called 6 to 4 talks about workaholism, but you can apply it to any sort of addiction. For me, writing lyrics is almost like journaling and I know it helps me with my mental health recovery. So I wanted to write songs that not only told a bit of my story, but that lots of people could identify with,” she said.
With a renewed sense of purpose and the creative energy they experienced in putting together the new EP, the members of Acid Test are excited by what lies ahead, including the opportunity to reconnect with their fans and lure new ones into the fold.
The music on Jus’ Rite is vital, relevant, filled with powerful emotional and musical statements, and a dynamic that ranges from contemplative to kick ass
and everything in between.
It can be boldly proclaimed that Acid Test is back, and they are ready to tackle that unfinished business.
|Steve Fall||Tim van de Ven||Atom Percy||Lucy Di Santo|