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Photo courtesy Ill Defined

Ill Defined are redefining Calgary’s punk scene

By Sheroog Kubur, August 17 2022

It’s a story we’ve all heard before — a couple of friends getting together in a garage to make some music. This story, as cliché as it is, is the foundation for some of the most memorable bands to grace the punk scene and continues to be the basis for newcomers. The most interesting addition to this roster are local rockers Ill Defined. The band itself hasn’t even had their one-year anniversary but have already made a name for themselves with the release of their first EP, Bury Me Next To Yours, and dozens of shows played across the city. Their presence isn’t cliché — they’re boldly redefining what it means to be punk, even if their name suggests otherwise. 

The group’s origins are a modern twist on a classic tale. Frontman Josh Fry recruited each member to form the group after the original lineup fizzled out, aside from drummer Brock Brown. There are twinges of Generation Z behaviours in this process — like Fry’s invitations for members predominately being via Instagram — but the group retains authenticity. 

“I was in math and he texted me out of the blue,” recounts guitarist Oreo about joining the band. “I’ve always wanted to be in a band, so I was just like ‘sure, let’s see where this goes.’”

Each member trickled in and despite the hesitancy, there’s no sense of apathy within the group. There’s an overwhelming sense of earnestness and passion about their music, which is refreshing to see. 

Each member has their own journey leading to Ill Defined — ranging from years of musical training to happening upon it by chance. Brown attributes his affinity to drumming as a result of his photography — he was taking photos of a local music store when the owner offered him the chance to play. Guitarist Aiden O’Grady had been studying music since he was four years old, but made the official switch to guitar at 10. Oreo had already been taking guitar lessons when he started listening to more punk, to which his teacher gave him a list of bands to feed the new interest. Their first albums range from modern classics like Dookie by Green Day to older staples like Doolittle by the Pixies, showing appreciation for the classics while not being bound by what it means to be a classic. 

Don’t let their youth deceive you — the band has the capabilities of seasoned rockers with the energy of bright-eyed rookies. They take their craft seriously and it can be felt through each track. Listening to Bury Me Next To Yours is cathartic from start to finish with little room to breathe. The EP opens with recorded audio from a live show, with Fry announcing “We are Ill Defined” amidst a cheering crowd. It may be a little on the nose to start your first EP announcing your presence, but it gives the impression that we should either already know these guys or remember their name. 

“We want to stay away from having one set sound,” said frontman Josh Fry about the name of the band. “We want to come out of the gate with a lot of variety so that we will never be defined.” 

Bury Me Next To Yours illustrates this perfectly. The EP explores two lovers separated by tragedy, which is expressed with each aspect of each track. Fry’s vocals are tragic — sounding both angry and heartbroken — on top of instrumentals that bleed together to create something emotionally evocative with screams underlying the lyrics. 

“Every band that I grew up listening to have the same message of trying to help people in one way or another,” said Fry about the music-making process. “So, I changed the lyrics to be more serious or tell a story, to make lyrics that people can relate to.”

Brown’s drums are bold and commanding. Each song is grounded by him, marching along to the sporadic rhythms and steady beats. The guitars are grimy and grungy — in the most affectionate way possible. O’Grady and Oreo are coy on the tracks, feeling both in your face and subtly blending into the rest of the instrumental. Although, true subtlety can be felt through the basslines, which can be easily hidden amongst the intensity. Bassist Sam Nunoda shines most clearly in “Pierce My Heart,” which feels like the personification of melancholy. Each song carries its own depth while being able to stand on its own. They’re all vaguely punk, but the nuances make each track evoke a different genre than the last. 

Ill Defined can only be defined as impressive. Attempting to reign in their talents is futile, so the best thing you can do is stand there and watch it all unfold. In the short time that they’re been active, they’ve managed to make massive strides in their career and they’ll only keep growing. They are bound to be bigger than the local scene and seeing their beginnings is not to be missed. To be part of their journey, you can start by getting excited for their new single “Flower,” releasing August 25. The rest of their catalogue can be found on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming platforms. 

Sheroog’s recommendation: “Lovely Tragedy” for a hard hitting introduction and “To My Grave” for melancholic madness.

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