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Young Calgary punk band gaining traction thanks to TikTok

Almost one year ago, Ill Defined released its debut single and since then, the past year has been a bit of a whirlwind for the young Calgary punk band.

The five-piece band of 18 and 19-year-olds has been working hard to establish a following and is finding some success using social media, particularly TikTok.

That came as a bit of surprise to drummer Brock Brown and guitarist Aurelio Toneguzzi — both of whom, admittedly, had little interest in the platform at first.

“The majority of musicians these days are using TikTok and that’s not something we had ever really cared much for,” Brown says.

“It just didn’t really strike us as something that we felt like doing as much. But we looked into it a little bit more and we decided it was going to be a really valuable thing for our band.”

Riding the TikTok train

Toneguzzi agrees that the platform has helped Ill Defined gain more traction.

“We’ve had people that [have] seen our videos and been on live streams with us actually come to our shows because they saw us on TikTok. So we’ve been able to grow more from TikTok, which is great,” he says.

In fact, Toneguzzi regrets not jumping on the TikTok bandwagon sooner.

He thinks it would have been helpful when they released their debut single “Save Yourself” last August and their EP Bury Me Next to Yours in March.

“But, you learn,” Toneguzzi says with a laugh.

Lineup changes

Ill Defined has only been around for a year with its current lineup — which also includes Josh Fry on vocals, guitarist Aiden O’Grady, and bassist Mac Nunoda.

Brock and Fry met in middle school where the two bonded over their mutual love of music and started a band. They’d play shows every once in a while but didn’t fully commit.

Eventually, the bandmates drifted apart and went their separate ways for a while. Fry wanted to keep Ill Defined alive and found Toneguzzi on social media.

“Josh was looking for guitarists and he just stumbled across Aurelio’s Instagram and saw that he played guitar, he was in Calgary, and he had a cool style. So he messaged him,” Brown says.

O’Grady and two other guys joined the group, but after several months of jamming together, it wasn’t working out with the latter.

In the meantime, Brown had attended Calgary’s School of Rock and met Nunoda. Brown and Fry reconnected and the band’s lineup was set.

Getting major and minor help

Ill Defined started recording some demos and was approached by the Major Minor Music Project — a local non-profit organization that helps Calgary musicians break into the scene.

With the organization’s help, Ill Defined recorded its first single, “Save Yourself”, at Echo Base Studio with Casey Lewis of Calgary punk band Belvedere.

The song was released on Aug. 25 of last year and the band played a release show in Brown’s garage.

The punk rockers went on to release a five-song EP in March and have played live at The Gateway, High River Brewing Company, local community centres, and even a bowling alley.

Recently, they played at Blakbar on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton and they regularly hit the stage at Calgary’s Broken City.

Playing the Broken City stage

“I like Broken City because when you go in there, it’s generally just a streamlined process,” says Brown.

“The sound guy has done so many shows there that you set up your stuff, he mics your stuff, and you’re pretty much just good to go, so it’s easy.”

Brown adds Broken City is in a good location and is known for having a lot of shows that tend to draw a crowd.

Toneguzzi says it’s a good venue for their age group because it hosts all-ages shows regularly.

“A lot of our fans that we have are not 18 yet, so it’s really nice for us to be able to get shows at Broken City so we can have more of the younger audience come out and see us play,” Toneguzzi says.

A lively show

Both Toneguzzi and Brown describe their live shows as fast-paced and energetic.

“Lots of energy, a safe space for everyone, no judgement, and lots of fun,” Toneguzzi says.

Brown adds that Toneguzzi, who goes by the nickname “Oreo”, will sometimes walk into the crowd while he’s playing.

“Lots of crowd interaction. We like talking to different people in between songs during our sets,” Brown says.

“There’s a lot of moshing because we have a decent mix of heavy and faster parts. We’re generally very energetic live. So we try to bring as much energy as possible.”

Musical influences

As for the band’s biggest influences, Toneguzzi says he picked up a guitar when he was about 10 years old after growing up listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and ZZ Top.

However, it was after Toneguzzi discovered bands like Green Day, the Clash, and Sex Pistols around junior high that he decided to take music seriously and pursue it.

“Around Grade 9, Grade 10, I tried to start bands but it never ended up working out, and now it has and I’m thankful for it,” he says.

Brown has Fry to thank for getting him into punk music — Fry discovered some of his dad’s old cassette tapes including Descendents, D.R.I., and Bad Brains while cleaning out the garage.

Their music taste evolved as they found other bands in the genres of pop punk, metallic hardcore, and death metal.

“A lot of our sound comes from pop punk and other punk and hardcore influences. A few bands to be specific: My Chemical Romance, Three Days Grace, Pierce the Veil, and Sleeping with Sirens. A few mentions that we take a lot of inspiration from while writing our songs,” Brown says.

Dropping a new single

Brown attended Calgary’s Career and Technology Centre in recent years and recorded the drums for the new single at the school’s media studio.

The guitars, bass, and vocals were recorded at Brown’s house and the song “Flower” comes out on Aug. 25 — exactly one year after their debut single was released.

Ill Defined is set to play an event called Groverfest on Aug. 27 before hitting the Dickens stage on Aug. 29 and Moments Fest on Siksika Nation on Sept. 4.

Toneguzzi says they try to play as many shows as possible and are always coming up with ideas for new songs and music.

“[The goal is] just to grow as a band, keep releasing music, and try to reach as [many] people as we can,” he says, adding they’ve been encouraged by the more experienced bands they’ve played with.

“[They’ve] been very supportive of what we want to do as a band, where we want to reach, and goals that we have. [They] are very supportive and try to aim us in the right direction, give us a lot of advice to succeed, and what to expect in the music scene, which is really nice.”

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