Q&A: Talking Burly Calling with Co-Organizer Benjamin Rispin


burly-calling-logo-editLeading up to the seventh edition of Burly Calling, a four day music festival that traipses across the city of Burlington, ON, the event’s main visionary Benjamin Rispin isn’t getting much, if any sleep while putting the final details together.

The bands are booked, the venues are in order, and the schedule has been confirmed. But, there is still much to do. There’s postering, there’s a social media marketing blitz, and there’s the attempt to track down volunteers to help ensure that the shows run as smoothly as possible. Even with the help of his festival partner Brad Hails, Rispin sounds enthused, if not ready for some well-deserved rest.

Kicking off on Thursday, December 5, Burly Calling VII will fill in six Burlington venues – The Dickens; The Queenshead; The Boston Manor; The Rude Native; Joe Dog’s; and the city’s YMCA – providing attendees with music from a mix of local and down-the-highway artists.

Headliners include metal-outfit Cancer Bats, ska troubadours The Planet Smashers, rockers Head of the Herd, as well as Rispin’s The Saint Alvia Cartel, who will play their final show on December 7 at The Boston Manor. Also, a number of area bands, including Jersey, Rise Over Run, and Gym Class Joke will reunite for the weekend.

RiffYou.com recently stole some of Rispin’s time to talk about Burly Calling VII. Here’s what he had to say:

RY: Burly Calling seems like such a challenging, time-consuming endeavour to organize. Why do you do it?

Benjamin: “Everyone gets really excited about it – we don’t get a lot of complaints. Everyone knows it’s a hot fucking mess that we try to make work every year [laughs]. It’s always a bit of a gong show, but the bands are supportive and appreciate that band guys are doing this for them as opposed to faceless organizers just trying to make a buck. We’re trying to do it for the music community.”

RY: You’ve been with Burly Calling since the beginning. How has it grown over the years?

Benjamin: “The best indicator of growth is the amount of applications we get from bands every year. Before we were chasing bands and now we have a couple hundred bands approach us to play. Last year, we had 50 bands apply. Also, in certain circles if people ask me what I do and I say ‘Burly Calling,’ people have heard of it at this point. It’s a group effort. There are two of us that do the decision making, but it’s the independent media and the independent artists pushing their showcases [that really helps]. We really need everyone pushing or it doesn’t work.”

RY: With all of those applications coming in, how do you determine who gets into the festival and who doesn’t?

Benjamin: “Because I’m the main buyer for it, I follow what bands are doing what. Therefore I read a lot of the weekly music publications, get active on social networks, look at other peoples’ showcases, and just have a general awareness of who is keeping busy. The quality also has to be there. Some bands have to keep practicing and get better. It’s not an insult if we don’t pick you. When they do get better, we want them on the show. There’s a level of quality control that we command with it. With us gaining a reputation for the festival, it’s important for us to maintain [the quality].”

RY: Now, this Burly Calling will also feature the last Saint Alvia Cartel performance. How do you think that night’s going to go?

Benjamin: “I have imagined it a few times. I’m sure it’ll be emotional. We’ve put a lot into this band and it’s been a great run. I know in my heart that it’s the right move for my life. I don’t want to be held down by a band anymore – it’s so consuming to try and be in a band full-time. That’s not where I want to be. But, I’ll have fond memories.”

Stay tuned for an in-depth feature on The Saint Alvia Cartel’s ahead of their final performance, as well as chats with Cancer Bats and Head of the Herd. In the meantime, click here to find out how you can get your hands on some Burly Calling VII tickets.

-Adam Grant