When affordability and authenticity vanish beneath gentrification, what happens to home? An observant urban crooner packs his suitcase full of blues. By Alex Hudson
“Will we even recognize this city in 10 years? I don’t know,” muses Vancouver-based songwriter Adrian Teacher. The Nanaimo-born musician makes this comment during a phone discussion about the massive changes he’s witnessed since moving to Vancouver almost a decade and a half ago. The shift has been particularly pronounced in his local community of Hastings-Sunrise, a neighbourhood that has undergone an awkward rebranding as “the East Village.”
“The reason I moved here [Hastings-Sunrise] 10 years ago was so that I could afford to have an apartment, and obviously it’s getting to the point where people are being forced out,” Teacher reflects.
These themes of urban transformation and gentrification permeate the 10 songs on Adrian Teacher and the Subs’ new album, Terminal City. Having previously fronted the celebrated underground bands Apollo Ghosts and COOL TV, this is Teacher’s first full-length effort under his own name. Despite the new band name, the LP’s sound is familiar, since it’s filled with more of the yelped hooks and live-off-the-floor spontaneity that the singer has long been known for.
Local references abound on these jangling, punk-inspired slices of catchy indie rock. The track “Emily Carr Punks” makes cheeky references to Vancouver’s art-school students and clubbing district, the stomping “Victory Square” takes its name from a downtown park, and title cut “Terminal City” recounts an upscale real-estate showing in East Vancouver. “The lady there was describing how she was going to bring west-side culture to the east side,” Teacher says of the title track.
Anyone familiar with East Van gentrification will relate to the boppy “Charmless Babes” and its playful references to yuppies and taco shops. Amidst perky start-stop strums, the singer adopts a conversational sing-speak and asks, “What was here before?/Some kind of mom and pop?/They’ve really cleaned it up, haven’t they?”
The rapidly changing demographics mean Teacher has begun to question his future in Vancouver. If and when he moves, the city will be losing one of its most keenly observant artists. “It’s getting to the tipping point where we’re very close to leaving,” he admits. “There already is a mass exodus. So many of my friends have left and been pushed out into other zones. It’s something that’s going to affect us very soon.”