Everyone who has ever traveled over the Canada-US border has experienced frustration. Frustration at the long lines, invasive questions, the potential for your car being searched or being pulled into the office for more waiting and more questions. However, there are not many people who can say that they have turned this frustration into something constructive. Border Patrol has done just that. The folk-rock group contrasts intelligent, outspoken lyrics with fun, buoyant tunes to get you thinking and dancing at the same time.
When Dave Toennies, songwriter for Border Patrol went to an open mic night at Union Street in 2015, the last thing he thought would happen was the birth of a band. And yet, as he went for his feature–a regular occurrence at the open mic night that focused on different artists each week–Toennies asked his good friend Cody Howard, a Windsor native and talented musician to come and back him up while he sang. What originally started as just one friend helping out another became a hit; someone assumed that they were a band and booked them for a gig. The only issue–they didn’t have a name. And then, it came to them; Border Patrol, because the two friends lived in Detroit and Windsor.
The band currently consists of Dave Toennies on rhythm guitar, Cody Howard on banjo, Walter Senko on keys and drums, and Noah Kaminsky on drums. Toennies, Howard, and Senko all join in on vocals. The group lives up to its name as the members’ come from both sides of the border. Two members are American, one is a dual citizen and one is Canadian. The border has hardly served as a dividing influence, though. The band frequently plays in venues in Canada and the US and their lyrics are inspired by issues from both countries.
Border Patrol’s most recent album is 2016’s Toxic Thought Machine. The songs are “surprisingly upbeat” according to the band, especially considering some of the subject matter. Songs like “Funemployment” pair plucky banjo with humorously dark lyrics like “Springer’s on t.v / beer cans form an army / invading my table each day.” The band has an energy that suits their often punk form of expression. “This World” uses striking vocal harmonies to jokingly condemn “radiation from our cell phones” and “acid in the rain.” The band is not afraid to embrace their punk side and speak out about issues they see in their world but they will absolutely have fun with it.
Off the Record sat down with Toennies and Howard from Border Patrol at a bustling cafe on a snowy Saturday to talk music, Donald Trump, and of course, border crossing issues. Listen to the interview below.
photo credit: Border Patrol