The Garrys 
Get Thee to a Nunnery

Grey Records • 2021

The Garrys’ fourth full-length is a superbly played album of supple psychedelic vibes and dark grooves that examines nostalgia’s effect in shaping the present.

Saskatoon-based trio the Garrys deserve better than being saddled with the “spaghetti-western-schtick-band-from-Saskatchewan” tag that seems to permeate most posts about them. The sisters Maier (Erica on guitar and keys, Julie on bass, Lenore on drums, and all three sharing vocal duties) are excellent songwriters and conceptual artists. The band’s 2020 release, an original score to the 1922 film Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages, works on so many levels it’s hard to pin its brilliance down to any one point. The Garrys’ gritty, psychedelic surf sound serves as the perfect accompaniment to an equally gritty and grainy black and white film about women persecuted as witches. Häxan was a highly creative exercise for the Garrys, as they navigated sustaining narrative interest through instrumental music that lasts longer than your standard pop song. Underscored by the movie’s radical-for-its-time exploration of women and their mental health and well-being, Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages is a complex, compelling, and challenging record to follow up.  

Follow it up they do with aplomb. The Garrys’ fourth full-length, Get Thee to a Nunnery, is a superbly played album of supple psychedelic vibes, dark grooves, and cinematic arrangements. It celebrates the small moments that come with living land-locked in the Prairies and an examination of nostalgia’s effect in shaping the present. Taking inspiration in part from their mother’s experience as a student in an all-girls Catholic boarding high school, Get Thee to a Nunnery uses religious imagery and iconography as a foil for teenage rebellion and self-exploration. Advanced single “Sintaluta” hints at the pull sin has on our souls, to do what we instinctively feel versus what doctrine dictates is proper: “I caught myself, at first I was fine / It passed me by, but maybe next time.” The title track plays out like a self-persecuting interior monologue of a conflicted soul. “Baby you’ve been bad bad bad bad, so bad / Girl you’d better pray before they put you away,” the Maiers harmonize before pouring on the Catholic guilt. Like a tsk-tsking Mother Superior, they sing “You’re breaking your mama’s heart, baby / They hardly even know you lately,” before cleverly employing Hamlet’s misogynistic double-meaning dismissal of Ophelia as the unlikeliest of pop hooks. 

Unlikely yes, but highly effective. Shakespeare’s line — which plays with ‘nunnery’ referring both to a convent where women were locked away from the temptations of sin and to a brothel — feels perfect in its minor-key surf-pop setting. It’s that mournful, contemplative quality that the Garrys bring to their sound that I find is their trump card. Though they’re certainly not opposed to sparkly pop moments, Get Thee to a Nunnery gets serious about scrutinizing the past and getting below the surface of nostalgia. The album’s instrumental passages serve as moments for self-reflection, interludes that let the songs’ multiple themes and meanings sink in. Get Thee to a Nunnery is spellbinding stuff. It’s not witchcraft that the Garrys are conjuring, though: it’s highly conceptual, highly evocative, and engaging art.