CMW Preview: Teenage Kicks (Interview)

When I sat down with Jeff van Helvoort and Pat Marchent from Teenage Kicks, it was the night of their Be On My Side EP release show. The 6-song EP has the 2 tracks from the first 7” Teenage Kicks released in 2010, “I Get What You Give” and “Shook Our Bones”, as well as “And Everybody Knows It”, which they’ve been playing live since the start of the band. Even knowing that, there’s a different sound to this EP compared to their previous EP, Rational Anthems, and the overall vibe is different across all 3 releases.

Jeff explains that this difference is not purposeful. “It’s just that Peter writes songs in batches and some batches sound different. I mean, we haven’t had the chance to put out a full-length yet, so there’s not necessarily that mixture. Rational Anthems was almost too diverse for what it should’ve been. I don’t think that there’s going to be a lot of people disappointed that we didn’t come out with another “River” or something like that, but some people thought that that was the kind of band that we were, but we never really were.”

Pat continues, “I think we’ve had more time to come into what we actually want to be too. Just around the time that we were going to release Rational Anthems, there happened to be a few songs that we were playing that we liked that were just heavier.

As the band has grown, it became obvious to them that the songs from the 7” and that overall sound have prevailed.

Changes to their personality as a band have not just come as a result of the band discovering their own sound. The band actually welcomed Christian Turner to the band, but he’s someone they’ve worked with before, so it wasn’t a shocking change.

Jeff says, “The live show is the biggest difference because, you know, Peter doesn’t have to concentrate on playing the guitar. He can concentrate on singing and when Peter does play guitar, he’s just there to kind of fill out the sound.”

But Jeff says that the benefits to the live show are obvious, but it’s more than just that. “Christian is just a wealth of musical knowledge. I think that over the past 2 years that we’ve been a band, with the addition of Christian, we’ve really become a tight unit, not only just as musicians but as people. We did an interview before and Peter said that as far as our personal relationships go, that we’re the best that we’ve ever been as a band.”

This tight unit, he thinks, makes their live performance stronger. “I think that’s something that you can’t measure when you see a band. It’s just there and it’s a presence on stage. You know that these guys know each other and that reflects in the music, I think.”

Pat continues, “I think that it’s a lot more honest in the sense that we’ve been trying to get to this spot where we are for a while. And now that we’ve kind of achieved what we wanted to, as far as recording and live, it makes it so much easier on all of us to focus on our role more. Mostly it’s awesome.”

But what is most consistent is that, no matter how the formation has ever been, Teenage Kicks will always play a show that they feel they’ve put everything into and this is regardless if they are playing to 20 people in some little dive or opening up and playing to a sold out Sound Academy. Jeff hints that they’d like recordings to reflect their live show more, perhaps thinking that live off the floor is the way to go, but it’s not something they’ve had a chance to do thus far.

As the band has been gaining momentum from their live shows, the guys have also been gaining fans through social media. You can find Teenage Kicks DIY videos online (YouTube and Vimeo), which was integral to their Rational Anthems launch. You can also find blog posts on Tumblr and, of course, you can always find Teenage Kicks on Twitter and Facebook.

Pat says, “We wanted to build an online presence. I think it was definitely harder in the beginning, but seeing response to it just makes it easier and more fun. Peter and Jeff come up with the most.”

Jeff emphasizes that it’s not all about promotion and using social media gives them a chance to connect with people. And it works. “We notice that the people who follow us and interact with us on Twitter are the people who come to see our shows.”

While they post a lot of funny things, Jeff adds, “It’s fun to do that stuff, so why not? If that’s going to: a) give people an insight into our band and the personalities of our band, and b) help us gain new fans, then it’s like why not?”

Noticeably, the band also uses social media as a means of discussing music that they love. Jeff says, “I think an important thing too is showing love to other Toronto bands, Canadian bands, any bands, you know, that deserve respect. You don’t necessarily see that a lot, especially with bands that are a little more popular. When I was growing up, I always loved it. I always loved it when I could read interviews with my favourite bands and see what they liked, see what influenced them. I think it’s great. And it’s a great way for people to discover new music that they have potentially not heard.”

Pat adds, “I think it helps to create the feeling of a scene. If you go on our Twitter at any given time, there’s probably an ongoing conversation with any band that we’ve been playing with or will be playing with or are friends with. It gives people more of a sense of musical community instead of just every band for themselves.”

Community has been an important part of the development of Teenage Kicks, so they show love whenever they can. As a result, they’ve watched the rock scene around them flourish, calling out bands like Topanga, Greys and Dinosaur Bones.

As I ask the band for a drunken story, the band decides to tell a story about their lead singer, who wasn’t present. They tell me Peter doesn’t really drink, so they don’t have too many stories about him.

Jeff starts, “When I wasn’t playing with the band because I had tendonitis, our friend Chance [Hutchison] was filling in. So one weekend Chance was down, because they were practicing every weekend. He likes to party. So we’re at Pat’s house. Chance isn’t there yet. Chance and Peter are at our friend Nick’s house (from Goddamn Robots) and we’re at Pat’s house, just drinking and stuff, just having an easy time. So eventually Chance and Peter show up and Peter drank a whole 2-litre bottle of Growers. And then Chance comes in and I don’t know how this happened, but somebody suggested that Chance pee out the window and people thought that I wasn’t really drunk. I was like, “Oh, I’ll pee out the window too. So we’re peeing out the window at Pat’s apartment…”

Pat interrupts, Also, I live in Forest Hill and, not to brag or anything, but you don’t see a lot of dicks out the window in Forest Hill.”

Jeff continues, “So we’re peeing out the window at Pat’s apartment and this leads to Chance getting completely naked and dancing. Literally he took off his pants and everybody left the room. So he tucks in his dick between his legs and starts dancing with a guitar and then Peter comes in and he takes a record off the wall. Pat’s roommate, Jeff, had a record pinned on the wall. So Peter takes it off and he’s just bending the record and snaps it in half.”

Peter teased Pat’s roommate about the broken record, clearly not caring, but the wasn’t the end of the destruction. Apparently, Peter also broke a lamp, also belonging to roommate Jeff. Pat then claims that it’s “the only time Peter has ever done something purely to just piss somebody off… Well, maybe not, but it’s the only time it’s ever been caused by alcohol.”

After avoiding a potentially disastrous situation with Chance when someone suggested “Let’s wreck some shit,” Pat also says, “And Chance pissed all over my chair! I think Chance thought it was a toilet.”

The night ends with Jeff and Peter getting home courtesy of Peter’s girlfriend, with a pit stop at McDonald’s, but Peter couldn’t eat because he was feeling sick. When they got home, they couldn’t get Peter to go upstairs, so he needed a bucket. And, of course, his sick feeling carried over the next day.

Jeff ends the story with this: “Chance came in the morning and ate Peter’s McDouble from the night before,” which got us all laughing.

Apparently, this was just days before the Rational Anthems release show. But thankfully, there aren’t too many incidents like this.

As far as shots go, Pat says, “If I can speak on Cam and Christian’s behalf, we’d go with whiskey or tequila.” But Peter doesn’t really drink and Jeff says, “I don’t really drink liquor anymore and I like the expensive beers.”

With Canadian Music Week next week, Teenage Kicks are playing a few times and want you to come out. See the poster below for details on when they’re playing. Notably, they’re opening up for Treble Charger and they were handpicked by Brendan Canning (Broken Social Scene) to play his showcase at The Garrison.

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Categories: Canadian Music Week 2012, Interviews


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