Interview by: Natalia Buia
When a band finally sets a release date for an album, usually what follows is a lot of waiting. Teenage Kicks aren't the kind of band to sit around and wait.
The four piece Toronto outfit, comprised of Peter Van Helvoort (vocals, guitar), Jeff Van Helvoort (bass), Patrick Marchant (guitar) and Cameron Brunt (drums), showcase their incredible work ethic and creativity in the form of music videos. They've begun releasing songs with accompanying music videos every week, leading up to the April release of Rational Anthems EP.
I sat down with Jeff Van Helvoort over coffee last week and the more I talked to him, the more I thought he'd make a great contestant on Rock 'n' Roll Jeopardy. But immense music knowledge aside, Jeff's a great member of Teenage Kicks. If you haven't heard of this band yet, Jeff sums their style as "a modern rock band taking cues from classic rock."
The young bassist begins by giving me the scoop on their latest music video, "Brooklyn Bridge".
"Peter and Pat brainstormed. Originally it was going to be archived footage of the 50s with people talking, and it was going to look like they were saying the words, but Pat said it was too difficult," Jeff says. "So Pat got some other royalty-free footage of the 50s and 60s of nuclear testings. A lot of explosions!"
The band released the video on their site last week and with all the headlines making news these days, the visuals can definitely sends chills down ones spine.
Teenage Kicks are always on a creative pursuit. The band collaborates a lot with friends in and out of the music business. If you take a look at the cover of Rational Anthems, the people covering their faces are actually close friends. I wonder, who'd ever want to cover their face when on the cover of a solid Teenage Kicks album?
"We’re lucky to have some pretty talented friends," Jeff says, adding the cover art was Pat's idea.
The band is also well known for recording and producing the tracks themselves. In a time where the economy isn't booming, learning to produce can be quite an asset for an up-and-coming musician. Jeff gives credit to his brother Peter for having a good ear for technical matters.
"He's always done it out of necessity," he says, "And we get the credit for putting out something that sounds better than other records that bands are paying for."
The hard-working band has never been pressured, as say, some pop acts can be, to hurry up with the creative process. While some mass-produced artists have a whole team pushing for new material every week, the quartet rebel with their "slow and steady wins the race" approach.
"Everything is such a flash in the pan in the music industry. People rush to put things out to make money off of whatever's hot that week," Jeff says.
Jeff describes the younger generation pretty well. The more kids grow up with Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus, the more icons like Eddie Vedder or John Fogerty go unnoticed. In the 2000s when pop seemed to have overshadowed rock 'n' roll on music television, some of us may have been wondering: Where have all the rock stars gone?
"There have always been great rock bands around. It just depends on how much interest they're getting from people." Jeff says, adding that some musicians may be weary of what associated with being that gnarly 'R' word.
"People are afraid of the image it conjures up. Almost like the way grunge was the reaction to 80's metal, because it was ridiculous. It was stupid. People are afraid of being popular to a regular blue-collar person. They don't necessarily want to have those people as fans so they create that music that fills a niche market that ends up getting popular anyway. I think people are just afraid."
Jeff and co. aren't afraid. On the contrary, they appear thrilled and fearless. On stage, it seems like they can grab misinterpretations by the gonads and offer an honest image through their songwriting and showmanship. Their recent show for CMW was a great success. You can see our very own Amanda Fotes' photos here.
After some java and many chocolate chip cookies at Coffee Culture, Jeff leaves with promoting the band's album release show on April 29 at the Horseshoe Tavern. For us huge fans, it may feel like light years away but in the meantime, those Teenage Kicks videos will suffice.