If you want to put together a band, you need your head read.
You rehearse for hours everyday. You work day jobs for shit pay. You play to empty, sticky-floored dens and fight with the owner for your cut of the door cash, if there’s even any at all. You watch your credit card bills skyrocket as you pay through the nose for expensive studio time to cut a recording. You jockey with every other band of chuckleheads (who know in their heart of hearts that they—not you—are gonna be the next big thing) out there to get attention. Physical and financial fatigue inevitably sets in, and most come to their senses (or just hit the wall) and hang it up.
Though you try telling that to the Constantines.
The indie rockers and Guelph expats will play Lee’s Palace on Friday and Saturday as part of their ten-year anniversary tour. Though they’re not quite mainstream, very few Canadian music acts retain this kind of longevity. “Yeah, it’s something all right,” says the Constantine’s notoriously laconic guitarist Steve Lambke.
It’s been a long road for the critical favourites, who began as a scrappy punk rock quartet (Lambke himself, Bryan Webb, Doug MacGregor, and Dallas Wehrle) skirting around Southern Ontario, and later added keyboardist Will Kidman. Over the years, the Constantines evolved from the aggressive bark on “Arizona”—from their 2001 self-titled debut, Juno-nominated for Best Alternative Album—to a folky timbre, found on their team-up with Feist on an “Islands In The Stream” cover and 2005’s Tournament of Hearts.
The band came full circle on 2008’s Kensington Heights, a release that blended driving rhythms with art-rock virtuosity. But the two-night stint will not be in the interest of shilling that latest release, notes Lambke; fans can expect hits both old and new.
“We’re listening to the first record again so we can play some songs that we haven’t done in a long, long time,” he says. “It’s funny, there are a couple of songs on that first record that are just one or two chords sort of over and over again, just riffs really. Learning is about incorporating different things while carrying what you originally liked about those ideas at the same time.”
Now scattered across the country (Lambke now calls New Brunswick home), and some juggling families and side projects, the Constantines rarely reunite unless there’s a good reason. But they’ll stay together for the time being, or at least until the end of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where they’ll join Wilco, Martha Wainwright, and Iron & Wine (among others) for a showcase from February 12 to 28.
And regrets? They have a few. “But too few to mention,” laughs Lambke. “You make decisions that if you were better informed you may not have made, but overall we’re really happy about what we’ve done and the way we’ve done it. We’ve been around this long and we’re still pretty underground, but we’ve carved out a niche for ourselves, and we’ve done it with an independent spirit.”
The Constantines play Lee’s on Friday, December 11, with Attack In Black and The Weakerthans’ John K. Samson and Saturday, December 12, with Oneida and Metz. Shows start at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance (Ticketmaster, Rotate This!, The Horseshoe Tavern front bar, and Soundscapes), $25 at the door.
This article originally mistakenly said that the Constantines’ December 11 show was with “Attack In Black, The Weakerthans, and John K. Sampson”; John K. Samson of the Weakerthans—whose name we added a “p” to mistakenly as well—is indeed playing the show, but the Weakerthans are not.