Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Teenage Kicks

Teenage Kicks
Consisting of brothers Peter and Jeff van Helvoor, Canadian alternative rock band Teenage Kicks will release their debut record Spoils Of Youth on April 29th. Ahead of its release, the band will play their album release party on April 25th at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Wanting to know more about the record, A Music Blog, Yea? gave Teenage Kicks’ Peter a call to discuss their “most excellent” tour, The Stones or The Beatles, getting driving tickets, funny show moments, and Spoils Of Youth. Read the entire interview below:

AMBY: Hey Peter, thanks for speaking with us today.

Teenage Kicks: Thank you for wanting to speak to me.

AMBY: Our pleasure! You recently finished your Canadian Tour which I read was “most excellent”. First off, I have to ask: are you Bill & Ted fans?

Teenage Kicks: [laughs] Yea, I am; basically the end of my generation is that movie. For some reason, I started saying “most excellent” quite a bit lately.

AMBY: I totally get it. Whenever we send out some good news through our socials for our readers, we usually end things with that, too.

Teenage Kicks: I haven’t seen it in a long time.

AMBY: You’ll have to have a marathon of both films then. I still think there’s a third one coming out too.

Teenage Kicks: Actually? Is there a third one?

AMBY: Yea!

Teenage Kicks: You’re right, I did read that. There’s also the new Dumb and Dumber 2.

AMBY: I’m excited to see both.

Teenage Kicks: [laughs]

AMBY: Well, I guess we should discuss the tour next. What were some of the tour’s highlights?

Teenage Kicks: The scenic opportunities were probably the best part of it. I’ve never been out west before and we got to drive through Banff National Park and the west coast was the most beautiful… I saw some elk, reindeer, bald eagles, and I saw a wolf.

AMBY: That’s neat.

Teenage Kicks: It was very wildlife and animal oriented, so that was probably my favourite part. In terms of musical highlights, the show we played in Winnipeg with The Flatliners was a lot of fun. They’re friends of ours from home and it was nice to have a really good vibe for that show.

AMBY: Aside from sightseeing, what does the band do for fun while on the road?

Teenage Kicks: What do we do for fun? I mean, most of the drives are between seven-nine hours so by the time you go to the venue, there isn’t a lot of time. It’s going to sound cliché, but we went to a lot of record shops. Shane, who was filling in on drums, collects vintage horror VHS tapes so we did a lot of that. We stopped off in a few ghost towns just to stop in at a VHS store that still exists.

AMBY: [laughs]

Teenage Kicks: It was a good opportunity to catch up with people we hadn’t seen in a few years. That was the best pastime; seeing friends who moved away from Ontario six years ago.

AMBY: And I have one last touring question for you: what’s one of the funniest things to happen to you while touring?

Teenage Kicks: We got a lot of tickets, which wasn’t really funny but funny under the circumstances; it was the first time we got a ticket on this tour. We got it two minutes after we went an hour out of our way to rescue a dog.

AMBY: Oh no.

Teenage Kicks: We dropped it off at a shelter and two minutes later we got a ticket for going ten over in Northern Ontario which is apparently notorious for giving people stupid tickets. So that wasn’t necessarily funny, but that was interesting. Then I got told off…

AMBY: What happened there?

Teenage Kicks: It was by a guy because I wasn’t “visually enjoying” the band we were on tour with in Winnipeg. The guy came up to me and was all, “you don’t like this band?” and I said, “what do you mean? I’m standing here watching them!”

AMBY: [laughs]

Teenage Kicks: Then he said, “it doesn’t look like you’re enjoying them. Fuck you.” [laughs]

AMBY: Seriously? You’d have to be smiling ear to ear during their set to impress that guy!

Teenage Kicks: I know. Another thing that happened was Shane, our drummer, who isn’t even in our band… We were standing together and a couple of girls came up and said to him, “so, you’re the drummer in Teenage Kicks, right?”, and he says yes. And they say “cool, let’s talk about your band”. I was standing right there and they literally moved me.

AMBY: Moved you, one of the main guys [laughs].

Teenage Kicks: I was completely out of the conversation. I had to walk away [laughs] and I’m the lead singer of the band. So that was pretty fun! A boost of the old self-esteem, that’s what this tour was.

AMBY: One of your next shows is in Toronto at The Horseshoe on the 25th.

Teenage Kicks: Yep!

AMBY: That actually serves as your homecoming/album release show. You release your debut Spoils of Youth on the 29th. Tell me a little bit about the new album – what was the experience like creating it?

Teenage Kicks: Trying [laughs]. We made it twice; when it came to making it the first time, we went through quite a few line-up changes and it was something we were supposed to make a year prior to when we started making it the first time. It was lengthy and difficult and I guess no good art comes without suffering. We made it once in California and got home and decided the album we made wasn’t up to our standards. We made it again ourselves in our basement, and that’s basically the short story of it.

AMBY: When it comes to the album’s title, what’s the meaning behind Spoils of Youth?

Teenage Kicks: It’s basically… I’m not the most happy of fun-going guys, or sorry, [laugh] fun-loving happy guys. Being in a band is something I’ve always done and I love it and am passionate for it. I consider it to be my life’s work, but making this record was particularly difficult. I kind of thought of the record being the spoils of my youth; it’s basically the amount of life that kind of got sucked out of me by having to complete the record. In the process of making the album the second time, we lost another two guys and it was just Jeff and I left. The name signifies how this record is a perfect representation of my personality and my being – you almost get a better idea of how I feel when you listen to the record than when you talk to me.

AMBY: It’s kind of your journey, in a way.

Teenage Kicks: For sure.

AMBY: Off the album, you released a lyric video for your single Digging Up Old Bones. Whenever I hear a band has a lyric video out, it’s usually just text over a background or press shots. So I love the idea of having text over postcards, heart candies, and movie covers. Where did the idea for the video come from?

Teenage Kicks: Well, we can take absolutely no credit for that at all [laughs]. The guy who made it, Saul, it was all him.

AMBY: Got it.

Teenage Kicks: He’s super talented. The guy who works at Universal who handles their stuff – I was just going to put up the single cover (not even a lyric video) and then have the song – and the guy from our label said he has a guy who will do it for a pretty small amount of money. We weren’t expected what he came back with. For the amount of money that he got, he went above and beyond. He actually wanted it to be a lot darker than it ended up being?

AMBY: Even darker?

Teenage Kicks: The darkest portion of it that it ends up being a crime scene, basically. He wanted to go a lot darker than that, and it was so dark that I didn’t think it was okay.

AMBY: [laughs] “I think we’ll just leave it as is…”

Teenage Kicks: Yea. But he’s incredibly talented.

AMBY: While on the topic of videos, I watched your Don’t Buy Teenage Kicks New Album video and it gave me a good laugh. In the video it said when asked “The Beatles or The Stones, Teenage Kicks vote the Bay City Rollers.” Now, I’m always up for a little bit of S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT, but if you were to choose between The Beatles and The Stones, who do you prefer?

Teenage Kicks: [laughs] When I was younger, it would have been The Beatles every day of the week.

AMBY: Eight days a week? [laughs]

Teenage Kicks: As I got older, I started to appreciate George Harrison.

AMBY: My favourite Beatle.

Teenage Kicks: Yep, he’s amazing. I came to appreciate the fact that you can really feel John Lennon’s emotions through his songs, where I think Paul McCartney sounds like he’s almost a robot that has been constructed to write the perfect pop song. Maybe I’m Amazed is an amazing song and I love it, but it almost sounds like it’s too perfect. It’s too good. As time goes on, I can’t get enough of The Stones. Especially Beggars Banquet or even Their Satanic Majesties Request – I could listen to that every single day. I actually just watched that movie Twenty Feet from Stardom when they were doing Gimme Shelter, I started getting teary eyed because there’ something in Mick Jagger’s voice…

AMBY: Aw [laughs].

Teenage Kicks: The fact that he’s not a great singer but he has so much emotion to it – it’s like the appreciation where you have to stop caring about talent and start thinking about emotion. Someone can be so bad, but there’s something about what they do that means so much. You know what I mean?

AMBY: Exactly what you mean. I thought that video was hilarious so I had to ask about the other two aside from Bay City Rollers.

Teenage Kicks: Well, that was probably the longest answer to that question you could ever expect [laughs].

AMBY: [laughs] Nahhh…

Teenage Kicks: All from a thirty second goof-off video I made!

AMBY: Talking about other artists, who have you been listening to lately?

Teenage Kicks: We listen to a lot of podcasts actually because we got so tired of bringing hundreds of CDs with us in the van. I really like female singers like Feist and St. Vincent and Angel Olsen. So I would say female singers, I listen to a lot of female singers and wish that I had been born a women. I think that some of the best music that’s going on now is being made by women.

AMBY: Well, now we’re sadly at the last question of the interview. What’s something about Teenage Kicks that nobody knows yet?

Teenage Kicks: Most people don’t know that Jeff writes a lot of songs that we have to this point not really played. They’re really good, and the next record will feature many of them.

***

Thank you Teenage Kicks, for giving us your answers!

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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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