If all of the rising indie bands in the world could be poured like flavoured drink into a tray and come out of the freezer as yummy as The Constantines, every slurpy, purple and drippy indie band would sound pretty goddamned sweet.
Formed in Guelph in 1999, The Constantines signed to Sub Pop (Nirvana, Wolf Parade, Hot Hot Heat) in the States after the release of their first album in 2001. Since then the band has been blowing the roof off of venues across Canada, through the US and the UK; five years’ worth of successful recording and touring, but it sure hasn’t gone to their heads. You wouldn’t know just by speaking with The Constantines that the band has a Juno nomination under its belt or that just a couple of years ago they nearly broke the record for the longest charting album in Canadian campus radio history for Shine a Light.
“I don’t feel as though we’ve figured a thing out yet,” says modest guitarist Steve Lambke. “Even though we’ve done all that stuff I still don’t feel as though my words carry any more wisdom.”
An indie rocker’s path to wisdom is long and hard.
“There’s no right or wrong way of being an independent band. You just have to do it. If you work hard enough you can figure out a way to make it happen. But it’s not easy,” says Lambke. “For us it was no different you know, we just played a lot and worked really hard and we still do the same thing. I guess we’ve been really lucky to work with great people over the years and that has helped because we’re pretty incompetent when it comes to organizing ourselves,” he says, laughing.
In January the band released a limited edition split 12-inch with The Unintended— Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor and members of The Sadies—that featured the Constantines covering Neil Young.
“Those split 12-inch records are pretty much gone already I think. We did off a thousand copies and they were gone like that,” Lambke says. “We’re huge fans of The Sadies and everything they’ve done and The Unintended is amazing. It was a great project.”
No strangers to Canada’s great music community, The Constantines are touring with the buzzing Meligrove Band (Toronto) and Blood Meridian (Vancouver) on this trip. “We haven’t played with The Meligrove Band in a long time,” Lambke says. “We did a show with them in some weird church basement in Mississauga a while ago. I’ve seen them lots in between though. They’re an amazing band and this is going to be a great tour.”
This month the band will hit the east coast of Canada, play a few shows in Quebec and then get ready to head into the US for a big tour, with festival spots in Barcelona and Berlin throughout the summer.
“We still fund all of our own tours and pay for everything ourselves,” Lambke points out. “We’re on Sub Pop in the States and you know that’s helped out a lot down there but even Sub Pop is still an indie label.”
Theories that try to connect the title of The Constantines’ latest album, Tournament of Hearts, to the band abound. For example: Curlers are like indie rockers because all the curlers have day jobs, but they still put on good shows. Curlers compete in their spare time, just like indie rockers go on tour in their spare time. Curlers all love to drink and get hammered like that’s what they’re here for, just like indie rockers.
“We’re a curling admiration society as much as we are a rock band,” jokes Lambke. “I guess we have a tendency to hurry hard and we’ve actually been known to get pretty intense at shows and start screaming out stuff, and maybe sometimes we shout ‘Hurry hard.’”
The Constantines w/Meligrove Band and Blood Meridian, April 7 and 8 at the Marquee Club, 2037 Gottingen, 10pm, $17.50/$20.