Shawn, right, and Aaron Karpinka have found enough recent success with their band, The Karpinka brothers, that they have made music their full-time gig.
Photograph by: Liam Richards, Bridges
The Karpinka Brothers — Aaron and Shawn — feel their careers are at an all-time high.
“It feels like we have an upward trajectory more than a downward spiral. It feels like we’re more in the sky than in the toilet. Its feels more like we’re succeeding than failing,” Aaron says.
The Saskatoon siblings have shared their sound at dingy bars, festivals and even a local care home. Now, with a new album release just weeks away, they are preparing to take it further than ever before.
Their third full-length offering, You Can Count On Me, comes out Sept. 4.
“It’s drastically different from anything we’ve ever done,” Aaron says.
This is true both for sound and lyrical content. It’s the first time one of their albums has featured electric guitar.
“I just want to hear the notes sound a little different and ring out a bit more,” Aaron says of the choice.
It’s also the first time Aaron has shared lyrical duties with his brother.
“It shows both of our personalities,” Shawn says. “We have very different personalities, and I think it reflects that.”
They only had two days in the studio, which Aaron chalked up to budgetary restraints. Even so, it was plenty of time.
“It was actually closer to one, but we booked the studio for two so we thought we might as well go into the studio and hang out,” Shawn says.
Their no-nonsense recording schedule is nothing new. The brothers like to have all their ducks in a row before heading in to lay anything down. They’re also willing to let a song come out however it was played, even if it’s not note-perfect.
“If there’s imperfections — and there were — we just left them in. Now when I listen back they make me smile,” Shawn says.
The accompanying tour starts Sept. 10 and will take them as far west as Vancouver, as far east as Charlottetown, and south of the border for their first time ever in New York City. It’s a massive undertaking, so big that both brothers have quit their day jobs to make music their full-time gig.
“I just found I didn’t have time. I’m married, with family and a life beyond music, and getting ready for the album release was taking up all my time,” Shawn says.
For all the new venues they’ll see, there’s one Saskatoon spot they don’t plan to start passing over. Later this month they’ll play the Parkridge Centre Special Care Home in Saskatoon for the 25th time. It all started when a local promoter suggested them as a good fit for the venue.
“We’d never done anything like that before, and we went and gave it a try, and it turned out to be some of the best musical experiences we’ve ever had,” Shawn says.
Aaron remembers one man who could barely speak beckoning him over and whispering, “When you were playing, my ears are open.” They consider the shows a great learning experience.
“You have to pull emotions and responses out of people who maybe weren’t even expecting to see music that day,” Aaron says.
The love of performing in whatever venue they find themselves in drives the siblings. Even with music now being their only source of income, they don’t let themselves feel the pressure on stage.
“I have to have the blinders on from anything financial, or exposure-wise, because it will take away from what I’m doing it for,” Aaron says.