The Karpinka Brothers first came to our attention when we interviewed them prior to their performance at this summer’s Gateway Festival in their home province of Saskatchewan. And they didn’t just tiptoe onto our radar – from the first song I heard, they crashed the gate and were on our list to stay. Their infectious brand of retro-cool rock has been absolutely fabulous from their first album… and now with their new release, “Talk Is Cheap,” they are definitely kicking things up a notch.
Every song on the album is a jewel – from the opening song, “Sad, Sad Songs” (complete with a fiery guitar solo), to the brooding (but still danceable) “Am I Just a Fool,” to “Time and Time Again” (which, as I note below, has a message I need to hear often)… the Karpinka Brothers have put together a superb project that I’ll probably be listening to on repeat for months to come. (Until they come out with a new album.) To me, they have a true gift for writing thoughtful lyrics (which are also positive and uplifting), and they set those lyrics to music in such a cool, funky way, giving their songs a depth and a staying power that are unique.
We’re thrilled that we got to talk with both Karpinkas for this interview – thanks to both Aaron and Shawn for taking the time to answer our questions.
When we spoke to Aaron earlier this summer, we talked about your decision to go full-time with your music. How did that make a difference (if at all) on this new project?
AK: It certainly makes it easier to not be as sapped energy wise when writing or even playing shows, as many times I went from a 10 hour shift to a show to another 10 hour shift the next morning. Touring during time off was fun but only further wore me down. Sometimes the more busy you are with work the more time you need to get in touch with how you are feeling and that’s what leads to the songs.
SK: It allowed us to travel to Montreal and live there for two weeks while we recorded this album, which was an adventure we’ve never had the opportunity to do before.
You also mentioned that this is the first project that you’ve split vocally and lyrically. Has that been a smooth transition for you guys?
AK: I would say it’s been a vocally smooth transition. It’s a natural to want to know more about what both singer-songwriters in a songwriting duo are thinking, feeling and living to the point where they want to sing about it. Both Everly Brothers traded off. They are a huge influence. You hear a record like ‘Roots’ and although they trade off vocally it still has flow as a body of work. I think that’s the effect. It’s just one more layer to who we are and have become.
SK: It’s been smooth as we’ve both developed on our own as songwriters, but also has required a lot of work in the sense that I’ve learned to sing high harmony to Aaron’s songs which I hadn’t done quite as much of before. But between our sibling harmonies, and playing the songs together, they always become a Karpinka Brothers song.
One of the messages I’ve taken away from this album – which is one I often need to hear – is that we are all worthy of love, respect, and cherishing. This especially comes out in “Time and Time Again” and “You’re Worth It.” Was there something specific that prompted you to focus on this message in this set of songs?
SK: Thank you very much for noticing. It was a message I was noticing that was needed to get out there, and that I wanted to get across to anyone who may be listening or need to hear it. It makes us so happy to lift people up through song.
A fair number of artists choose to focus on the darker sides of love – breakups, for example – but your songs focus pretty consistently on the positive aspects. Is this a reflection of your personalities, a conscious choice, or perhaps a bit of both?
AK: A breakup to a degree can mean a person getting to a point where they have to care about themselves too. Take stock of their own health and happiness and be realistic about where they are and where they are headed. This is a positive thing and naturally manifests its self in lyrics. I think in the past I’ve tended to focus on asking ‘Am I truly loved, healthy and happy?’ If the answer was no I tried to not kid myself or romanticize something that’s not good. I try to be honest with my life and my lyrics.
SK: It’s probably an unconscious reflection of where we’re at in our lives, feeling loved and supported, and wishing that happiness for everyone. Sometimes I think the most punk rock thing you can do is love someone with all of your heart.
In one of the other Gateway Festival interviews we did, we asked about the music scene in Saskatchewan, and we were told it’s thriving. (Judging from the quality of music coming out, we’d agree!) How has it been for you, and have you had any difficulty in gaining traction in other parts of Canada?
AK: For the most part Canada has always been good to us. Even our first record which was recorded for $300 charted in the top five of a lot of college radio stations. We feel really lucky about that. Can’t wait to tour west and east coast in the months to come!
SK: We view it as one big family, and as we play other parts of Canada we’re just expanding that family.
Photo credit: Susan Moss