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It’s only been a few short years that The Karpinka Brothers have been a buzz-band on the local scene, but man have they made the most of their time — both in this city and, increasingly, across Canada! And the best part about it? Their attitude, demeanour and way they treat people (from fans to ink-stained music critics to, I’d assume, everyone they meet) has remained just as sunny and awesome as the sweet indie-pop they make. These guys deserve big things, and it’s great to hear that our voters are returning the love that they so consistently put out!

K-Bros up the ante

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K-Bro (verb) 1. To do a good deed without expectation of getting anything in return. 2. To pick up someone’s tab without telling them.

“I totally got K-Broed when my friend secretly paid for my beer.”

The Karpinka Brothers’ reputation proceeds them. Their generosity and kindness is all part of a package cultivated over seven years in music. They’ve started a small but powerful altruism revolution in Saskatoon.

“It’s very selfish of us to treat people because we get so psyched from it. The jokes on everybody that I bought poutine for,” younger brother Aaron said.

But with their latest album You Can Count on Me it’s time for the music to eclipse the niceness.

Recorded in two days at Full Color Studios in Saskatoon, the record is a big step up musically, treading into darker lyrical territory and upping the instrumental ante. It’s a polished effort, but doesn’t lose the spontaneity of their previous two albums.

“I think you can hear inside the tracks somewhere us having fun. We left mistakes in and didn’t worry about them and now they make me smile to hear them,” said elder brother Shawn.

It might seem like just another album, but a number of touchstones prove just how far the duo has come since starting the band in 2008. The duo (with help from Dean Summach on drums and Malcolm Whyte on bass) is about to finish its most extensive tour to date. They just played their 25th show at Parkridge Centre, a care facility where the band got its start. But perhaps the biggest milestone for the brothers will come with their Saskatoon release show.

“I remember a time when we were trying so hard to get a show at Amigos and Aaron would call the booker there every Wednesday afternoon. He had a ritual,” said Shawn.

“I want to publicly apologize to Brant Palko for calling him every Wednesday at 4:55 p.m.,” said Aaron.

It didn’t happen right away, but when Tom Wilson played the venue, Palko booked the Bros as openers. When it came time to book their current release show, it was Amigos that contacted them. “It was kind of full circle and it really meant a lot to me after that year of Aaron begging. We’ve come a long way,” said Shawn.

They’ve also made the decision to embrace music full-time. For five years, Aaron Karpinka worked 60 hour weeks as manager of a Saskatoon grocery store, using his holidays to tour and operating on little sleep so he could get to as many concerts as possible. It was much the same for Shawn.

“There were a lot of times when I played shows locally, went to bed at 3 a.m. and got up and worked at 5:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You fall asleep in your work clothes,” said Aaron.

Both musicians felt like their work schedules kept them from spending time on music, so they made the decision to quit and focus on the band. Both admit it takes discipline to make it work.

“There was a time in my life when I could go buy a new Fender Jazzmaster every two weeks if I wanted. Now I just take really good care of the one I have,” said Aaron.

But it’s all worth it to grow the band. You Can Count of Me features the most even contributions from the brothers thus far. “When we started I would give Aaron a song and say ‘Here, add a solo,’ and that’s not very creatively fulfilling, but now he’s developed his own songwriting voice and sings lead on a couple of songs. I’m really proud of him,” said Shawn.

Aaron’s lyrics are darker than K-Bros listeners might be accustomed to, but his honesty is a refreshing change of tone.

“I was writing for the first time in my life to deal with things I had gone through, breakups and other things that were tough on me,” he said.

On the flip side, Shawn is a newlywed so his songs are full of joy. The contrast makes for a more satisfying album, without losing the earnestness for which both K-Bros are known. Music or otherwise, you can count on these brothers.

Exclaim! ‘There’s A Light Review’

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The Karpinka Brothers get more ambitious on their sophomore release, but still exhibit the same freshly scrubbed charm that filled their 2008 debut, One Brick at a Time. The Saskatoon, SK brothers have stepped it up this time with a full band album that does justice to their simple melodies and vocal harmonies. There’s nostalgia in the air, along with rich arrangements and a modern edge that add depth to this solid crop of catchy, up-tempo pop songs. In opener “Save it for a Rainy Day,” the sonic sparkle is paired with yearning lyrics that add a hint of salty to the sweet. The undercurrent of sadness is most evident in the slightly spicier “By Your Side” and in the disconnect between chorus and verse in “Everybody Wants To Be My Friend.” The Karpinkas also temper the cheeriness of their compositions with covers of lovesick ballads, such as Nick Lowe’s “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” and Iron and Wine’s “Each Coming Night.”


Karpinka Brothers Charm Sask

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Duo shows where there’s light

By Stephanie McKay, The StarPhoenix October 11, 2012

The Karpinka Brothers might just be the nicest band in Saskatoon, and they’re proving what you can do with a few good songs and some gentlemanly charm.

Indie music kids wear their T-shirts and seniors tap their toes to their songs. After four years of hard work, their sophomore album is ready for fans young and old.

From their gentle music to their matching shirts, it’s easy to see why the pair of Aaron and Shawn Karpinka are finding fans all over Saskatoon’s music listening community.

“We’re not hard guys to get along with,” Aaron said during an interview at a Broadway coffee house.
Their album, called There’s A Light, doesn’t officially come out until Friday, but the Karpinkas have been handing out lots of copies ahead of the release.

“We get accused of giving it out too much,” Aaron said with a laugh.

The band is headlining at Amigos for the first time on Friday, but you’re more likely to see the duo playing at the Parkridge care home.

“I think we learn how to be performers by being able to capture their attention,” Shawn said of the care home audience. “Those are our favourite shows actually because you hear them singing along when they can’t speak and you see them clapping and dancing when they don’t move very much. It reminds you what music is about.”

The brothers say they get a great response from the audience and some feedback. Often listeners ask them to play a favourite song.

“We started doing Snowbird by Anne Murray because of that. That’s their jam,” said Aaron.

The Karpinka Brothers’ debut album, One Brick At a Time, came out in 2008.

The siblings and best friends, separated in age by two and a half years, have learned a lot since that first album, which was recorded in a single day. It began circulating, thanks in part to their mother.

“Our mom peddled it. She promoted us like she was Don King or something,” said Aaron.

On There’s a Light, the band “spoiled” themselves, taking three days in the studio with help from musicians, Ryan Drabble on drums and Enver Hampton on bass. Though the album was recorded a year ago, it’s only now getting an official release because the brothers had to wait for the vinyl pressing. Both musicians are huge fans of vinyl and were excited to hear their music on the re-emerging format.

“Hopefully it sounds like we’re standing in your living room serenading you,” Shawn said of the record.

There’s A Light is a warm and upbeat collection of eight originals and two covers. Though initially reluctant to put covers on a record, Aaron said the tunes are a way to showcase their musical interests and “maybe show people we don’t just listen to the Everly Brothers.”

Both brothers write songs for the band, splitting lyrical and instrumental responsibilities down the middle.

“We both have lyrical input, because if I did it they’d all be about staying up late at night playing video games,” said Aaron.

Once you meet the pair their music makes perfect sense. Both men are every bit as positive as their music.

When the Karpinkas aren’t making music themselves they are out at shows, cheering on their musical peers.

One highlight of their career so far was playing for the VIP ticket holders before the Gordon Lightfoot show in Saskatoon in December 2011. The Canadian music legend was there to listen to the set.

“We had to beg for a long time to even get a show. As an acoustic duo it was hard to get shows in bars. So to get asked to play for your hero is just amazing,” said Shawn.

The Karpinkas introduced their parents to Lightfoot after the show where he asked their mother: “Now, tell me honestly, are these guys any good?”

She said yes, of course.

Brotherly Love

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Craig Silliphant – Planet S

Published Thursday October 4, 2012

The Karpinkas are great musicians — and even better friends

I got a call from the receptionist at work on my birthday, telling me that a package had arrived for me.

“I wonder what it is?” I asked her. “Hate mail? A bomb? Anthrax?”

“It looks more like a record,” she laughed.

It was indeed a record — the new Karpinka Brothers album, There’s a Light.

As soon as I listened to it, I was reminded once again of why The Karpinka Brothers are one of Saskatoon’s favourite musical groups. Even the most cynical of hearts will be softened by this music; it’s just so damned earnest, likeable, and musically sound.

For those familiar with The K-Bros, the song that stands out right away is “Everybody Wants to be My Friend,” which could be ripped right from the lives of brothers Shawn and Aaron Karpinka. Not only do they share their love of music with the rest of us, they’re endlessly supportive of other musicians and writers — which is why pretty much everybody does indeed want to be their friend.

“The song comes from asking what real friendship is,” says Shawn Karpinka, “and we’re happy to be friends and bros to everyone.”

“I’m glad they love us,” adds Aaron Karpinka, “because we can only be the people that we are and we can only sound the way we naturally sound.”

That sound is a Saskatchewan take on sibling duo acts like The Everly Brothers or The Louvin Brothers, full of buoyant acoustic guitars and mandolins. At centre stage are pure voices and dulcet melodies that remind you of the comfort of family and friends. Their sound has evolved since the first album, but only in that it’s delivered with more confidence.

“On the first album we were like a young Anakin Skywalker,” jokes Aaron. “Now we have that Vader swagger.”

They shed their Padawan braids by testing the songs in some unique locations, rather than just sneaking them into the odd set at a bar gig — playing them in care homes, at libraries for kids, and anywhere people wanted to be moved by music. It helped them craft the songs by seeing what people responded to (and it didn’t hurt their lovable rep either).

“We started to play often in a care home, and heard people who have a hard time speaking sing along,” says Shawn. “Others have told us how our songs have helped them get through hard times, so we’ve realized how we can affect people with our music, and how much of a gift it is to play for them.”

For the first time, The Karpinka Brothers will be spreading the word outside Saskatoon, with a full band on a western Canadian tour. You can see them prior to their departure at the album release show at Amigos on October 12th, with Sarah Farthing opening.

“Aaron will be playing electric guitar for the first time with us,” says Shawn, “and it will be the first chance to buy our album on vinyl, which took a lot of time and effort to make.”

“[It’s the] K-Bros return,” says Aaron. “It’s going to be the Return of the Ukrainian Jedis!”