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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.


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Reviewed by Gregory Robson
The Karpinka Brothers – You Can Count On Me
Release Date: Sept. 3, 2015
Record Label: Self-released

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is not exactly a musical hotbed, but one band is doing everything to change that. The Karpinka Brothers, fronted by Shawn and Aaron Karpinka, perform a sterling form of old-school Americana that demands wider audiences. You Can Count On Me, the third album from the Canadian outfit is easily their best to date and looks to position the band as one of Americana’s beacons in the months and years to come. Very little of You Can Count On Me sounds modern, that is to say the album mines the same sonic terrain as that of Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers, and hot damn, is it something.

The album opens with the inviting and amiable “Careful What You Wish For,” a warm and rollicking slice of hook-laden 60s pop. That vibe carries over to the buoyant title track, a cheery and hopeful kernel that is ridiculously catchy. The same playful guitar lines that welcomed “Careful What You Wish For” return on the hip-shaking and beer-swilling “One Of These Days,” a breezy and effortless pop song that is as magnetic as it is concise. One of only two down moments arrives next in the form of “Lost and Found” a song that builds on the momentum of “One Of Those Days” but ultimately falls very short. The same sense of precision, polish and crispness that marked the previous three songs is definitely missing on “Lost and Found.” Thankfully the band recovers on lead single “Tetherball,” a sunny and bright rollick that belies a darker subject matter.

One of the strongest of the lot is the dusty, western cut “Who Says Dreams Don’t Come True,” a winsome valentine to a significant other that possesses some of the strongest vocals on the album and easily one of the strongest hooks. On an album that has many keepers, few shine brighter than “Who Says Dreams Don’t Come True.” You Can Count On Me rounds towards the finish line with “Far Away,” a cocktail of sha-la-la-la’s that unfortunately wades in the tepid waters of “Lost and Found.”

Not content to mire in mediocrity, The Karpinka Brothers close out You Can Count On Me with two of their strongest songs to date. “You Don’t Scare Me” opens with jovial guitars and a veneer that is equal parts rustic, vernal and witty. You Can Count On Me concludes with “Heaven Help Me Through The Hard Times,” a song that is easily the band’s apex composition. Arguably the only ballad on the nine song album, “Heaven Help Me,” is lingering, potent and deeply rewarding. In short, it’s the kind of song that bands can spend years trying to craft and never once achieve. The fact that Shawn and Aaron Karpinka have written such a song on only their third release points at exactly why they have won over Canada.

Perhaps the best part about You Can Count On Me is how simple and unadorned it is. There’s nothing superfluous or synthetic about any of these nine songs. Just two guitars, a bass and a drum kit. Not only that the songs are immediate and accessible, with only one lasting longer than three minutes (“Heaven Help Me Through the Hard Times”) and one not even two minutes in length (“Tetherball”). That commitment to simplicity is exactly why The Karpinka Brothers are poised to win America over in the months and years to come.


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The Karpinka Brothers – You Can Count On Me RELEASED TODAY!

by: Craig Silliphant

I once wrote that The Karpinka Brothers were, “the glowing, thumping heart of the Saskatoon music scene,” and those words still stand. You Can Count On Me is the third full-length album from the brothers, and as always, it’s a deeply earnest and buoyant collection of songs. In fact, their music would seem somewhat ironic if you didn’t know that they really do mean every word and every note.  They’re likable and generous guys (they volunteer regularly to perform at a local long-term care home), and their music sounds like, well, like them.

Following in the footsteps of other harmonizing brotherly musical luminaries, The K-Bros are sometimes twangy like The Louvin Brothers and sometimes dreamy like The Everly Brothers. While retaining those classic sounds, they have leaned into an ever-so-slightly more modern swagger, like a band that has fallen out of time from the 50s or 60s to land here, taking on the quirks of more contemporary artists like say, Joel Plaskett or Daniel Johnston. Though there’s not distortion or feedback or anything, a few of the tracks have licks or bounce that go beyond a stock music reference like ‘upbeat’ into the realm of, ‘hey, this shit kinda rocks!’  The lyrics are generally joyful and positive, but even when they’re skirting around the edges of heartbreak and life’s setbacks, they still feel like they’re flying a bright flag of optimism.

Here’s the thing; The Karpinka Brothers are a strange contradiction that may throw more cynical listeners, but their sunny music is quite infectious. Anyone can go out and try and sound like some cool indie rock band with a howling, writhing Iggy Pop wannabe singer, but it takes real guts to go and sound like yourself.  The Karpinka Brothers are building a foundation of popularity on that idea, as well as the notion that their hearts are true, which radiates from their music in spades.