Last October, Hellbound’s Gabe Hugh had the chance to talk to Jesse Matthewson from KEN mode at their tour stop in Kingston, Ontario. Here, finally, is the Q&A that emerged from that encounter.
Hellbound: You guys are currently on the “Huge Success” tour. What are some essential dining and foods that are always part of your life?
Jesse Matthewson: Tacos and barbecue. You can’t get good tacos and BBQ in Canada. The first two weeks of the tour while in the States was almost all Mexican food aside from some friends taking us for Texas BBQ. We are eating more donuts than usual. We really need to eat more vegetables; it’s not good for us having all these donuts.
HB: Your friend Garrett Jamieson is on tour with you guys this time around. What does he bring to enhance the KEN mode live experience and whose idea was it to invite him on tour to do his comedy routine?
JM: This is the third time to have him out with us. It was my idea first. They announced it this time around and he’s been going over better on this tour than any other one because I think people knew to expect a comedian. But in itself it’s strange for this type of music, but it’s working really well.
For us it just makes a more fun time, and in the van as well. He’s just an interesting guy to have around. This tour we have been conducting a lot of different social media-type things. He’s been conducting a podcast in the van and I’ve been doing a tour video log and I’m also doing a tour food show on our YouTube channel.
We have been keeping pretty busy with that stuff so we are always on the go with something, so it’s not kinda dull or depressing or people are getting angry in the van, but he’s always talking, singing or being generally irritating, which is awesome.
HB: What advice can you give new up-and-coming Canadian acts when doing their first tour? Any tips on how to successfully cross the U.S./Canadian border with as few issues as possible?
JM: Tips are to try and make friends with other Canadian bands that are playing a similar style as you are. Get to know your scene before you try to bite off more than you can chew. I know it is difficult in Canada; it’s a lot easier in eastern Canada than western because there’s a lot of long drives and gas is expensive, so you’re gonna need some money to tour in the first place. To make friends is the only way you will afford it.
In terms of crossing the Canadian/U.S. border, you’re gonna need your visa or else you’re gonna be in some trouble. There’s really no way around that anymore, unless you’re trying to pull a scam. Like Kevin Stewart-Panko’s book (Do You Have Anything To Declare?) talks about there being so many horror stories, and in the Internet generation now it’s so easy to catch you it’s not worth being banned for five to ten years because of some stupid situation.
Although it’s expensive, you do need the right paperwork so you don’t get screwed over with your merch and all that stuff. Talk to bands that do it—that’s my biggest piece of advice. I’ve given tons of friends’ bands advice on what we do and how to keep things in order. Bands are usually pretty friendly. Especially Canadian bands, because we all know it’s tough for us up here both touring in Canada and trying to break through in the States. It’s a big nasty bear touring down there, so we are all willing to give advice where it’s needed.
HB: Steve Albini recorded the new album Success in Winnipeg last fall. Do you think he enjoyed Winnipeg, and would you tell us what he enjoyed about his Winnipeg/Canadian experience and what he did not enjoy?
JM: I don’t think he hates it. We treated him really well; we ate a lot of cool stuff while he was up there. I kinda get the gist that he likes recording bands, he likes playing music, he likes hanging out with his wife and he likes cooking and eating, so we tried to make things as fun as we could for him while he was up there. So we ate a lot of the stuff we normally eat, we made a point of showing him some of the cool stuff in terms of food. Really, that’s all there is to it. He came up in the beginnings of winter so it was cold as hell and we had a job to do, so we recorded a record. Basically we ate cool food and he rested, gambled and played on his computer. It was good times.
HB: The new album Success has been out since June 2015. What has the album meant to the band in terms of the evolution of the sound and the philosophy you guys are aiming for? And do you feel differently about it now than just after it was released?
JM: I still think it’s our funniest album; it’s definitely the most raw and catchy. In terms of how we approached it back when we recorded it and now, it still had the same sentiments. It is funny essentially watching how sales go and all that, because the title itself is a joke and the joke kinda played out.