Music

Put on some sweaters

The Constantines’ success is part inspiration, part perspiration

In some ways, experiencing the Constantines live is like signing up for a hot
yoga class: once inside, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you might even
moan—but most of all, you’ll sweat like a pig. “The
sweatiest band in Canada?” laughs Constantines guitarist/singer Steve
Lambke over the phone from Saskatoon. “We don’t have any gland
problems or anything—don’t give people the wrong the idea. We
sweat a healthy amount, I think.” Certainly, glands have little to do
with it; the sweat arises from the sheer intensity that builds the second the
band hits the stage. Part hedonism, part catharsis and part esprit de corps,
there’s little doubt this band knows how to deliver a loud, fun rock
’n’ roll show. But the Constantines’ performances are also
intensely intimate affairs that often border on the chaotic. One famed
performance at SXSW in Austin, Texas saw frontman Bry Webb ditching his
guitar and literally bouncing off the walls. “That was just one of
those shows were everything breaks down,” Lambke recalls.
“Bry’s guitar and amp both crapped out, so he was just total
frontman that night—like Iggy Pop. Crazy things happen, but it’s
just part of the show. But the way we approach it, we’re like,
‘Whatever happens is cool’ rather than stressed out about that
kind of thing.” Instead of relying on haircuts, flashy clothing and
slick marketing to sell the band, the Constantines have become rock
’n’ roll heroes simply by writing great songs, making fantastic
records and touring like demons. In other words, putting in a lot of hard
work. “We were just in the U.K. and in [the Guardian] they described us
as triers—like people who try,” recalls Lambke with an
incredulous chuckle. “The overall tone of the review was very positive,
but to be described as triers? I dunno. The British music press is pretty
ridiculous.” The band’s current tour, dubbed The Threegut Records
Fourth Anniversary Tour, sees the quintet hitting the road with labelmate and
friend Jim Guthrie. In many ways, the tour reflects the bonds that were so
integral to the band’s early days in their hometown of Guelph, Ontario.
Even though the group relocated to Toronto a couple of years ago, the Cons
brought the party with them; Lambke currently shares a house with Guthrie and
Threegut label boss Lisa Moran. “This tour is great—just to hear
Jim’s music every night is such a great thing,” Lambke enthuses.
“You just get excited by the good music that your friends are making
and you feel inspired to make good music too.” Even though it’s
been nearly a year since the release of their fabulous disc Shine a Light and
the band now has nearly 300 gigs under their belt, Lambke says the
spontaneous nature of the Constantines’ live experience is one he never
tires of. “Sometimes it can get terrible, though” he admits.
“We don’t rehearse the transitions between songs and we
don’t rehearse what we’re going to say to people, so sometimes
it’s kind of rambling and pointless and awkward, but that’s kind
of who we are as people—we’re kind of awkward people. We just try
and make the show as good and as fun as we can while still leaving it open to
be a little different every night.” V The Constantines With Jim
Guthrie, the Wolfnote and No Hands: Sidetrack Café (Fri, April 30)
• With Jim Guthrie: Seedys (Sat, May 1)

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