FAMILY TIES – Teenage Kicks (brothers Jeff and Peter van Helvoort) perform at The Vat on Nov. 28th.

Toronto’s ‘Teenage Kicks’ makes City stop

After a swing through Red Deer last spring, Teenage Kicks are heading back to the City for a show at The Vat on Nov. 28th.

Toronto-based Teenage Kicks (Jeff and Peter van Helvoort) has also joined The Ataris on their ‘You Call the Shots’ North American Tour this month and through December in support of their current CD Spoils Of Youth.

Playing in bands together was inevitable for the brothers, as there were few like-minded musicians in the small town where they grew up.

As a result, people began to see a connection between the two that has persisted from the first band they formed together 10 years ago to Teenage Kicks, but has never been as apparent as it is on the group’s debut CD.

Spoils of Youth represents the van Helvoorts’ aspiration to produce music that is true to themselves and to the music they’ve always loved; songs rife with honesty, integrity and truth. From the fired-up opening cut Brooklyn Bridge to Digging Up Old Bones, Lose Your Head and Your Shadow there is little that is held back.

This is a band whose project is, “The sum of multiple factors: an unusable record made in West Hollywood, failed relationships, lost members, bad timing/worse luck and a hard dose of reality that was found in a place where reality does not come easily.” Those kinds of experiences find their way – directly or indirectly – into the album’s core.

As mentioned, the project was initially recorded mainly in West Hollywood. “We recorded about 25 songs in four weeks.” The production part of things went relatively well. But when the guys returned to Canada and really heard the album on their own, it just wasn’t what they had hoped it would be.

They re-recorded about 90% of it in their home studio, and although Peter admits to being overly hard on himself, he is proud of the finished results which were mostly recorded ‘live off the floor’ so as to nail that raw authenticity.

“I’m super hard on myself, which keeps me growing,” he says. “Every time I get off the stage, there’s a grimace on my face because there is something I could have done better,” he laughs. “I find that it’s the things I spend the least amount of time on that are almost always the things I get the most satisfaction from.”

Meanwhile, he’s just as devoted to his craft as he ever was. “I practice every day still. I run through our set once a day even when we are on tour. I also think I had more confidence when I was younger because my ear was less developed and I was less analytical about the band and what was surrounding us.

“It’s now kind of a ‘bigger picture’ thing.”

Peter’s history of recording the band’s own free community-based music service, the Singles Club, also made it possible for the group to make the album a second and final time; a lengthy and often overwhelming burden that was shared by his younger sibling and fellow band mate.

As for the guys’ background, Peter said that they were virtually always around music.

“I started playing guitar when I was in elementary school – my dad wrote down a few chords and said ‘Here you go’,” he recalls. He had a few lessons, but primarily is self-taught. “I didn’t like lessons, and Jeff is the same. Everything I’ve done from recording to playing guitar to songwriting has been trial and error – and a very long process of trial and error.”

Over the years, they teamed up in a number of ventures – part of the same band for a time, then going in different directions. Jeff went off to Mexico to teach English for a time as well, but when he returned the guys started the band that would ultimately become Teenage Kicks.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve probably been playing eight years together,” he said. “We have a very similar taste in music, and I think it took him a little bit longer to settle on more singer/songwriter sort of stuff then me, but we kind of ended up at the same place.”

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