Last week I wasn’t exactly sure what the cover for the month of April was going to be. I was juggling a few ideas around in my head as I walked down Saint Laurent to Sala Rossa, a venue located right smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Of course when I say that I mean that I have no idea how to get there by public transit and I always end up walking a good forty minutes.
This wasn’t my first time talking with the Edmonton guys from Ten Second Epic(TSE). Back in May of 2009 I stumbled upon their “Hometown” tour and had the opportunity to ask Patrick Birtles(drums) and Craig Spelliscy(guitar) a handful of questions from their dedicated fans spread out across our country. This time around I found Andrew Usenik(lead vocals) waiting at the top of the stairs as I finally got to the venue. There’s nothing like being greeted by a huge smile and a handshake to set the tone for the rest of the interview. Andrew grabbed Patrick from outside and we sat down on the staircase in the entrance to talk.
It’s rare, in this industry, to find a band that has stuck together for almost a decade. Usually you hear about blowouts, major disagreements and changes; mainly in the lineups. While TSE has “officially” been together since 2002, some of the members have known each other as far back as high school. I was going to ask the guys what their secret was but I realized that as the interview went along that they have just found the perfect chemistry together. I watched as Patrick and Andrew fed off each other’s answers, joked around and knew when to let the other one speak.
As I started off the interview I was immediately interrupted by Andrew who, excitedly, let me know that after the interview the band would be heading over to Schwartz’s for dinner which was conveniently located right down the street. They explained to me that, while the venue is not in the prime location it is in a region where van break-ins are generally a less common occurrence. It’s become known that the area close to Club Soda and Metropolis are notorious for burglary and vandalism. During two of their stops in the city, TSE has seen their equipment stolen twice. I guess you can’t complain about a place that provides a safer atmosphere!
It’s the “Terminatour” that brought the guys back to the city to promote their latest album “Better Off” which was released back in September 2011. Their supporting acts included The Dangerous Summer and Brighter Brightest for this leg of the tour which started off in the East Coast. I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about the fans in the East who come out to all different kinds of shows and make it a fun experience for all the bands that make stops there. Andrew mentioned that it was “unreal” and their “best East coast run ever.”
When I asked him why he explained that a lot of Canadian bands such as Silverstein and Cancer Bats, who normally tour that area have slowed down a little bit. Other bands like Alexisonfire and Boys Night Out have broken up all together. “Those are the bands that normally go out East. American bands never think to go out. They go to Montreal, Toronto and then get the hell back down. That’s why when Canadian bands go out there, who are somewhat known, the people go crazy.”
Every band says that the number one reason they love touring across the country is for the live shows. There’s nothing that compares to stepping out on the stage in front of hundreds or thousands of dedicated fans who will spend your entire set singing the words back to you. I’m used to this response so I decided to switch things up a little bit and ask the guys what their favorite part was about being on the road, NOT counting the live shows. They had two very different answers.
Andrews response was based on the friendships they’ve made.“We’ve been doing this for almost ten years now and we’ve developed so many friends along the way. Whether it’s other Canadian bands or people that we’ve met at shows, it’s really cool to go from city to city and always see a familiar face and familiar restaurants we like going to. Canada has become our extended home away from home.”
Patrick’s answer was unique. “My favorite part about touring is that my cell phone works! I get 3G and I can tweet and text.”
The guys went on to explain that when they’re in the United States they find themselves spending the majority of their time off sitting inside a McDonalds to use their WiFi. Not the healthiest choice. Andrew even admitted to sitting outside the restaurant once to stream the Edmonton Oilers game from the van. He described it as an “all time low”.
“That sounds like the peak of your career if you ask me” Patrick joked.
They will be heading right back to the States this summer to join The Vans Warped Tour. It’s not the bands first time on the tour but according to Andrew it will be “a different beast this time around.”
“It’s going to be cool going into it now because we know so many more bands and we’ve done a lot more touring in the US. There are going to be some people who know us. How can you complain?”
Patrick added that they pooled their money into getting a bus for the dates that they will be on. “It’s our first time on a bus. We want to live comfortably this time around.” I’ve spoken to several bands that made the unwise choice of renting a van for the festival. I can say that I heard nothing but horror stories from them.
Moving away from the discussion of touring, I asked the guys a little bit about the reason they’ve been out on the road so extensively; their newest record “Better Off”. Their last record “Hometown” has received mixed reviews so I wanted to know what reactions they had received to their latest accomplishment.
“The reaction was actually quite funny and flattering at the same time. I’ve peeked a few times on the message boards and things like that and I saw so many times people being like “This album is amazing! I’m so glad because I did not like their last one.” Andrew added that “We don’t make the same song twice.”
The secret to a great band is that they understand how to attract a wide variety of fans. So while “Hometown” was different, it also gave the guys an opportunity to attract a different type of fan base.
Andrew went on to say: “In my opinion there are misconceptions about our band because all of our albums are diverse from song to song. “Hometown” had more of the poppy songs released as the singles whereas “Better Off” was leading off with Young Classics which was one of our heaviest songs. That being said there are heavier songs on “Hometown” and some slower songs on “Better Off”. I think that kind of skews people’s image of us.” In the end he mentioned that he was happy with what people had been saying about the record. “It was cool to see that people say that we’ve settled in to where we’re best as a band.”
In 2011 the band released their studio documentary DVD entitled “Better Off.” It is a great chance for fans to really get a glimpse of what the band is like behind the scenes. With the release of this DVD and with social media, a lot of artists are becoming completely exposed to their audiences. With that I asked the guys to name me something fans may still not know about TSE.
Patrick had one for bassist Sandy Mackinnon. “Believe it or not Sandy is probably our biggest reader in the band.”
Andrew added one for guitarist Daniel Carriere. “Dan originally went to College and studied jazz guitar. When he joined the band he had no idea about any of this kind of music. He learned as he went. It worked out pretty well.” Patrick added that Daniel’s first instrument was a violin as a child. Quite the change from the music he plays now.
For himself Andrew brought up a fact that some fans may have already known. “I have a degree in engineering. I finished it while the band was in mid swing. It was a lot of interesting nights on the road. I’d be studying and doing work while these guys were out partying. Then eventually I got done with that and I will never go to school again. It is done!”
Andrew mentioned that: “We have two very different sets of knowledge so that’s a good one. The band is divided. Myself, Craig and Sandy love shitty reality television. Dan and Pat hate it”.
Patrick added: “These guys can sit down on our days off and watch a full marathon of Jersey Shore. It makes me want to pull out my eyeballs and swallow them whole. I’d rather do anything then watch that.”
So what show do they agree on?
“I think the Amazing Race because we’d do anything necessary.” Andrew said. “We have a few guys who speak a few languages. It’d be good because we travel around so much. I like that answer. We’d have such good team work.”
Patrick joked that their life was already almost like the television show. “We’re like “We need an oil change! We need two new tires and a full tank of gas. We need to get there in 4 hours. We’re 6 hours away? DRIVE FASTER!”
“By the way once you get there you’re hopping on a plane to LONDON!” Andrew laughed.
The band’s latest video “Better Off” features the band dressed up in hockey equipment playing against a young group of children. On many occasions the guys have brought up their love for the sport and even as they sat across from me I noted the Edmonton Oilers cap that Patrick was wearing.
With both their team and our Montreal Canadiens being well out of the playoffs, I asked the guys who they would be rooting for to win it all this year.
“My rule of thumb is if your team is not the Vancouver Canucks or the Toronto Maple Leafs then I want you to win the Stanley Cup.” Andrew said.
Patrick quickly mentioned that while the band adores the city and the people of Vancouver they still despise the hockey team with a passion. “Even being from Alberta, I hate the Canucks more than the Flames. That rivalry has fizzled out. It’ll revive itself again once both teams become competitive again but Vancouver just steamrolls us every year.”
As the interview wrapped up I thanked the guys for letting me keep them from their trip to Schwartz’s and for sitting down with the magazine for a little bit. It was such a pleasure to talk to the guys, who just proved that even with fame you can still continue to be the same down to Earth guys you were a decade ago.
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To read the entire interview transcript click below: