by Jillian Groening
“It’s 2015 and so far I’m fat, out of shape, sad and bruised.”
Jesse Matthewson, 33, is getting restless. His band KENmode is back home in Winnipeg after the standard crazy year of non-stop touring, constant writing and never-ending work. The Christmas season doesn’t make Matthewson’s “time-off” any easier.
“If I’m not playing shows or doing Muay Thai then immediately I just shut down,” Matthewson explains over coffee. “It’s like there’s a big slab of meat that’s just hanging on my brain.”
The hard work seems to be paying off for the Juno award winning group, also made up of Matthewson’s little brother, Shane Matthewson, on drums and Saskatoon’s Skot Hamilton on bass. KENmode recently recorded with Steve Albini, bringing the infamously influential producer (Nirvana, Pixies, The Jesus Lizard) all the way to Winnipeg.
While recording the band’s sixth studio album, Success (more on that aptly ironic title later), Albini was hosted by Matthewson’s parents.
“It’s cool working with engineers who are still punk rock enough to understand that every dollar you save from not putting them up in a hotel you’re giving to them for their work,” Matthewson says. “He was just happy with a door to close and a bed. And he requested working internet.”
Recorded over a week and a half at Empire Recording above Whiskey Dix on Main St., the process was fuelled by Smoke’s poutine and sugar. Most specifically, Winnipeg’s own Oh Donuts. Success in deed.
“I’m embarrassed slash proud that this was the smoothest vocal run I’ve ever done,” Matthewson says with a laugh. “We practiced a ton though, so maybe it was in spite of the donuts.”
Success is by far the groups most stripped down album yet. By peeling away all the metal and hardcore aspects of KENmode’s sound, the result is a pure rock recording harkening back to the groups roots and to what the brothers would listen to as teenagers.
“I won’t be surprised if it flops, that’s why we’ve called it Success,” Matthewson explains. “We find it funny and the entire concept is relative. Although, the few people who have heard it said it wasn’t what they expected from us, which in itself is a success.”
Despite Success being possibly KENmode’s most accessible album yet, Matthewson is prepared for the uphill battle that could be involved with promoting the album. With KENmode often being lumped in with more metallic-sounding metal bands and being under strictly metal and hardcore labels, it will be difficult to get the people who will likely enjoy the album the most to pay attention.
“Personally, it’s my dream record and I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” Matthewson says with a confident nod. “This is the most important artistic statement I’ve ever made in my life and I’m sticking to that.”
Post BIG FUN, KENmode will be touring to Austin, TX for their fourth South by Southwest gig before heading over to the Netherlands and the UK before the big record release and following tour in June 2015.
“Two things that have been Shane’s and my goals through this whole situation is we wanted to see the world and we wanted to make more people give a shit,” Matthewson says. “We hadn’t been touring enough so we changed that part. Now lets see if we make more people give a shit.”
Don’t miss KENmode’s BIG FUN set Friday January 30 at the Sherbrook Hotel. For more information on the full festival line-up, please feel free to visit bigfunfestival.com.