by Chris Bryson
Never a band to tread the same path twice, KEN mode’s return seemed destined to cover new ground. After having taken on bold variations of sound all rooted in the jagged rage of noise, the guys have landed in darker territory on their newest offering Loved. And judging by the first couple tracks released from the album, the KEN mode fury is alive and well.
With Loved, KEN mode evolves further. Jesse Matthewson, guitarist and vocalist of the band says that with regard to lyrics, a part of this evolution comes from his bandmates increased involvement in the process. “In the past the lyrics were always a lot more personal. The last two albums the tone has kind of been changing a bit as I incorporate more writing from my bandmates into it. The new one, Loved, there’s a lot more content that both Shane (Matthewson, drummer) and Scott (Hamilton, bass) contributed, as well as just other people around us in our lives,” says Matthewson.
He describes a massive list of ideas, word combos, and entertaining phrases that they’ve been working on since they started writing things in 2012. “It’s just a file that I’ve maintained. And it’s ridiculously long at this point and Scott will text things from Saskatoon to us or we’ll be out and someone will say something and Shane will go, ‘the list.’ So I write it down,” Matthewson says with a laugh.
Loved also finds KEN mode venturing into new musical realms. “For us we’ve been shifting and changing things just to one entertain ourselves and it’s kind of nice when people don’t know what to expect. Like with our last record it was much more on the kind of indie rock, noise punk kind of tilt, and this new one I’ve especially been kind of linking more with a lot of black and death metal over the past couple years because there’s been a lot of really cool, really noisy, dark music coming out that’s just for some reason I kind of have these ebbs and flows with my relationship with metal,” explains Matthewson. “Some years just don’t give a shit and then other times it clicks. And I think a part of that is just the general cultural atmosphere right now with the political spectrum and just the nature of the way technology is making everyone have anxiety issues. I kind of feel like this record is our reaction to that general climate.”
Since the release of Success in 2015 KEN mode hasn’t done any touring, and this time around the Matthewson brothers have their business savvy-meets-music industry MKM Management Services to deal with as they prepare for the release of Loved. Veterans to the touring and business side of the music industry, Matthewson gave some insights into how they hope to make things work.
“I don’t think we’re going to be doing much more than two, two and a half weeks at a time and stretching the entire cycle kind of out. I think it’ll make it so it can go out longer, but at the same time we’re done with the days of just needlessly pounding the pavement. We did that for a good six, seven years of being everywhere constantly,” says Matthewson. “And we’re not like the type of music that’s popular enough for that to really be sustainable anyways, so, we put in the time, we pushed it as hard as we could. And now with the data we’ve collected we hopefully know where it’s more worthwhile to actually tour now when we want to do it, and when we have an album to promote.”
Matthewson describes this data as invaluable for musicians looking to make their tour as effective as possible. From sources like Bandcamp to online stores to social media and SoundScan, being able to dig into demographic and geographic information, Matthewson knows firsthand how beneficial taking the time to analyze this data can be.
“A lot of people book tours based on that sort of thing. You plot out where the right cities to hit on the right days are based on how much you sell and how many fans you have and how many followers. And that way you can kind of maximize the potential for the dates you’re trying to approach,” explains Matthewson. “That’s kind of the mentality that we’re going to take when touring from now on where like if we’re going to Europe we’d want to hit Paris, London, maybe Berlin, cities like that where we know we have good followings and if we’re not going to hit that on a run there’s no point to even going so what are we doing, kind of thing.”
KEN mode chose to continue their tradition of rotating producers by working with Andrew Schneider on Loved. “We kind of like to change it up frequently just to see what our new idea will sound like through a different filter. Because that’s essentially why we’re working with producers who do what they do because you like what they do as their own art and you want to see how that mixes with your own art,” says Matthewson.
“We’ve wanted to work with Andrew Schneider for quite a few years and it just kind of worked out that now was the time that we pulled it off and I think it worked out absolutely perfectly,” says Matthewson, and when asked about whether it turned out how he thought it would, said “to be honest I don’t really know what I had in mind. I knew what he was capable of, and I knew kind of what we wanted to sound like in the end but I think it actually exceeded my expectations. It was a very cool experience. I don’t think it particularly sounds like any record Andrew’s done before and it definitely doesn’t sound like any record we’ve done before.”
Loved is set to be released on August 31 and will be followed on September 28 by what will surely be an ear-shredding show at the Good Will Social Club.