Constantines, one decade later

The southern Ontario rockers aren’t strangers to touring, but this isn’t their last time on the road

Constantines are stopping in Kingston for their 10th anniversary tour on Wednesday.
Constantines are stopping in Kingston for their 10th anniversary tour on Wednesday.

Very few Canadian bands enjoy longevity. Canada’s size, population and the persistent competition to the south are just some of the obstacles that indie bands in our country face. Not to mention those harsh Canadian winters, which make touring especially difficult.

So when an independent band reaches its 10th anniversary, it’s worth celebrating.

Southern Ontario indie-rock outfit Constantines have done just that.

“We mostly grew up together,” vocalist and guitarist Steve Lambke, said.

After floating around southern Ontario, Lambke, along with friends Bryan Webb, Doug MacGregor and Dallas Wehrle started Constantines working mainly out of a house in Guelph.

“We played our first show in August ’99,” Lambke said. “It does actually feel like a long time ago.”

Constantines have been a part of many important indie record labels over their career. The band was an integral part of Guelph’s now defunct Three Gut Records and is also signed to the Seattle institution Sub Pop Records. The band’s last album Kensington Heights was released on the Arts and Crafts label based in Toronto.

Their old-school approach to rock ‘n’ roll may seem anachronistic these days, but Constantines remain a fan and critic favourite. Over the past 10 years their live performances have become legendary, with John K. Sampson and Feist among their many fellow musician mega-fans. After living in Guelph and London, the band made the move to Toronto in 2001.

“We don’t all live in Toronto anymore,” Lambke said. “Bryan’s been in Montreal and I was there for a bit. Now I’m living in Sackville, New Brunswick.”

Lambke’s move to Sackville has led him to his solo project Baby Eagle, which has resulted in his collaboration with other Canadian artists like Julie Doiron, Christine Fellows, John K. Sampson and Shotgun & Jaybird. Despite being scattered across the country, the band still manages to keep it together.

“I don’t know how or why it happened or how we’ve stayed together for so long. But as long as we want to make to make it work we’ll make it worth it—it’s worth putting the effort in. I don’t really have any advice for newcomers,” Lambke laughed. “You’re going to do it, if you want to do it. We’re a band and we make all our decisions together. It’s different if you’re a solo artist.” Whether they like it or not, Constantines are an aging band.

“I don’t feel like a veteran, at least I didn’t until I started doing press for this tour,” Lambke said. “The very first idea was to do shows in Toronto and the hometowns, and then we decided to add a few—I’m pretty sure The Grad Club will be the smallest venue on the tour and Kingston’s going to be cool because John [K. Sampson of The Weakerthans] will be opening and it’s going to make that show. It will also be a nice change from playing Lee’s Palace.”

Speaking with Lambke, you can tell he still remains positive and hasn’t been completely hardened by the road.

“I’m really looking forward to hanging out with my friends, drinking some beers and making music again,” he said. “It’s still so cool to get to go different places, but it can also be hard at times.”

The future isn’t completely clear for Constantines. Aside from the tour, Lambke can’t see too far into the future.

“We’re kind of more not working on stuff right now at all,” he said, trailing off.

“We’re playing the Olympics in this Canadian music thing—that will be another weird experience.” “I’d really like to think we’ll be together in another 10 years,” Lambke said. “In some capacity, yeah.” On Constantines’ latest album Kensington Heights there’s a song entitled “Trans Canada” in which a lone voice cries out “How am I to find the sleeping country?” It seems like these boys aren’t prepared to stop asking that question just yet—even if they’re 10 years old.

Constantines play The Grad Club with John K. Sampson for their 10th anniversary tour on Wednesday Dec. 9. Tickets are $23 and available at The Grad Club, Destinations or online at Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. From The Grad Club, Constantines go on to play The Cashbar in Hamilton, two shows at Lee’s Palace in Toronto and shows in Guelph, Waterloo and London.

Other old souls

Constantines’ 10th anniversary got us thinking about other Canadian bands who are still kicking and shredding after many years in the biz:

• Sloan
• Rush
• Our Lady Peace
• The Weakerthans
• The Skydiggers
• Moneen
• Joel Plaskett
• Burton Commings
• The Tragically Hip
• Neil Young
• Gordon Lightfoot
• Leonard Cohen

Ally Hall and Emily Whalen

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