Brothers bring the spoils of youth

Acton siblings return to Kingston in support of new full-length album recorded in their basement

Peter van Helvoort took the band’s name from a Jack Kerouac novel.
Peter van Helvoort took the band’s name from a Jack Kerouac novel.

Ontario act Teenage Kicks have been honing their craft for years.

The band has endured many hardships, from discord between band members to an unsatisfactory release of Spoils of Youth, their first full upcoming album, resulting in having to self-produce once again.

The consistent members of the band, guitarist Peter van Helvoort and bassist Jeff van Helvoort, have worked through these challenges — all in the name of passion for creating good rock and roll music.

“We work really hard … I personally believe in the 10,000 hours where the Beatles had to work at it for 10,000 hours to be the master of their craft,” Peter van Helvoort, lead vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and producer, said.

He and his brother, originally from Acton, Ont, moved to Toronto to build their music career.

The move was successful as the band has become a notable member of Toronto’s rock community. They’ve released multiple EPs and got signed through playing at their favourite Toronto venue — the Horseshoe Tavern.

Van Helvoort came up with the band’s name when he read the phrase “teenage kicks” in Jack Kerouac’s novel The Dharma Bums. Later the same day, he heard the song “Teenage Kicks” by 70s punk band the Undertones on Little Steven’s Underground Garage and considered it fate.

“I thought that was a pretty good sign,” van Helvoort said.

The modern rock mixed with classic rock sound of Teenage Kicks stem from musical influences Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and the bands R.E.M. and Weezer.

As the primary songwriter, van Helvoort said he finds most of the inspiration for his songs through personal experiences and writes lyrics that speak to him personally.

“It’s like my lyrics are advice, or putting things I’m feeling in perspective to myself,” van Helvoort said.

He said one of his biggest influences was his father, a man who encouraged a blue-collar lifestyle and did not readily support his sons’ musical aspirations.

“There was this struggle between art and hard work,” he said.

That influence is reflected on Spoils of Youth. Compared to older albums, Spoils shows a more human approach towards dealing with the music industry, particularly the personal inefficacies that go along with putting out a record.

Teenage Kicks has set out to “represent rock music without irony and clichés” through avoiding the classic rock and roll façade. Instead, they have made their focus producing good rock music, a sound they believe is disappearing.

“I think the bands we all look up to — the rock and roll bands from the 90s — they were misfits,” van Helvoort said. “They were people who had nothing to do other than play music. And you know, that’s how good music gets made.”

After the sonically-disappointing outcome and low sales of the California production of Spoils, van Helvoort took the initiative to produce the album again — the same way he had done for their previous EPs Be On My Side and Rational Anthems.

“We made the record again in our basement and I think it’s truly the best album that we’ve done,” van Helvoort said.

The current tour is helping the group overcome the disappointments of recording. Playing frequent shows has given them the chance to improve their musicianship and adopt a more positive outlook for the future of Teenage Kicks.

Though Teenage Kicks has their future in mind, Kingston is a chance to redefine their past.

“Every time we’ve been in Kingston we’ve been in disarray,” van Helvoort said. “The last time, we had a drummer that had been playing with us for two weeks and I don’t think we played particularly well.”

Teenage Kicks play the Mansion April 10.

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