INTERVIEW: Toronto’s Teenage Kicks talk influences ahead of their impending breakup

Teenage Kicks

Peter and Jeff Van Helvoort started playing music together almost a decade ago in Cain & Abel, and now the Toronto-born duo continue make music together in a band called Teenage Kicks. The two brothers share an eclectic music taste, pulling from ’90s grunge, late-’90s punk, a touch of screamo and the insight of the female voice, Teenage Kicks derive a unique style of their own and boasts a concrete understanding of the art of songwriting.

Sadly, after a five-year run, Teenage Kicks are calling it quits after two final shows in Toronto later this spring. But before they depart for good, we chatted with guitarist Jeff Van Helvoort to gain a little more insight into a talented group gone too soon.

SUBSTREAM: Honestly, I cannot imagine being in a band with my brother, but you seem to have no problems working and making music together. How long have you been playing music together?

JEFF VAN HELVOORT: We grew up in a small town about 45 minutes west of Toronto, and it came about that we both started playing music. He ended up joining my band and then I ended up joining his band… and we’ve been basically played together exclusively for that long. We’ve been playing together for, like, 10 years and we live together. We’re pretty used to each other at this point. We work well together, there aren’t very many arguments.

Have you two always had similar or different taste in music?

He’s three years older than me and we grew up in the early ’90s, so we grew up with Nirvana, they were our favorite band. Then we went into punk, then pop-punk, then screamo. [Laughs.] So we basically grew up in the same musical territory. We haven’t diverged too far from each other.

Besides Nirvana, what other artists influence you?

As far as songwriters go, I really love Neil Young, Peter does as well. We really love female singer/songwriters like St. Vincent, Feist, Land Of Talk and Angel Olsen. We’re always looking for new female singer/songwriters. And then, obviously, classic stuff. Peter is a big CCR fan, [and] Cheap Trick, too.

What do you prefer about female singer/songwriters?

There’s just something about a really great female songwriter. They approach music in such a different manner. I think that’s something that can be absent in rock music—that female perspective. I think we are a band that appeals to more female listeners than a normal rock band would because we have that perspective, no different than the way Nirvana did because Kurt Cobain was always very interested in female values, female singers and females in the community. We’re not macho meatheads. We’re pretty sensitive guys. [Laughs.] So that’s partially why we gravitate towards those singers.

Are there any particular bands you would like to tour with? Or, more importantly, who you think it would sense to tour with?

We grew up in a punk scene and we operate more like a punk band. We don’t have a manager, we do almost everything ourselves… but we’re not a punk band. And then again, we’re not a rock band either. It’s tough for us to find those bands that we can tour with. Canada is very genre specific, and I think the States are a little bit less than that. If you’re a good band, you’re a good band and it doesn’t matter who you’re really touring with.  We’ve been told by a few people that it wouldn’t be strange for us to go on tour with a band like Title Fight, but it also wouldn’t be strange for us to go on tour with a band like the Killers. We’re a band who can find people from both of those scenes.