Talk Is Cheap is the title of Saskatchewan folk-rock ensemble The Karpinka Brothers' latest album, but the collection, in point of fact, is anything but; instead, the songs are imbued with sincerity and positivism.
Joel Plaskett once described their sound as “Buddy Holly boogie meets Crowded House,” and Aaron and Shawn Karpinka have continued to build on that foundation with stellar tracks such as “You’re Worth It” and “You Make It Look Easy.”
Working with Grammy-nominated producer Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen) at his Montreal studio, Hotel2Tango, the brothers accomplished the goal of expanding the scope of Talk Is Cheap with an impressive list of collaborators. These include Mathieu Charbonneau (Timber Timbre) (on piano and keys), Jamie Thompson (on drums and percussion), Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Sophie Trudeau (on violin), Joel Kerr from Sarah Slean's band (on bass), and backing vocalist Krista Muir.
In keeping with the overall good vibe on the Talk Is Cheap LP, the brothers are also furthering their longstanding reputation as community volunteers; adding appearances at long-term care residences on top of their North American touring schedule. They perform in Montreal on Nov. 10 before heading back to Saskatchewan for shows in Regina and Saskatoon later this month. For more info go to k-bros.ca.
What makes Talk Is Cheap stand apart from your previous work?
Aaron Karpinka: We left our hometown and enlisted a producer for the first time. It changed the way we sounded and took us to another level of creativity.
Shawn Karpinka: We were blessed to work with Howard and all of the fantastic Montreal musicians as well. It was a leap of faith because we didn’t know any of them, but we are thrilled with how it turned out and especially the new friendships.
What songs on the album do you feel best captures your current musical vision?
AK: Probably “You're Worth It” and “Sad Sad Songs” really show where we are currently at with our writing and sound.
SK: A song like “You Make It Look Easy,” which I wrote about my beautiful wife believing in me, has layered background vocals, which we’ve never done before and I love so much. On the other hand, a song like “Where Would I Be” was a live take with a stand-up bass and suitcase for drums. In writing it, Aaron perfectly captured the joy we feel playing music.
What, in your view, are the necessary elements for a great pop song?
AK: Simplicity and a catchy hook. You cannot overthink it, or you'll lose people.
SK: I agree with my brother and add that underneath should be a feeling of vulnerability expressing something you need to say.
What's been the most significant change in your life over the past year?
AK: I have been in the longest relationship of my life for about the past two years, and that's changed me in many positive ways. I have also quit drinking and it's granted me a lot of clarity, focus and better health.
SK: I try my best to be as present as possible for my loved ones and friends when I am not busy with music, to make time for them and let them know how much I appreciate them. That includes my two dogs too.
If you could fix anything about the music business, what would it be?
AK: I know there's a lot wrong with the business side of things. I'd love to see it become a more livable wage for hard-working artists. At the same time, we are making art. I stay focused on that and try not to let what's difficult discourage or distract me.
SK: The more my brother and I give through music and encourage our fellow musicians the happier we are, and I’d love just to spread that sentiment as much as we can.