A/S/L: an online chat with Steve Adamyk
by Josiah Hughes
March 13, 2013
A/S/L features Gchat interviews with musicians. Get it? The internet.
Anyone who’s ever seen the Steve Adamyk Band knows the group’s namesake is arguably one of the handsomest men in Canada. His backing band, comprised of dudes who keep Ottawa exciting with projects like Pregnancy Scares, Sonic Avenues, and Male Nurse, among others, aren’t too shabby either. Aside from a set of chiseled cheekbones in tight-fitting denim, however, Adamyk is also one of Canada’s most adept songwriters, pushing pristine singalong power-pop that’ll have you pogoing everywhere you go. The quartet’s latest LP, Third (because it’s their third album — do we seriously need to explain everything to you?) was just released on venerable Portland punk imprint Dirtnap Records. Hitting Facebook chat, I tried to contain my mancrush while discussing how to be a punk adult and how to write the best lyrics.
Josiah Hughes: Hey man! So the deal is, there’s no plan really. We just shoot the shit for a bit! What’s up with you lately?
Steve Adamyk: Just finished some new recordings for EPs. One for La Ti Da, another for Hosehead Records from Toronto, and two tracks for a split seven-inch for a UK single series. And just moved! My wife and I are super swamped, but we’ve got a great, central place, so we’re really excited.
Josiah: Holy crap. How do you write so many songs? Do you ever feel like you’ve run out of juice?
Steve: I have no idea. I feel like I had a major backlog for years, with no avenue for output. I’m slowly starting to run out of ideas, haha. Actually, our drummer, Dave Forcier, wrote two songs for this last session, which is the first time someone OTHER than myself has composed. Some songs for the upcoming LP I actually wrote almost ten years ago. “Nightmare,” specifically.
Josiah: I know we’ve talked about this before, but you’ve mentioned that the whole “the Steve Adamyk Band” thing is not an act of ego, but more because you want to be able to change members if you need to. Is letting Dave write some songs a sign that this is a more permanent lineup?
Steve: I think so. Or at least I hope. At this point, I think this is the most solidified line-up so far. And not just with regards to dedication or musicianship. Everyone we’ve had around has been beyond a saint, but people also have their own projects/lives to live, which can put things on the back burner.
Josiah: Yeah that makes sense! I mean, it seems like sort of a big commitment too, no?
Steve: Yeah, that’s the point. It’s hard for members to fully commit, since everyone plays in so many bands. The Ottawa curse. Point being, I think (or at least hope) this line-up is a permanent one. The dynamic is great and everyone has a blast doing it.
Josiah: A curse, maybe, but also a blessing! Ottawa is seriously out of control with awesome bands the last few years. What’s the secret?
Steve: Boredom. Haha. I’m not really sure. It’s a combination of a lot of things. Mainly, a commitment to the city itself. Not leaving for Toronto or Montreal can be tough for some people. But there’s a lot of talent here, and the music that’s in the air can be contagious. And, well, luck.
Josiah: I don’t know very much about Ottawa or the “scene politics” out there, but I get the impression that there’s maybe less of an ego out there than in some of the other neighbouring cities. Is that fair?
Steve: Totally. Bands here, even outside of the Ottawa Explosion or garage punk scene have to work together, or you’ll just bump into the same people and have problems at one point or another. The ego is still there, but in smaller quantities. The Ottawa Explosion sort of mantra is don’t be a dick. There’s a lot of dicks in bigger markets.
Josiah: So something I’ve always felt I identified with in you a little bit is that you seem to be someone who has their shit together somewhat (being married and somewhat of an adult, I guess), but also someone who has managed to keep a foot firmly in the punk scene. I don’t know how old you are or what you do for a living (you can answer or not answer either of those if you want), but what’s your secret to aging gracefully?
Steve: Well, for starters, I’ll put it out there that there exist other Ottawa folk who do it much better than I do (Ian Manhire!). But, thanks for the compliment. I try, at least. I’m 32 and have been married for almost 2 years. However, even that was a little “punk,” since my wife and I had only been together for about two months (although we dated years prior). My family never had a lot of money growing up, and even though I’m not loaded now, I suppose I was taught to make smart decisions. I knew if I wanted to make music, I’d need to have the resources to do so. I could never have done this without a bit of capital. It’d be too frustrating for me to not be able to record, or go on tour, etc. It’s just how I’m programmed. Oh, and I have a desk job at a law firm. Not punk in the slightest, or even close to as glamorous, but it gets me by. I dropped out of college when I was 20 and got a job in the mailroom where I work, and although there have been periods when I quit to tour, I’ve been there doing various things for almost 13 years.
Josiah: I think it’s super punk to drop out of college and wind up with a rad job! That’s the DIY dream. I’m also a college dropout ahahaha.
Steve: I pretty much went on tour when I was 24, rather than go to university. So, I guess your assessment is dead on. Haha.
Josiah: Is everything you do driven by a desire to play music, then? Also, when so many other people get burnt out and grow tired of the punk scene, what keeps you coming back?
Steve: I suppose everything I’ve done HAS been more or less driven by music. I mean, it’s always on my mind. Now that I’m getting older, it’s beginning to shift a little. I’m not sure I’ll be on tour when I’m 35. I do plan on having kids, etc. But yeah, I started a band with my own name because I want this project to go FOREVER. And now it can. No more band break ups, etc. I’ll be 75 playing in the Steve Adamyk Band, for better or worse. It’s a disease. I love all genres of punk music and have since I was 14. Remember that period in, say, 2004-2005 when indie rock became huge and everyone loved Wolf Parade? Well, I did too… back then. But, I was still seeking out punk records then as well, just simultaneously. Now, thankfully, everything has come full circle again! The mid ’00s were weird times.
Josiah: Maybe that’s the secret! If you’re a closed-minded punk then you’ll eventually burn out but if you embrace all of it and other stuff you’ll stay into it forever! I listen to crust and D-beat and MxPx and bad rap music every day hahaha
Steve: I think being a closed minded punk would be bad for a lot of reasons. But yeah, maybe! I love all that stuff, too. My wife, not as much. But maybe that’s a good thing. I simply find something really honest about certain pop-punk and power-pop bands.
Josiah: Most definitely! Having said that, there’s a fairly specific set of parameters that SAB falls into, I think. Do you have an archetype of how a SAB song should sound?
Steve: Sort of, but it depends on what I’ve got floating around in my brain at the time. I’m a vocal melody first, music later kind of songwriter. But yeah, I have a mould that essentially NEVER turns out the way it’s planned, but maybe that’s a good thing — it always comes out sounding like “us,” I think.
Josiah: Interesting! When do the lyrics come in? For me, that’s my most hated part of songwriting.
Steve: ME TOO. I just went through that hell this weekend. I find writing lyrics especially tough, because I find most punk lyrics to be really boring/cliche. I try really hard not to fall into that trap. I have no qualms writing love songs, though. Those are classic and always fun. But, personally, I can’t write silly lyrics about partying etc. I listen to a lot of that stuff, but I just don’t have it in me. I listened to the Dead Kennedys too much when I was younger, I guess.
Josiah: I always feel like I sound like a whiny teenager. And I just want to be a cool teenager.
Steve: You do it well!
Josiah: Haha! No! It’s so stressful. Also you are so good at love songs! Which is so strange because that seems so played out, but you manage to make it fresh. How?
Steve: Still stressful, though. There are also a lot of cliché love songs. I guess even when pop-punk was as played out as it was, I still loved it. Which goes back to why I find it so sincere. I always sort of saw myself as a hopeless romantic when I was younger, as lame as it sounds, and maybe a part of it is still with me. As lame as it was, I didn’t care.
Josiah: Holy shit. I think I’m falling in love with you.
Steve: Haha. Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve fallen in love!
Josiah: Hahahahaha. So is the new album out already or still coming? And when you’re about to release something new, are you nervous about how it’ll be received or just happy that it’s done?
Steve: It’s officially out February 12th. And regardless of what anyone tells you, every musician/artist cares about how their creations are perceived. But, at this point, it’s less important to me as it was when I first started. I might have been really heartbroken if my first recordings had been bashed! Ultimately it wouldn’t have stopped me from making more then, nor would it now. Typically, when a record is about to be released, it’s about six months old, so it’s more a sense of relief that it’s finally out and no more work needs to be done. Otherwise, my mind is already on working on the next one.
Josiah: You are a machine! What about when you listen to your own work? Are you into it or self-critical? Some people can’t even listen to their own records.
Steve: It’s a bit of both. Very critical when required, but when I’m finally happy I listen to my recordings non-stop. It’s listening to bad vocal takes that’s extremely tough. Makes you feel like you’re 15 again in a studio for the first time. Fucking SUCKS.
Josiah: Totally! But at the end of the day you should be making the music that you want to hear in the world, which is what you’re doing!
Steve: That’s the idea, yeah! It’s just a lot of work sometimes. Haha.
Josiah: Totally! So what is your longterm goal for this project? Just keep going forever at the same pace?
Steve: To be at a level where I can go at my own pace and not have to worry about superficial aspects of the industry (media, labels etc.). Just have enough fans where I don’t have to sell myself to people. But, if I could go on tour and make a living doing my music in any way, I’d obviously love to do that too. But, I’m not willing to live in between the two. I can’t be on tour for months on end and come home with nothing. Been there, done that. Essentially, the same pace as long as the songs are there!
Josiah: Oh man, no kidding! Nothing worse than coming home to being flat broke and trying to figure out how to pay for groceries and rent!
Steve: Yeah, let’s leave that to people in their early twenties. It’s got an expiration date for everyone.
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 Issue of AUX Magazine.
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