(photo by Jennifer Sparrowhawk, intro by Brendan Flaherty)
The Karpinka Brothers, as a unit, offer up positivity and good cheer and a harmonious comradery that is hard to rival in our increasingly splintered musical landscape. On his own, Aaron Karpinka does all of that and more. A gentle teddy bear with a love of boxing and wrestling; a humble soul with the social media presence of a minor mogul; a gregarious friend-to-all with a fierce loyalty to those who earn it; Aaron is a study in contrasts.
On their most recent album You Can Count On Me, the K-Bros present a vibrant and more polished volume of their brand of cheery pop-folk. There are a couple of tunes, however, that veer away from the more breezy subjects and into realms of loneliness and heartache. Guess who wrote those? Everybody’s friend, Aaron Karpinka.
KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?
I am in a band with my Brother Shawn called The Karpinka Brothers. We started in 2008 and have released three records independently. We just got back from a tour in support of our most recent Album ‘You Can Count On Me’ which took us from September 10th to November 13th. We went coast to coast in Canada for the first time and also played four shows in New York City. The band is a massive part of my life and I’ve already begun writing for another album now that we’re back.
I also play guitar from time to time with my friend, and The Karpinka Brothers drummer, Dean Summach. Dean is a terrific musician who plays under the name ‘Economics’. The bass player from The Karpinka Brothers, Malcolm White, is also in Economics.
KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?
I was an Assistant Manger of a grocery store for seven years, but found it very difficult to tour and record with only three weeks off per year. Right when this record came out, September 4th - I quit my job to tour and pursue music to the fullest. I do, on occasion, work in a different store part-time now, but it’s literally one-third of the hours I worked before, with as much time off as I like, to tour. It’s nice to have something like that. It helps me put my records out and takes some pressure off financially.
I have a great relationship with my boss, as we’ve worked together in the past and really trust each other. He believes in and roots for me as a musician and I believe in and root for him as a person who came over from Russia to try and make it with his store. It’s a very healthy working relationship and very rare to have something where I won’t have to quit my job so I can tour for two months.
I like helping people and interacting with them. I don’t find it very challenging, to be honest.
KC: What’s important to you?
People and relationships; music and the arts; spreading positivity through music and performing; treating people well; living my life in a way that if I was gone tomorrow people would be sad; making as many records as I can but taking my time and putting everything I have into them; giving back to the community that has been incredibly supportive and giving to my brother and I, through charity gigs; never taking myself too seriously.
KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?
The thing I like the most about Saskatoon is how close the musical community is. People are supportive and go to each other’s shows, play in each other’s bands. There is no competition among musicians and it’s a beautiful thing.
You see musicians using their talents to give back through things like Band Swap: a charity concert which sells out every year and the money goes to The Crisis Nursery. There are also the many talented musicians who mentor and teach young girls to play an instrument and write songs for the wonderful Girls Rock Camp. I sat in the sold-out Broadway Theater and witnessed the girls’ performances and cried like a baby. It was very beautiful to see. It makes me proud of the musicians involved.
When playing shows here it’s common that when you’re on first, after you play you put your guitar back in its case, get a drink, and go dance to the next band. That’s very common to see here.
The thing I like the least would probably be the long winters as I love to walk everyday and listen to albums. It’s one of my favourite things to do and it happens to be free, but when It’s -40 with the wind chill I’m not as compelled to do it.
KC: What is your impression of Regina?
Regina is a good city with a lot of wonderful people in it. I have had only good experiences playing music there. We played The Artful Dodger, Bushwakker’s Brew Pub, O'Hanlon’s and a place called The Fat Badger on this tour. They treated us well, paid us well, looked after us. People came out and packed the place.
Regina is also home to one of the best music festivals in Canada: The Regina Folk Festival. We were fortunate enough to play that festival this last summer and it was a dream come true. We had the best experience as performers we have ever had in our lives. We met and were in workshops with musical heroes of ours such as Basia Bulat, and were treated like absolute royalty.
The people in Regina are great. They are supportive and go to shows. They are a rowdy but attentive bunch. I love playing there. The people we’ve done shows with there have become true friends. Wonderful people and musicians such as Andy Shauf, Library Voices and Coldest Night Of The Year are all friends and living proof the city has so much to offer with its contributions to Canadian Music.
KC: How do you survive the winters?
I stay in and have a lot of blankets and some warm slippers. I have beverages and watch movies. I write a lot.
KC: (From the Proust Questionnaire) Where would you most like to live?
Halifax. It’s just so beautiful. There’s also amazing music coming out of there and always has been. Lots to do. The buildings and scenery are surreal to me. There’s beauty everywhere. I had the greatest time playing there. The other musicians we played with were world class. There’s good studios, great places to eat. There’s the Halifax Pop Explosion every year. I could live there. They need to get some chair lifts for the hills though because I don’t have the cardio to walk up them. I guess that might spell trouble from me.