Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Sick Things: Singing It Like It's September of '72

Montreal's The Sick Things somehow traveled to a suburban town in the early to mid 1970's during the summer time and in some way managed to bottle up the soul of that time and place. Then when they returned, released that spirit to flow all around the room as they were recording their demo cassette that came out late last year.  This band has Cheap Trick punch, Badfinger licks, Big Star disposition and the lyrical flair that brings to mind the great Dwight Twilley. Sick Things have made the perfect soundtrack to good times and easy living,  to being young and free; like the first summer you spent with a drivers license.  Yeah, The Sick Things are new but their talent is indisputable and they play the type of music who's flames we hope to help fan into a wildfire.

Interview by J Castro

Please introduce yourself (or selves) and tell me what everyone does in the band:
CAMERON: I’m Cameron Turin, and I am the singer and co-lead guitarist in the Sick Things.
The rest of the band is rounded out by Keith Lewtas (Guitars, leads, etc) and Matt Gonzalez on drums. The bass position at this present time is vacant but was previously filled by Stefan De Witt who is returning to school and can’t devote the time required to the band. But he’s great and we wish him all the best. 

How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
CAMERON: I met Stefan and Matt at a show. They came to see my old band, Barn Burner, and I think we started talking about how great Ace Frehley is when I saw one of them had a patch or a pin of him. We had always talked about how fun it would be to start a band that sounded like a mix of power pop/70’s rock/punk but could never find the time. Once Barn Burner split up, I went back to school and stopped making music. Keith and I had known each other for a long time and got together to play in a Replacements cover band for a night and both hit it off. We got in touch with Stef and Matt and started working on tunes I had piled up last August. We all gravitate towards the same bands and often found each other at the same shows, so its just a really great fit.

Tell me about what it’s like playing shows in your town.  Is there a community that you feel gets what your band is doing musically?
CAMERON: Considering we’re a relatively new band, it’s hard to say really. I don’t know of many bands that sound like us or play the same type of music spot on. Montreal is really big on psych and garage groups right now and there are definitely bands that’re doing something similar but probably aren’t ripping off Kiss or Thin Lizzy as often as we do. There is absolutely a community that gets it, bands like Beat Cops and Pale Lips have shown us lots of love and support. Romanne Blouin who hosts a weekly radio show called Nous Sommes Des Rockers (CISM 89.3), has shown us tremendous love and has played us a bunch.  So there is a community for sure but we’re just edging our way into it right now.

Can you remember what band or musician first inspired you to want to pick up an instrument and learn to play and/or write music?
CAMERON: I think its Alice Cooper. We had a tape of Alice Coopers Greatest Hits when I was a kid and I would listen to it constantly. “Schools Out” was the coolest thing I had ever heard at the tender age of six and immediately all I wanted was to rock. I would day dream in class all day about playing music and I would draw drum sets and guitars on my books with long haired rockers behind them. Just having records and tapes around was enough for me too. We didn’t get any instruments in my house until I was ten or eleven,  so it was a good five years of day dreaming and looking at the names and faces on every rock record we had in the house, laying the ground work for what I thought was cool. Reading lyrics, analyzing guitar moves, just devouring every little detail—something I still do to this day.

The Sick Things 3 song demo cassette released December 1st on Shake! Records

In your experience, what have been some of the best and worst parts about being in a band?  Is it totally different than what you imagined as a kid?
CAMERON: Touring, by far the greatest and sometimes the worst part is touring. I’ve been all over North America and Europe and it’s the greatest. Being on stage for thirty minutes, playing your heart out and sometimes getting paid a couple of bucks is a truly amazing feeling. You gotta really love it though ‘cause there are days when you have to drive over night because you haven’t got a place to stay or the promoter doesn’t wanna pay you or the wheels break  off the van while you’re driving on the highway. You don’t get the best sleep, you’re dirty, smelly, under eating, over drinking (among other things) and you’re far from home, trapped in a van for eight hours a day.

When I was a kid I couldn’t even picture anything but playing guitar or singing. I couldn’t even picture an audience, so it’s very different. I definitely didn’t imagine having two jobs to afford to play music. But the thirty minutes on stage, playing your own songs is exactly how I imagined it. So I guess you can’t have it all, there is an element of work, stress and discomfort that goes along with it. Making a record I find to be the most fun part. The process of building up and layering songs and putting together all these little ideas in your head, and then hearing them played back to you is a truly elating feeling.

What other bands do you feel people need to hear in order to better understand your music? 
CAMERON: How much time do you have? Hahaha.  For me, it’s Big Star. There’s an element in their music that perfectly captures the vibe we’re going for. It’s got this teenage unrequited love thing going on and the lyrics, although on the surface seem pretty na├»ve, but there is a beautiful depth to it that I think is really relatable. The musicianship on #1 Record is incredible, with each chord struck with soft, focused purpose. I’m not comparing ourselves to Big Star, I’m just a fan and maybe if people listened to #1 Record then us, maybe the alignment could then be made.
I don’t think we’re doing anything complex or different really, just playing rock music the way we like to hear rock music.

What’s your favorite part of making music: the writing process, the recording, or performing in front of a crowd?  
CAMERON: I hate writing music. When the band first started I was averaging 4 hours of interrupted sleep per night and I would write constantly. We had over twenty songs in various states of completion during our first few months as a band. Having a riff and a hook is the easy part. Stringing it together and making sure the listener isn’t bored is the hard part and then of course the lyrics. I have a hard time isolating the parts I hear in my head when I think of the song we’re writing. My favorite part is when it comes together. Like we all stand around for a few weeks trying “this and that and double time here, bridge there” and then when we finally get an order to follow and we play through perfectly, that’s what I like best. Same thing for recording. It’s the part where you sit back and listen and say “yeah ok, its done, high fives al around”.

What music do you own or listen to frequently that you feel a typical fan of yours may be surprised you enjoy?
CAMERON: I love so many different things, I think that’s probably the surprising part. I love anything that’ll make me repeat the song. I just fell in love with a guy named Dizzy K. from Nigeria. His song “Excuse Me Baby” is on pretty heavy rotation in my car. If it’s got a hook, it’s undeniable, you know? But I mean, it crosses all genres. Bluegrass, hip-hop, film scores, classical music, psych rock, brit pop, you name it, I probably have a favorite record in that genre.

Never mind the critics, what in your opinion has been your band’s most shining moment so far?
CAMERON:  The day we all showered. No, I’d say playing our first show. Patrick Bennett (Beat Cops, Old Boy), whom I had played with in Barn Burner for a while and is one of my closest friends and musical inspirations told me “You guys sound exactly the way you want to sound”. That was probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, come to think of it. We haven’t gigged a bunch but we’ve shared our demo with friends and peers from all over the world and gotten constant positive feedback, so that’s been pretty great. This dude Josh Clark in the UK loves our band and is constantly offering his services for t-shirt designs and digital artwork. So hearing from people you’ve never met who trudge through the blogs and online radio shows and support and help your band is pretty great too.

Do you ever feel like underground culture meant more to past generations that had to actually invest time and money into going to shows and record stores to discover new music as opposed to just using Google and Youtube on their phones?
CAMERON: It’s hard to say because I can’t really comment on the past and I’m not old enough to be able to chart the ups and downs of interest in music discoveries. I think, the people who dig in the bins and take home a weird comps are just the same as the ones using Youtube or Google. The search engine is the record store turn table that lets you listen to the album before you buy it. From a Brian Jonestown Massacre song on Youtube I found out about Tess Parks, The Allah-Las, Underground Youth, The Sound Defects, and Cotton Jones.  I’m sure we can make a comparison to people who stream or download vs buying a vinyl at a show and people who used to just tape songs off of their friends records or the radio. If you love a band you’ll find a way to support them either by buying a t-shirt or going to see them live. Or maybe you won’t and if so, don’t be surprised if the band breaks up or doesn’t tour because they cant afford to drive to your city this summer haha.

What is the best way people can hear and get a hold of your music?
CAMERON: Right now you can purchase the demo tape via Shake! Records ( and it includes a free download. You can also purchase it digitally from our Bandcamp page ( and I think you can stream it on Youtube.

What lies ahead for the band in 2016?
CAMERON: We’re currently honing our collection of songs and saving our pennies to record an album with the almighty Ian Blurton and then we’re gonna shop around for a label to help put it out. While we fine tune our songs we’ll be looking for a permanent bassist, but it hasn’t been a huge priority right now. We have a couple of stand up, stand-ins lined up for a few shows we’ve got booked, the next one being June 15th opening for Bionic in Montreal.  So that’s it, finish prepping our album, book studio time and then try and hit the road with a record in hand.

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