Q+A: Musician Adam Kittredge On His New Band Thieves, the Breakup of Jets Overhead, + What He Would Tell His 16 Year-Old Self

Two years ago, after 15 years together, the Juno-nominated, Victoria, B.C.-based band Jets Overhead quietly broke up. My friend Adam Kittredge, the band’s former frontman, has since started Thieves, a new musical project with an EP slated to be released in the coming months.

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Earlier this summer, I asked Adam if he would be open to talking with me about his music career up to this point. Last week, we sat down for our phone chat, and, as in many of the conversations we’ve shared since our early twenties, covered a lot of ground.

Whether you know Adam personally, are a fan of Jets Overhead or Thieves, or are simply intrigued by the process, struggles, and insights of another creative human, I hope you’ll settle in with something to sip on, and enjoy the read. I sure enjoyed the chat. xx ~C.

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Going Home: Part 2 (The Vortex + Senanus Swim)

Going home always starts with a visit to my mom’s, and is almost always followed by hanging out with Adam and Antonia.

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For those of you reading who don’t know them, they are my super talented musician friends, currently expressing their melodic awesomeness with their band Thieves. I could go on, but I’ll save the details for my upcoming interview with Adam. We’re gonna chat about music, life, transitions, the future…the sort of ground we’ve been covering in our lengthy conversations over the last 15 years or so, but shared here, on the blog. This is an interview I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and I’m really stoked we’re making it happen.

So a couple days after we returned to Victoria from Salt Spring, Joe and I drove out to Adam’s mom’s house for a BBQ. Tucked away off a narrow road in Saanichton, about 30 minutes from Victoria, this house is the stuff dreams are made of. (I rarely use clichés, but in this case, totally necessary.) Once you arrive, you never want to leave. We call it The Vortex.

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Tonight: Q, Live in Portland

Going to my first-ever live radio show tonight!

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For my non-Canadian readers—Q is an arts, culture and entertainment show on CBC, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. I’m a huge fan. I listen to it every morning. Ghomeshi does really compelling, thoughtful interviews (mostly with musicians, artists, writers, actors, photographers, etc. — my kind of thing!), so when I found out the show was doing a live taping in Portland and tickets were selling fast, I jumped on the chance. Tuning into Q makes me feel close to home, and watching the show with Joe in Portland is going to be somewhat of a merging of my worlds. I’m stoked.

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We didn’t know what guests would be on the show when we bought tickets, but the lineup has turned out to be crazy good.

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Confession: I’ve been spending my nights with Keith Richards

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It starts around midnight–I settle in under the duvet, adjust the lamplight, take a sip of water. Then I flip open the page.

We’re currently in the middle of ’76. Richards has brought his seven-year-old son, Marlon, on tour through Europe–the two of them drive to the gigs, Marlon holding the map, Richards at the wheel. Marlon has been instructed to tell his dad when they’re 15 clicks away from the borders. Then it’s time to pull over, so Richards can “have a shot.” (After, he either dumps or re-sorts his stash, before crossing into the next country.) His heroin habit is very, very bad by this point in “Life,” but it never stops him from missing a show–though sometimes he arrives three hours late. He’s also taken to sleeping with a gun under his pillow.

I’m not a massive Stones fan–not that I don’t like their music–I just never took to the songs in the same immediate way as those of the Beatles, The Doors, Hendrix and Joplin. But I’m fascinated by the era they lived through. I used to think I was born in the wrong time. I wanted to be like Jenny in Forrest Gump (before she gets messed up.) I wanted to move to San Francisco with my friend Stu. (I still dream of living there.) I remember my mom belting out Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and thinking it was one of the best songs I’d ever heard. (Eventually I learned how to play it myself, on my little red guitar.)

I bought “Life”–Richard’s 2010 autobiography–last November as a belated birthday gift for my dad, who is a Stones fan. So when I moved into his and my stepmom’s house in March for my temporary stay and spotted it, I decided to give it a go.

Reading the book is like swinging back in time as Richards’ silent sidekick, then watching him fight, stride, and stumble his way through the chaos that makes up his days. You’re with him as a kid-in postwar Dartford, England, where he was frequently beat up on his way home from school. You’re there when he discovers records and Elvis and Chuck Berry, and in the sweaty London clubs where the Stones first performed, trying to become the best blues band in London. You’re with him in a smoke shop in Tangier, Morocco, and along for the acid-fueled road trip he took with John Lennon. You’re in a police chief’s office in Arkansas and in the back of a blue Bentley driving through Spain with his bandmate’s girlfriend.

In one chapter you’re in a prison in England called Wormwood Scrubs, another you’re on an Italian speedboat called Mandrax, pulling into Monte Carlo with Mick and the boys for lunch. All this is conveyed against the backdrop of rock and roll’s thundering sweep over Britain, the U.S., and the generation that viewed its message as a ticket to another existence.

But beyond the drugs and the stage, the women, the road, the feuds, the houses and hotels, the arrests and the exile, lies the central theme of Richard’s life–his relentless, life-sustaining passion for music. He writes:

“What is it that makes you want to write songs? In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people’s hearts. You want to plant yourself there, or at least get a resonance, where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you’re playing. It becomes almost an obsession to touch other people. To write a song that is remembered and taken to heart is a connection, a touching of bases. A thread that runs through all of us. A stab to the heart. Sometimes I think songwriting is about tightening the heartstrings as much as possible without bringing on a heart attack.”

If you play guitar, read this book. (Richards will teach you his tricks.) If you’re fascinated by what makes up a life, the characters that inhabit it and the passions that fuel it, read this book. It will make you grateful you haven’t made the same reckless choices as the man named No. 1 on a list titled Rock Stars Most-Likely-To-Die. But it also might make you gaze down your own winding path, and wonder if the adventure could be amplified.

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Richards and Jagger on their 1969 U.S. tour. Image via: time.com

 

p.s. Funny 1964 footage of the Stones, and a powerful piece by Russell Brand on heroin, abstinence and addiction

THE NINE~Stars Keyboardist Chris Seligman on Band Personalities, His Pre-Show Rituals, and the Biggest Lesson He’s Learned in the Industry

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Photo screencap from Are We Here Now–documentary of Stars’ Set Yourself on Fire tour. (From luxecalmvolupte on flickr.)

 

Before blowing on his first french horn in a 7th-grade music class in Toronto, Chris Seligman–keyboardist and french horn player for the Canadian Indie Pop group Stars–had no interest in music. But his natural gift for the instrument was noticed by his aging and eccentric teacher, who recruited him to join four other students in a brass quintet.

By his twenties, Chris’s skills had expanded to the keyboards, and in 1999 in Brooklyn, NYC he began working on the first Stars record with childhood friend and vocalist Torquil Campbell. Since then, the five-member group (singer-guitarist Amy Millan, bassist Evan Cranley, and drummer Pat McGee, with Campbell and Seligman) has recorded six albums and been nominated for two Juno Awards and two Polaris Music Prizes. Their newest work The North was released in September 2012, and if you haven’t heard it yet, you should find it now because it’s beautiful.

I met Chris on a Wednesday night early last November, in the band room of Portland’s Aladdin Theatre, where Stars had just finished performing for a packed room full of fans. In the midst of sipping whiskey and chatting about life on the road, I asked if he’d be open to doing an interview with me for THE NINE. And here we are! Chris spoke to me on the phone from Montreal earlier this month.

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