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Shotgun Jimmie shares his fandom of the Constantines, Attack in Black and more on new album

Melody Lau

Shotgun Jimmie expresses fandom in a way few musicians do in their music. Sure, some artists unabashedly show off their influences in the musical or aesthetic style of their performances, but songwriter Jim Kilpatrick shows his appreciation not by emulating the loudness of the Constantines or the crackling lo-fi tendencies of Eric’s Trip. Instead, he writes full-on tribute songs for his friends, collaborators and Canadian “rock god” idols.

Kilpatrick’s latest album as Shotgun Jimmie, Field of Trampolines, is a breezy summer record filled with nods to the beach, camping and being on the road. (All of that is a sunny respite from his main priorities in Brandon, Man., as an art-school student and teaching at both a high school and the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts.) Among those new tracks though are three special songs dedicated to bands he ardently loves: the Constantines, Attack in Black and Eric’s Trip.

This isn't the first time Kilpatrick has written a song for one of his favourite bands. The idea first came up on Shotgun Jimmie’s 2013 record, Everything, Everything, with the track “Ladyhawk,” a fervent guitar anthem for the Vancouver indie-rock band.

“I think it’s about that thing where you write about what you know or you write what you feel passionately about,” Kilpatrick told CBC Music, of his love of writing about other bands. He even mentioned a potential future album entirely comprised of songs about his most adored bands. “I also think it’s a nice idea to pay tribute to something that you care about and love and make art about them in that sort of way.”

To celebrate the release of Field of Trampolines today, we spoke to Kilpatrick about those three aforementioned tracks dedicated to the Constantines, Attack in Black and Eric’s Trip. Read below to see why he chose those specific bands, that time he and Attack in Black got sick in Australia and his favourite songs by each band.

"Constantine Believer"
An ode to: the Constantines

While Kilpatrick wants to compile an entire record of songs dedicated to his favourite bands, he and Shotgun and Jaybird bandmate Fred Squire almost recorded a covers record of just songs by Guelph indie-rock band the Constantines. In contrast to the band’s loud guitar anthems, Kilpatrick and Squire had the idea to perform tracks using a ukulele instead. Alas, the idea never came to fruition but Kilpatrick did take something away from that proposed project — the title for this Field of Trampolines song.

“I remember wanting to call the band or album Constantine Believer because I’ve just had so many moments seeing them play live where I had that spiritual feeling,” he said. “I’ve had that feeling almost every time I’ve seen them play where I think I truly believe in these guys and what they’re doing and it’s just so beautiful to see people playing music together the way that they do.”

Kilpatrick first discovered the Constantines at a show in Sackville, N.B., where the band opened for Royal City. “I didn’t like loud music at all,” he explained. “But the Constantines just blew the place up and even though I didn’t want to like the music I had no choice but to be fully converted.”

Shotgun and Jaybird eventually toured with the Constantines, and Kilpatrick now calls guitarist (and founder of Shotgun Jimmie’s label, You’ve Changed) Steve Lambke a good friend. “I am still starstruck by him, though,” Kilpatrick added. “I can separate the two, though. When I see him onstage, he’s not Steve Z.; he’s a rock god.”

Favourite Constantines songs:Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright)” and “I Will Not Sing A Hateful Song

“Love Letter”
An ode to: Attack in Black

Before members of Welland, Ont., band Attack in Black broke off to pursue solo projects or otherwise (Daniel Romano, Spencer Burton, Marine Dreams), the late 2000s act toured with Kilpatrick’s band Shotgun and Jaybird.

“I think they played in Halifax or something and someone gave them my CDs so they were listening to it in the van a lot,” Kilpatrick said, of how Attack in Black first discovered his music. “Then they sent me an email and said come on tour with us. I did think that there was something to that, the way they asked me, it just seemed like they were really cool guys.”

In “Love Letter,” a quick and upbeat jingle, Kilpatrick sings the line, “I didn’t want to fail you/ You took me to Australia/ And everyone got sick.” And this is a true story, sort of. “Not everyone got sick, but almost everyone,” Kilpatrick clarified. “It was like a travelling bug or something. I got it first and I remember Ian Kehoe got it really bad right before he had to go onstage."

“He played the show and as soon as he finished playing, he and I took a cab back to the hotel,” he continued. “Everybody just got a really bad fever and it was traumatizing because it was like, we’re in paradise, but we’ve got the flu! In terms of weird road memories, that one’s pretty high up there.”

Favourite Attack in Black songs:The Curve of the Earth” and “Hunger of the Young

"Song For Julie, Chris, Rick + Mark"
An ode to: Eric's Trip

Unlike the Constantines and Attack in Black, Kilpatrick admittedly only knows half the members of seminal ‘90s band Eric’s Trip (Julie Doiron and Chris Thompson). Regardless, Kilpatrick felt compelled to write about one of his favourite Canadian bands growing up because, as he put it, “I owed it to them.”

Kilpatrick recalls listening to Eric’s Trip — the first Canadian band ever to sign to Seattle’s Sub Pop Records, at one point home to Nirvana — in his parents’ basement. (In "Song For Julie, Chris, Rick + Mark,” Kilpatrick sings of going to the basement.) He likens the band to Sonic Youth and noted that they “really opened me up to wild music in high school.”

“For me, the soundtrack to that part of my life was a lot of Eric’s Trip and Sebadoh, that super lo-fi sound,” he revealed. “I was trying to record for the first time with a four-track recorder and I was able to get that same sort of sound that those guys were getting because they were doing home recordings, too.”

Much like his fandom with the Constantines, Kilpatrick got the opportunity to tour with Doiron years later. In fact, Doiron was the first artist who took Shotgun and Jaybird on tour. When asked what he has learned from Doiron over the years, Kilpatrick said, “She’s always been so generous and she was always telling us how everything works. For that, I looked up to her. Before I looked up to her as a mentor, I looked up to her as an artist and I still think she has the most beautiful voice.”

Favourite Eric's Trip songs: "Behind the Garage" and "Alone and Annoyed"

Bonus: “Project 9”
An ode to: Project 9

Toronto’s Project 9 may not have been as big as the Constantines or Eric’s Trip, but the ‘90s Latin punk band also gets a shout-out on Field of Trampolines. Kilpatrick, who grew up in Ajax, Ont., would travel to Toronto to see Project 9 perform.

“They were also a transformative band for me,” he said. “Their live show was just incredible, the hijinks that they would get into wasn’t contrived, it was done in the spirit of music, love and rock ‘n’ roll.”

In the song straightforwardly titled “Project 9,” Kilpatrick looks back on free shows at Ontario Place and his time attending Edgefest, "when all the good bands played."