Published Feb 01, 2000"We like to play each show like it could be our last," says Constantines drummer Doug MacGregor. "And if you're not having any fun on stage, there's no way the audience will be into it unless they're off in the back talking or doing something else, and then what's the point?" Such seemingly obvious observations are genuine points of befuddlement for the true believers who comprise the Constantines, a band whose reference points include early Clash, Archers of Loaf, and an unusually healthy dose of 60s soul. On stage, they can be consistently found scaling their amps to get closer to rock'n'roll heaven, leading their followers in a clap-along, or falling on their ass and getting tripped up in their guitar c(h)ords searching for salvation.
"Salvation seems like a big word," says singer/guitarist Bry Webb. "But when I think about where I would have been or what I would have been doing without music, it doesn't seem that far off. When we first started the band, I was listening to Lou Reed songs like Rock And Roll.' We've always been into music that's self-conscious about the medium, and from the beginning we put a lot of thought into what we were trying to do and why we were even in a band."
Webb's lyric-writing is very much "rock about rock," starting with the opening track on their forthcoming self-titled release, "Arizona," which features the chorus: "We want the death of rock'n'roll!" Webb explains, "It's about the death of Danny Rapp, the guy who wrote Rock'n'roll Is Here To Stay.' He killed himself in an Arizona hotel room in 1983. The [chorus] isn't us saying, Kill rock'n'roll and bury it for good.' It's about rock'n'roll's obsession with death and celebrity."
For a band that's such a powerhouse live act, the Constantines speak in tentative, hushed whispers while gathered in their Guelph, Ontario living room with Springsteen's "Rosalita" playing in the background. Three of the four members, including bassist Dallas Wehrle and singer/guitarist Steve Lambke, live at the address where they often host basement shows, and lately the phone has been constantly ringing with someone asking for "a Constantine." That's because the Toronto media has fallen in love with the band well before their record has even come out, hailing them as the heirs to Fugazi, and spawning an indie bidding war won by upstart label Three Gut.
They find it all a bit overwhelming, and just want to play one gig at a time, hype or no hype. "When we first played Toronto, we did a couple of club shows and there was hardly anyone there," says Webb. "Then we played a show at [a community centre] that a friend of ours put on, and a whole bunch of people came out because of word of mouth and to support their friends. Sometimes it works out best if it's a more community-based thing." Lambke wonders, "There's so many bands playing all the time, so why would you go unless you had a reason to?"