Massey Hall is a goal it seems for many bands, Canadian and non-Canadian. It is the place to have played. What does playing Massey Hall mean to you?
Massey Hall definitely does seem to have some symbolic weight, and a weight of history. I saw Johnny Cash and June Carter play there in 1996. I sat in the third row with my parents. My parents are coming to our show, and they don't check out too many Cons shows. Maybe there's some sense that if you are playing Massey then you are participating in the culture in a way that doesn't happen at just any gig?
Many songs were calls to action to young folks or offering advice for deeper living. Band members were not much older than their audience but always seemed to have an “Old Soul” vibe about them. Now that you are actually older are you more comfortable being The Cons than previously? Have you grown into yourself?
The Cons have always operated like things mattered, like life and the ways of living are important. In that way it's a passionate band. There's something of beauty and worth in the energy and the action of playing together, of making together, but when you talk about offering advice or deeper living or being an old soul, it sounds like wisdom and the Cons have never been wise. We've stumbled and strived. We've grown into a love and acceptance and understanding of each other that maybe ebbed and flowed a bit over the years.
The Constantines - Photography by Colin Medley
The Cons tore a deep gash across Canada’s musical landscape. There is no Canadian band I know that either The Cons sound like or sounds like The Cons. There was a kinship with The Hip in the intelligent lyrics but the Hip didn’t have the musical intellectuality. Where did The Cons come from? Was it records, was it landscape, was it books, was it the rural and urban mix of your surroundings?
The Cons started out in a fairly particular Southern Ontario punk scene of the mid-late-nineties; a lot of the bands were fairly abrasive, some were fairly technical, all of it was very energetic and committed. We were in bands that were playing these all-ages shows in community halls and church basements and dirty houses. We combined that thing with a legitimate love of The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Neil Young....classic rock stuff that was on the radio. Obviously The Clash. Talking Heads. We didn't worry about being specific to any genre or scene, we just wanted the music to be exciting, thrilling, you know? Rock out.
From the outside The Cons seemed to be a closed world, guarded and self-contained. What does it look like from the inside?
What's it look like when you are standing in a forest? A bunch of trees; It's all very dark and mysterious. I don't know; in our own way we can all be kind of guarded and shy and quiet. For a band to function it's got to be pretty self-contained and socially we are mostly all the type that will listen and observe or disappear, but I think we can all be pretty warm and friendly in our own ways.
The Constantines - Photograph by Colin Medley
It seems to me that The Cons “retired” too early. Fans really, really want to see you guys live as evidenced by the continuing run of shows. How does the band feel about fulfilling the fans desires and how does doing so balance with the needs of the band members?
Playing the shows has been incredible. We've been met with such love and excitement and kindness. There's a real sense that the people coming to see us play get it, you know? They are coming to see The Cons, and not just for something to do. That's a very lucky and privileged position for a band to be in.
You have been careful about playing shows that have some resonance for the band. The “reunion” run have all been a nod to your heritage as a band. At what point does this become a band that looks forward and creates a new musical place for itself and not a nostalgia act?
When we got together at the beginning of last year I think we all a bit surprised to realize how much life there was in this music. We brought all of the things we'd learned together in the past, and learned apart over the last few years, and brought it back into the band and back into these songs. So it didn't/doesn't feel like nostalgia exactly. Music is strange; you step on stage or into the practice space and the job is to enact these things that were written before. You try and bring all your skill and spirit and person to it. That's the gig. To be present, to bring life to the moment.
Anyways, now we get together, we rehearse, but we jam too. Who knows?