Interview: Steven Adamyk Talks About Going A Different Direction

Interview with vocalist and guitarist Steve Adamyk | By Janelle Jones

I catch up with Steve Adamyk just a few weeks before his Ottawa-based band’s fourth LP, Dial Tone, will be released on Dirtnap. Though it’s still Steve Adamyk Band’s signature poppy-punk, the frontman says they definitely tried to go in a different direction, explaining, “We just tried to add different elements wherever we could, just to make it a little more ours.”

Why was “Crash Course in Therapy” the first song you put out for people to hear?

To be honest, that song was originally on the chopping block. We recorded with Matthew Melton from Warm Soda and Bare Wires, he has a home studio in Oakland. We flew down to record with him, because we really liked the way the last Warm Soda album sounded. We just felt like we should do something different because the last few records had a similar sound to it. So anyways, we went down there and that song ended up sounding like technically, sonically speaking, really, really cool. We felt like that was a track to showcase the album, give an idea of what the record’s actually gonna sound like from a production standpoint.

It was on the chopping block? That’s one of my favorites.

It was one of my favorites too, but this was the first record we ever fully composed as a band. They’ve always been my songs… It’s always been me going into the studio with the rest of the guys blind. So we’ll essentially rehearse and write the song in the studio, and then record it instantly, and then move on to the next one. Because we have a much more solidified band now – even though the band name is obviously my name and I write the songs – we really operate as a regular band does, with everybody having equal say in what happens. We spent a lot of time just practicing these songs for months before we recorded and [“Crash Course”] was the one song, when I first wrote it, I was like, “This is gonna be really catchy.” It didn’t really fit that well right away, but I think we just sped it up a bit more when we recorded it, and I think it turned out great in the end.

In the past, was having a “fluid” lineup intentional or could you just not find musicians who could tour?

It was a bit of both to be honest. At first, it happened because that’s how it started naturally; it wasn’t intentional. I get really anxious. I’m not really good at taking my time with music, so when I first started this band, I was in such a rush to get everything out as fast as possible. I don’t have time to wait for people’s schedules. I really have a hard time with that, because I’m in my early 30s now. I feel like you really have to strike while the iron’s hot. It could be perceived as a positive or negative thing depending on how you look at it, but [it] is probably why I’ve put out so much music. Trying to keep the quality in there of course too. The band did solidify eventually, but that was kinda all secondary. If somebody wasn’t available, I just found somebody else who was interested and willing at the time. I’ve just been really lucky the last few years, everyone in the band is really committed and enjoying being a part of it. So it seemed like a natural move: let’s take a couple extra minutes here and preplan everything a little more in advance, so we can have a product we’re all really happy with.

The press release said Forever Won’t Wait was the “pop” record, Third was the “punk” record, and this one is the “garage” record. What do you think?

I think that could be from a naked eye perceived as that. It wasn’t intentional. Essentially we just wanted to do something different for this record. I think our three albums prior to this one are all pretty much poppy-punk records that have a power-pop [vibe], or whatever you wanna call it. We still wanted to keep that in mind, but we didn’t wanna keep recycling the same format over and over again. And we all have extremely broad musical tastes. We’re not the kind of band that just listens to punk records all day, even though that’s what our passion is. I actually listen to a lot of garage and even hardcore music in my spare time. So for this record we felt like having it [be] not necessarily more garage, but more raw and less polished compared to other pop-punk bands we get compared to that are really slick sounding. That’s not always our idea of what the finished product should sound like. We just thought we’d take an extra step for this record and have a record that isn’t as produced in the studio, still well thought-out, but definitely with a sound that is sonically more unique for sure.

Do you have a tour coming up?

We’re actually polishing off some dates right now in Canada, and we just got back from Japan two weeks ago. Then we were just in the N.Y./Brooklyn area before that. We just did some pre-touring before the record came out. We weren’t actually expecting this record to come out this soon, and then we talked to the label and we all thought it would be best in the end to push it out as quickly as possible. I think had we known that in advance, we would have a lot more dates now, but it’ll probably be fall when we start hitting the road a bit more.

How did you get into punk in the first place?

I’ve been a fanatic about music since I was really young. I grew up listening to Metallica and Nirvana cassettes when I was 10 years old back in 1990, and I just started playing in crappy high school band, playing covers of whatever punk band was popular at the time. And then that just turned into me being a young adult and playing in bands. I ended up touring a lot pretty extensively with one band, and when that fizzled out, I just wanted to keep it going so I [did] this solo thing. I’m not quitting my job and moving back into my parents’ house or going on the road for extended periods of time. At this point in my life, I kinda just wanna keep doing as much music as I can and touring when I can, and trying to have the best musical career you can have while having a normal life. I think it’s important to have the balance of the two without going crazy or broke. [Laughs]

Were the great old-school Canadian bands like D.O.A. influential?

Oh yeah. The Canadian bands were huge influences on us. D.O.A., Dayglo Abortions, Forgotten Rebels, Pointed Sticks, all these bands paved the way for what we do now. A lot of them still play. The funny thing about D.O.A. is they’re a pretty popular band all over the world and they’re starting to play a few shows in the States, but for the most part they just play Canada back and forth.

When I saw them last year, guitarist and vocalist Joey Keithley was trying to stop…

He was. He was actually running in the federal election last year for a seat in one of the parties, and he ended up losing his bid. So they did a “farewell tour,” but he didn’t get elected, so I think he just assumed there’s no reason for [him] to stop.

What inspired the title Dial Tone?

It’s actually mentioned in the second song, “Careless.” It’s just something we thought was catchy. It’s kinda in reference to the whole record, because we were going for a more raw, vintage sound, and dial tone essentially doesn’t exist anymore. I guess it does, but not in the traditional telephone context because very few people have home phones anymore.

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