Calgary punk band Jenny pays tribute to its roots
No one likes having to grow up, but it’s an inevitable part of life—and that reality isn’t lost on Sean Hamilton, singer-guitarist for Calgary roots punks Jenny. To judge by “Some Love Dies” from the band’s sophomore album, Love & Politics, it’s obvious the frontman has done his share of reflecting on the past; lyrics from the song include “You helped me throw bricks/We were young protest kids,” after which it’s revealed that the former object of the singer’s affection has moved on to a life of RRSPs, a condo, and golf clubs.
When Hamilton is reached at home, he takes the Fifth when questioned as to whether the song was inspired by one who got away.
“There’s always the one who got away,” the articulate musician says with a laugh, “and we’re not going to validate her by telling her who she is.”
Instead, he offers that “Some Love Dies” is more of a tribute to who he is and where he’s come from.
“There’s an area of Calgary that’s probably similar to Vancouver’s East Side—we call it the East End,” Hamilton says. “It’s where all the crackheads are and the derelicts are. I remember growing up there and being a little bit of a punk, where I drove bricks through Starbucks windows, or whatever I had to do to get some corporation’s attention. I fell in love down in that area—it was a safe place to hang out, skateboard, and drink.
“Now that I’m getting older, I look at Facebook and see people getting married and getting condos,” he continues. “People have settled and are happy, but that’s all it’s going to be for them. Getting a pension and retirement plan is all good, but I think there’s a lot more living to be done while we’re still young.”
Hamilton hasn’t been immune to the idea of changing things up in his life. In his younger years, he played in fast-and-loud Cowtown punk-pop acts like Voice in the Crowd and White Boy Mafia. With Jenny, he’s refocused himself musically, Love & Politics serving an even mixture of boilermaking folk and rumbling old-school punk in the vein of Against Me! and the Gaslight Anthem. Not content to play things one way, Hamilton and his bandmates also veer into dusty shit-kicker territory with the twangy “I Think I Like You” and turn down the amps for the ragged ballad “The Middle”.
The singer credits folk legend Woody Guthrie for showing him there’s more to life than punk rock.
“He made me realize that the folk song is the original protest song,” Hamilton says. “That’s how you got your message across to people—there was a time and place where that was rebellion. He showed that you can sing about things really bluntly, but with a message that was really constructive. You didn’t have to burn stuff or throw a brick through a window.”
Lyrically speaking, the album—released on Joe Keithley’s Sudden Death label—delivers exactly what its title promises. Hence, you’ll get Hamilton pouring his heart into the soulful “Reasons for Love”, as well as doing his best to get the zombified, electronics-addicted masses thinking with rockers like “News Becoming Entertainment”. Based on the results, it’s possible to grow up without selling out.
“I’ve learned,” Hamilton says, “that you can sing a song and converse with people and make them feel fulfilled with music, while still making them think.”
Jenny opens for D.O.A. at the Rickshaw Theatre on Friday (February 7).