Mention the Karpinka Brothers and it’s likely that there will be people who think you’re referring to a family acrobatic act. Mention they’re from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and it’s likely you’ll get another look of puzzlement, as if to say, “Where the hell is that?” The most probable answer is that it’s somewhere in Canada’s furthermost hinterlands, probably boasting some frigid conditions.
Considering the fact that these two siblings are virtually unknown on this side of the American border, despite their two albums — One Brick at a Time (2008) and There’s a Light (2012) — it’s little surprise they inspire such misconceptions. And yet, the band’s music is instantly engaging. It conjures up the feel of a Cajun combo attempting to emulate the classic pop of Buddy Holly with more than a hint of the Everly Brothers besides.
Prone to dressing in matching shirts with a musical mindset that would best befit a busker, Aaron and Shawn Karpinka have made a clear commitment to their community. They freely hand out copies of their new releases and take up residence as entertainers at assisted living facilities, where they’ve garnered a committed following.
“Those are our favorite shows actually, because you hear them singing along when they can’t speak, and you see them clapping and dancing when they don’t move very much,” Aaron told the StarPhoenix. “It reminds you what music is about.”
Naturally, there’s reason to view such agreeable attitudes with suspicion, and even cynicism. We don’t like our musical heroes to simply be nice guys. They have to have a bit of an edge in order to make them credible and convincing. It doesn’t help matters that their initial album was recorded in a single day, and that their mother — their mother — was the person most responsible for its distribution.
“Our mom peddled it,” Aaron told the same interviewer. “She promoted us like she was Don King or something.” It’s little wonder that, after they introduced their mom to Gordon Lightfoot, and he asked her to assess their talents, she raved about the boys. That’s a mother’s prerogative of course, but then again, getting mum’s endorsement doesn’t exactly advance the rock star myth. Neither does that fact that the standout song from their sophomore set is tellingly titled “Everybody Wants to be My Friend.”
“The song comes from asking what real friendship is,” they’ve explained. “And we’re happy to be friends and bros to everyone.”
Their upcoming release, You Can Count On Me, reinforces that amiable image even further, thanks to its cheery melodies and a sound capable of making believers even on first encounter. Personally, I’m hooked. The lesson: Sincerity needn’t be sappy and it’s actually okay to be agreeable. Especially if you’re situated in place like Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.