The Constantines with Oneida and Grand Total at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Saturday (September 22). $8. 416-968-2001.
guelph-based indie rockers the Constantines have been touted as everything from the bastard offspring of Fugazi and Bruce Springsteen to the new saviours of rock 'n' roll. That's a lot of hyperbole for one band to stomach without developing an Iggy Pop-sized ego. In person, however, they're more like the endearingly awkward boys next door -- charming, shy and attitude-free.
The foursome remain level-headed after being picked as a best bet during Canadian Music Week and then dropping their very well-received self-titled disc. A mix of lit-savvy agit-prop lyrics, relentless drumming, layers of power-punk guitar and gravelly Tom Waits-ish vocals, the record's been receiving wide-ranging props.
Guitarist-vocalist Steve Lambke admits that the Cons are still reeling from the impact. "It's just weird to read things about yourself or to see your picture in places where you normally wouldn't see your picture."
It's equally strange to see yourself misrepresented in print. The press has bestowed mythical status on the flyer-promoted, all-ages pwyc show featuring the Cons and other Guelph underground indie bands that was hosted by Lambke and fellow vox/axeman Bry Webb in the basement of their shared house.
"We didn't create that scene," groans Lambke affably. "We're just the only band from it that the newspapers in Toronto have talked to."
He makes a face. "The "basement band' keeps coming up in articles like it's a novelty or a gimmick, but it's not a big deal. You just open your house up and get to meet awesome people and listen to awesome music without taking off your shoes. You don't even have to take your pyjamas off!"
Gigs at Ted's Wrecking Yard and Lee's Palace in late February and March of 2001 had critics praising their explosive onstage energy. The Con men -- Lambke, Webb, Wehrle and drummer Doug MacGregor -- have just finished a tour of the northeastern U.S. supporting American rockers Oneida. The Brooklyn-based band joins them at Lee's this Saturday.
"I hadn't heard of Oneida before the tour, but they're definitely one of the best bands I've seen in a long time!" Lambke effuses. "I don't think anyone's heard of them here, but people will be talking about them after this show."
Most of the articles written about the Constantines compare them to the obvious culprits -- the Clash, Fugazi -- without asking the individual members for their input. There's a long pause while the boys ponder.
"The article's gonna be, like, "I asked the Constantines lots of questions and they didn't say anything!' Total silence, confused looks." Lambke laughs nervously.
Wehrle interjects, "I guess the Fugazi influence came from what I listened to when I was growing up. I don't really listen to tons of music now."
"We don't have money, any of us, to buy music," Lambke laughs. "The thing is, none of us likes music at all.
"It's all a scam!"