The Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band
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The Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band

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Jan
14
The Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band @ La Sala Rossa

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Jan
13
The Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band @ Clark Hall Pub

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Jan
12
The Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band @ The Crowbar (King Street)

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Live music is easy to come by in Kingston—thanks in part to the considerably-sized student population—but it’s difficult to find a band like the Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band. It’s rare to find a band whose performances feature a welcome combination of excellent music, stellar stage presence, and, of course, frat-boy humour, which was exactly what the Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band provided for the boisterously enthusiastic crowd at Clark Hall Pub on Friday night.

While a good deal of the student body uses Fridays to recover from Thursday night debauchery at Ale House, this didn’t stop the crowds from filling Clark Hall Pub. Without the aid of an opening band, the Queen’s-founded quintet shuffled onto stage and effortlessly energized the crowd by opening with a vocally-dynamic cover of Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Streets.” For anyone unfamiliar with the JKKB, it was obvious that the band places a youthful sense of humour high on their list of priorities.

The JKKB formed at Queen’s in the early days of 2002, then consisting of Colin Pendrith on guitar, Connor Thompson on drums, David Wencer on keys, Jamie Cousin on bass and Daniel Quinlan as vocalist and guitarist. It was not long before the band became one of the best-known acts on campus and in Kingston. This remarkably talented quintet made their return to their alma mater on Thursday and delivered on every expectation the audience may have had. Despite Wencer’s departure and the substitution of new keyboardist Alex Bonebakker, the band remained true to their roots of diverse music and good, old-fashioned, lowbrow humour.

The good times continued as Quinlan interspersed songs with jokes, covering such crude topics as “oral contraceptives” in a way that was almost tasteful. The crowd was definitely into the show, as people gravitated towards the stage, whether it was to dance or take photos of the band. While the set list was varied, ranging from covers to more mellow tunes, a large proportion of songs combined the upbeat narrative styles of Blink 182 with the peppy vibe of The Dandy Warhols. It’d be easy to say that this is why the JKKB is so popular, but that assumption would sell short the charisma and excellent chemistry between the band members that blatantly emanates during their performances.

That’s not to downplay the great stage presence of Quinlan, Pendrith and Bonebakker, in particular. Quinlan sang his heart out all night long and frequently danced on stage. The band displayed their chemistry through their random exchanges of boy love that would make The Killers proud, and the way that they seamlessly interacted with the crowd—as well as the crowds’ boisterous chants of “Take off your shirt!” Specifically, keyboardist and newest band member Bonebakker proved to be a crowd favourite, acting as the target of many of the crowds’ cheers and of a sign emblazoned with the message, “Bone me, Bonebakker!”

When minor technical difficulties surfaced with one of the amps, the quintet quickly worked to remedy the problem whilst Quinlan, Pendrith and Cousin played a brief “interlude” to help the crowd avoid any type of buzz-kill. The amp problem was soon forgotten as the crowd was serenaded with a cover of the Beatles’ “Drive My Car,” as well as a fresh track written by Quinlan describing his experiences when he was working at a slaughterhouse and had a romance with an older woman who worked the bone-saw.

All jokes and frat-boy behaviour aside, the band is serious about two things: putting on a great show and showcasing their strong musical talents. If you ever have a chance to see them play in the near future, I wouldn’t pass it up. Who knows—you just might find solace in the fact that Queen’s produces more than just megalomaniacs vying to get into that ultra-prestigious grad school.
- Queen's Journal - TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2006 - ISSUE 25, VOLUME 133


Then there was the Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band.

Fans who have followed JKKB throughout their musical career were treated to an unbelievable performance with the inimitable David Wencer’s keys and the grizzly vocals of Dan “The Plant” Quinlan. Guitarist Colin Pendrith tossed his blonde mane and sawed out devastating blues riffs with equal aplomb, while the rhythm section of Connor Thompson on drums and Jamie Cousin on bass kept all the rabid Jack fans trembling with barely-repressed ardour. It has been extremely gratifying to follow this band from their early days of yore (a year ago) as they have evolved from an extremely tight cover band to a group that has far surpassed the expectations of a mere “student band.” The slobbering praise for the group was not relegated to the Journal judges alone: the band predictably captured the title and won this year’s Battle. For the traditional encore, JKKB graciously invited their friends from the other competing bands for a rousing rendition of “Black or White,” proving that although they’ve transcended the cover band mantle, they can still do Michael Jackson like no one else.
- Queen's Journal - FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2004 - ISSUE 39, VOLUME 131


Saturday afternoon, I find myself sitting in a Kingston watering hole sharing a beer with Colin Pendrith, Connor Thompson and Dan Quinlan of The Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band. We are discussing the definition of a “funtop”—a raunchy, somewhat ironic JKKB ditty and a staple of their live shows.

“A ‘funtop’ results when a girl wears a shirt like this,” explains lead guitarist Pendrith as he gestures towards the plunging neckline of his semi-buttoned shirt.

Drummer Thompson expands on the definition, “But a shirt that has a side-boob view is not a funtop. A funtop is a very strict frontal thing.” Adds Pendrith, “Basically, the whole funtop thing hearkens back to our affinity for sleaze.”

Anyone who has witnessed a JKKB live show would be familiar with their tongue-in-cheek forays into the land of smut, and would also be hard-pressed not to acknowledge the Queen’s quintet as one of the most wildly entertaining and memorable live acts currently rocking in Kingston.

Thursday night, the JKKB hosted a release party to celebrate the launch of their debut CD at a packed Elixir nightclub, and they did not disappoint, serving up great big, steaming ladlefuls of their brand of TGIF blues-tinged southern rock. With shirtless keyboardist Dave Wencer prancing and writhing onstage like an electrocuted gummi-worm, singer Quinlan in fine googly-eyed, wailing rock-star form and bassist Jamie Cousin’s rendition of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” eliciting boozy huzzahs from the crowd, the night went swimmingly. Except for the fact that the band’s self-titled debut album was not actually available for sale.

“We got screwed by the pressing company,” said Pendrith. “We’re small fish and there are probably lots of more important people who they had to get CDs to on time,” he said.

However, Thompson did say that the CD should be available by next week.

“If you email us at jackbackpack@hotmail.com, we will personally deliver it to your door.”

Nevertheless, the band remains decidedly upbeat about having released their debut.

“I think you’ll really enjoy it,” said Quinlan, “The album is fairly versatile. There’s pretty much at least a song on there that everybody’s going to like.”

This confidence seems to have rubbed off in the recording of the album, which was recorded at Longshot studios in Kingston.

“I definitely neglected school in order to record this album,” Pendrith said. “I spent a bunch of my tuition money on the recording, so unless we sell a certain number of copies of the album, I don’t get to graduate,” he said.

“Hopefully people will buy this, but you know what, I figure in 10 years ... is my English degree really going to open that many doors for me?”

Despite this being the first time in the studio for the band, they say the process wasn’t especially arduous.

“The recording was a pretty painless process,” Thompson said. “I never felt overly pressured to work super-fast. There were definitely places on the album where we probably could have done a bit better, which time restraints wouldn’t allow us to improve upon, but I think we took a fairly relaxed approach in the studio.”

Fans who have grown attached to JKKB’s energetic retro style will be relieved to hear that the boys were trying to capture this feel when recording the album.

“We were going for more of a ’70s production style,” Pendrith said. “We didn’t want something that was too slick.”

The wry “France (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Balm)” and the plaintive ballad “London’s Bells” are indicative of JKKB’s approach to recording their debut effort.

“We wanted to have eight songs that sound similar but kind of different. It definitely does have a throwback feel to it,” said Thompson.

In their two year existence, JKKB have justifiably amassed not only a sizable throng of followers, but have proven themselves as worthy and talented fixtures of the Kingston music scene.

With the imposing prospect of graduation—something that has traditionally been the death knell of many a talented campus band—looming in the spring for all JKKB members, will our fearless heroes bravely soldier on?

“I hope so,” said Thompson. “Dan, what do you think?”

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Quinlan replied. Thompson piped in again, “Actually, I’m really hoping to get a job where I can be phoning people and asking them for money,” he said. “No, no, wait, here’s the real plan: play music for 10 years, burn out and hit rock bottom and then we’re set for our careers as motivational speakers. We can go around to high schools and tell everyone how depraved and wretched we became.” - Queen's Journal - TUESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2005 - ISSUE 24, VOLUME 132


Best Concert

Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band

Clark Hall Pub, Mar. 25, 2004

The unquestionable highlight of the 2004 Battle of the Bands was the incomparable performance by the Jack Kerouac

Knapsack Band, a group I won’t mind travelling four hours from home to see next year. I had more fun at Clark Hall Pub that night than any other all year.
- Queen's Journal - FRIDAY, APRIL 1, 2004 - ISSUE 40, VOLUME 131


Discography

2003 - Release of 3 song demo, recorded at Longshot Media in Kingston
2005 - Release self-titled debut LP, recorded at Longshot Media in Kingston

LP received radio airplay on KROCK 105.7 in Kingston and charted on Kingston's CFRC 101.9 (#5) and Toronto's CIUT (#38... that's top 40!)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Influences: Yes, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Led Zepellin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dave Brubeck, Guess Who,

What sets us apart:

We wholeheartedly and unabashedly love performing, and it shows.

What is our story:

Formed at Queen’s University in early 2002, The Jack Kerouac Knapsack Band sprung out of a mutual appreciation on behalf of its members for music created before they were born. Colin Pendrith, Daniel Quinlan, David Wencer, Connor Thompson and James Cousin became friends and shortly thereafter bandmates.

The quintet began gigging in Kingston and quickly established itself as a premiere act around campus and the whole city. Recording a 3 song demo in 2003, the band got its first taste of the studio. After winning Queen’s University’s battle of the bands in 2004 and sharing Kingston stages with the like of April Wine, The Mudmen, Carl Dixon and the Golden Dogs, the band set out to record its first full-length album.

Using a combination of money earned at gigs and personal tuition money, the band recorded 8 tracks and 40 minutes of music at Longshot Studios in Kingston in 2004. While an album made on $3,000 was certainly a longshot, it paid off. The album sold over 450 copies and garnered radio play on Kingston’s KROCK, CFRC (charting at #5) and Toronto’s CIUT (Charting # 38). More importantly, the album displayed the strength of the band’s early songwriting abilities - a foundation which has since been built upon.

Since the album’s release the group has feverishly continued to write new material, taking what they learned from their recording experience and live shows and applying it to an improved songwriting process. Despite the band’s satisfaction with their first effort, they feel that the best is just around the corner.

Upon graduation in 2005, the band moved to Toronto, intent on bringing their creative energies to a new level. With new keyboardist Alex Bonebakker in the fold in place of the departed Wencer, the band has a revitalized and exciting energy. The band has quickly warmed to the Toronto scene, playing across town, from the NXNE festival to recurring spots at local staples like the Horseshoe Tavern and the El Mocambo.

The future of the band looks bright, with four songwriters, improved chemistry and its best songs unrecorded, another foray into the studio is on the horizon.