The Spades
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The Spades


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"Canadian Musician Magazine"

James McKenty And The Spades' album, Burning On Fumes, was co-produced by The Tragically Hip's Gord Sinclair, who knew McKenty from his native Kingston, ON and took in a show. The trio's weekly gigs reportedly pull in a regular 100 strong fans, who stay after the show to get autographs and buy a ton of CDs. Recording the Peterborough-based band - McKenty (guitar, piano, vocals), Winchester Street (drums), and Chachi Robichaud (bass) - at The Hip's studio The Bathouse, in Bath, ON, the 10 tracks have a casual, but rockin' vibe that gives nods to vintage rock 'n' roll like the Animals and Yardbird, and current mainstays Blue Rodeo and Neil Young. There's even something vaguely reminiscent of Gord Downie in McKenty's voice. About half the songs are co-pros between Sinclair and McKenty, and the rest by McKenty alone, who also writes all the band's material. The Spades came together in 1998 after McKenty took an engineering job at Sound On Sound Studios, where his first project was recording the legendary Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins, who apparently imparted this piece of advice: "It'll be a long road son, but the big time is always right around the corner." The band has since opened for The Hip, Blind Boys Of Alabama, Jim Cuddy and April Wine.

Karen Bliss

- March 2005

"Chartattack CD Review"

"All lame critic’s puns aside, this group really does have talent in spades; i.e., that ostentatious but unsatisfying quality known as potential. Not every band has it, but The Spades do and they make it known on this album. "Apple Of My Eye" is the shiniest of the bushel, coming off like a B-side to Wilco’s A.M. Other songs, such as "Salvation Army Love" and "I Like To Burn Things" show that lyricist James McKenty knows when to dish the pretension. One can only hope they continue to sow, since their future should reap plenty for listeners."
Marc Boudignon -

"Ottawa Live!"

"The Spades are an interesting roots rock three piece, already hooked into campus crusade. See the Spades before they break big. Then you can razz your envious pals for decades to come."

- Ottawa Xpress

"The Spades Let It Grow With An Urban-Rural Mix"

The artwork shows a city skyline in the background, with overgrown weeds and other flora jostling for space near the front. For James McKenty And The Spades, this album cover means a lot.

"We're proud of this CD," McKenty says of the newly released Let It Grow, "because we tried to be as honest as possible. Some songs have a bit more production and some are more bare-bones than anything we've done before.

"It seems vague, but we are not a big city rock band, and we are not a smalltown country band. That's why the cover design appealed to us — it looks like a metropolis growing out of some vines."

The neither/nor approach is what works best for The Spades, as it allows them to bring in the best of the city-rock and town-country sounds. It also works geographically, as they situate themselves in the neither-big-nor-small city of Peterborough, Ontario.

"Peterborough has always had a vibrant music scene," McKenty says. "And it's easy to see when you walk into the arts collective we have here called The Peterborough Arts Umbrella.

"One room may be filled with paintings, and another couple rooms are recording facilities, and if you sit for about 10 minutes you'll see about four bands coming in and out to rehearse or grab their equipment."

McKenty found his Spades — drummer Thomas "Winchester" Street and bassist Josh "Chachi" Robichaud — in Peterborough, too. McKenty is finding that three is the perfect number.

"We think the strength comes from the simple three-piece, with everyone carrying their own weight. In such a small unit, it sometimes feels as if we can read each other's minds when playing. There is an anticipation of something about to happen, something we have not done before, so we follow that instinct."

- ChartAttack

"THE SPADES "best garage rock""

The Spades are simply the best garage outfit in Ontario. Ask Gord Sinclair of the Tragically Hip -- he produced the Peterborough band's new CD, Let It Grow. It conjures up vinyl visions of Crazy Horse and The Heartbreakers. And The Spades are even better live. - Hamilton Spectator

"Spades on the verge of making it big"

The Spades on verge of making it big
Peterborough Examiner

Making it BIG (as in major shows as the featured performer) in the music business is more difficult than earning a living playing professional hockey.
Hockey is more organized with leagues offering tryouts, coaches picking you and you can actually get drafted.
The music business is all about knocking hard at doors.

It is about donating your life to the music; donating your time to that world, until you can make a decent income.
Peterborough group The Spades is knocking and keeps making inroads.

Last year, for instance, the three-piece band toured with Matthew Good. This year it will get to perform at two major events with The Tragically Hip and Sam Roberts.

That's getting close to making it BIG, but you still have to look after the small stuff.

Making it "big" might be nice, but playing the music is what they are all about. Without the music, part of them would die much like the hockey player who loves the game so much he or she is willing to play or go anywhere to get a game. The Spades do the same for the gig.

For the last few months the rock and roll group has toured with Grady, Gordie Johnston's new band (one time leader of Big Sugar) in Ontario and Canada's east coast.

Touring for two months can be difficult but not the same grind as playing every weekend in the bars, says McKenty, whose charisma on stage is part of the magnet that draws people to the Spades' performances.

James writes the lyrics while the three guys work together to come up with the music.

He doesn't struggle with the pursuit of "making it big."

"We really, just focus on the band and playing. The other side comes when it comes and if we work hard enough we make our own luck.

"We just work hard at what we do."
He knows the band is playing better and as a result gets more shows.

"There was a time we played every Friday night at the Montreal House (and they still love it there) but now we tour more and the grind is not as bad. We go out on the road for two months and when you're home you're officially home."

"Our love of music has never declined, in fact it is growing," he says.
"There is something beautiful about the three-piece band. We are all good friends and that hasn't changed
"With some bands that's hard to maintain but with us we just keep trying to improve."

Their love for what they do is obvious when you see them perform.
How does one know when you are good? We have all seen bands that are bad but continue to think they are good, but how does one know when they are truly good? And The Spades are truly good.

"I think for us one of the most gratifying things is people (like Matthew Good, The Hip, Grady) asking us to tour, asking us to go out on the road."

The new album will be "a little bit different. It feels a bit moodier but still is a rock and roll album."

They have already shot a music video in Peterborough for the song "The Revenge of Johnny Laundry." They shot some of the scenes at East City Coffee Shop, outside the Bank of Montreal on Simcoe Street and other places. Toronto's Frame Bender shot the video and is now putting it together. The company did a documentary on the group a while back then began to help with this recent video.

That's what happens when people meet, see, or hear The Spades; they want to make sure others get to see and hear this talent and are willing to help in any way they can.

Like hockey players who suddenly have scouts and agents talking with them, willing to help them get to where they should be... in a bigger arena.

That's when you know you are good.

- - -

Coming up for The Spades

Where: Montreal House this Saturday with Dan Griffin and the regrets, show time 9 p. m.

Where: June 27, Wiarton, Ontario Airfield with Tragically Hip, Sam Roberts Band and the Arkells

Where: July 23 Harris Park in London, Ont., with the Tragically Hip, Kathleen Edwards and Arkells

Copyright © 2009 Peterborough Examiner - Peterborough Examiner


"Let it Grow" 2007
1. Snub Harbour Falcons
2. Ultrasound 2
3. On My Mind
4. In the movies
5. The next round
6. The Protestor
7. Ultrasound 1
8. Please stand by
9. The Rising sons
10. Head like a hurricane
11. Great asteroid

" Burning On Fumes" 2004
1. I Like To Burn Things
2.Bring Down
3. Apple Of My Eye
4.Salvation Army Love
6. Gorilla Thought
7.Mafia Sting
8. Misery Loves Co.
9.You Are Fuel
10. Burning On Fumes



Looking at today and working back, it’s easy to see how The Spades have built such a strong fan base; good old fashioned hard work.

They’ve just completed a new album, “Subatomic” set to be released on March 23, 2010 through the band’s newly formed independent record label, Pirate Radio Records. Recorded at the Bathouse with Gord Sinclair (The Tragically Hip) producing, “Subatomic” captures the essence of what the The Spades do best; gut wrenching rock and roll, catchy melodies and impassioned delivery. A tour with Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar/Grady) led to Gordie mixing the album in Texas and sending the tracks to Howie Weinberg in New York for mastering. Promising to be their best effort yet, “Subatomic” features the single, “The Revenge of Johnny Laundry” which is currently charting on rock radio across the country and was voted the #1 song for 2009 on The Wolf 101.5.

Born out of the belly of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, James McKenty (vox/guitar), Tommy Street (drums/vox), and Josh Robichaud (bass/vox) have toured across Canada several times in the past two years including a national tour with Matthew Good and shows with The Sam Roberts Band, Blue Rodeo, The Trews and The Tragically Hip (to name a few). They’ve played at venues as diverse as Massey Hall to the Virgin Festival in Calgary; and it’s these performances that have assisted The Spades in bringing their influence of 1960's and 1970's rock to a new generation.

Dark and dirty, just like the power trio's that preceded them. With nothing to hide behind, The Spades have developed an army of sound. The Hamilton Spectator dubbed them "simply the best garage rock outfit in Ontario", and recently The Peterborough Examiner had this to add; "The Spades: On the Verge of Breaking Big".