Tough Age
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Tough Age

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE | AFM

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2014
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Formed after the death of Korean Gut, Mint Records released the debut from this punk rock supergroup in Vancouver. Their songs are muscular, catchy and melodic, combining a healthy bit of pop and surf rock into the picture for a clean and wholesome sound. Their record hits like a ton of bricks and they do it as fun and effortlessly as possible. - Styrofoam Drone


Following releases from acts like Jay Arner, Renny Wilson and Pick a Piper this year, Mint Records continues to rope in new acts. The latest band to join the long-running imprint is psych-tinged Vancouver-based garage combo Tough Age.

"I think we're a great fit, because right now Mint is a label that is taking chances, and it's great to see them doing that; obviously I appreciate it because we're the biggest chance yet," frontman Jarrett K. tells Exclaim! in an exclusive interview.

The band was formed out of the ashes of the groups Korean Gut and Apollo Ghosts, and played their first show in January of this year. They aim to release their debut album via Mint in late 2013.

"The LP is completely finished and in the process of getting pressed. It's self-titled — I feel weird naming a debut record, I don't know why? I guess I blame the Ramones — and if all goes to plan it should be out in November."

He goes on to explain that the Mint deal was both a surprise and an entirely organic arrangement. "I've known Shena [Yoshida] from Mint for quite a while, so it wasn't like some unapproachable fortress of a label, or at least if it was it was one containing people whom I've watched Blue Velvet with in their living room."

Ultimately, it was their friend and now labelmate Jay Arner who got the ball rolling.

"We recorded the album with our friend Jay Arner, whose record just came out on Mint. Jay was pretty instrumental in getting us in touch with Mint, and with the record in general — he recorded it, mixed it, took our press photo [above] and let me store stuff in his house for a month. He's great. I've worked with Jay in the past, and he's a pretty laid-back guy as far as feedback goes, but he seemed really psyched on what we were doing and very into the recordings, and with his excitement over what we were doing together, I guess it was only natural it came up around Shena and Randy [Iwata] at Mint."

Then music festival season started. Jarrett initially ran into Shena at Music Waste, where his new band and the album they were working on came up casually. He sent her some tracks, and the label wanted to have a meeting. The next time they'd all be available for a sit-down chat would be Calgary's Sled Island, which proved disastrous due to the flood that ravaged the city and ultimately saw the festival get cancelled.

"We were supposed to all meet up during Sled Island, but that didn't work out so well obviously… Shena and I were trying to find an open bar to talk in as they quite literally flipped their 'open' signs to closed in our faces. I think Randy got caught at a Tim Horton's by the airport? It was insane. So we met up for lunch when we all got back from the flood, and that was about it."

With a background in Vancouver's DIY scene, the jump to a larger label might raise questions for some. In the case of Tough Age working with Mint, however, Jarrett explains that it's all about the company's ethics.

"You can work with a bigger label and keep your ideals just as easily as you can be DIY and still act like a piece of shit. The thing that appealed to me about Mint is that they really aren't any different than anyone running a record label out of their basement, they've just been doing it longer, they've had some successes, and they know how to play the game.

"Mint have been incredibly receptive to my input, they're not telling us what to do in any way. We're still booking our own tours, or Ketamines are, we're doing our own art, I'm paying the graphic designers, we're doing lacquers with the guy I like to use, all that. The only reason you would have any hesitancy is that you have some idea of what your 'image' is, and image is a realm strictly for assholes."

As for what they hope to accomplish with this higher-profile label, Jarrett says the band's goals remain modest.

"What I hope to accomplish is that people will dig the record, and we can go on tour and play for them without driving ourselves into total poverty and working double shifts for three months afterwards to make up for it. Mint are supportive and they're great at what they do, so they can get the record out there and make it so maybe people will want to see us."

In addition to the new LP, Tough Age have plans to release a 7-inch EP on Mammoth Cave Recording Co. in 2014. Stay tuned for more information on all of their releases as they become available. - Exclaim


Mint Records in Vancouver is currently prepping to release the debut LP from Canadian fuzz-rockers TOUGH AGE. The band is also based in Vancouver, featuring a cherry-picked line-up of shredders from plenty of past local bands. The band is spearheaded by frontman Jarrett K. (who was previously in Korean Gut), rounded out by guitarist Penny “Agamemnon” Clark, Lauren Smith on bass and Chris Martell on drums. Clarks buzzy, trashed-up guitar crunches lead the track with a crushing snarl, fortified by a buff and wall-like rhythm section underneath. Noisy and melodic guitar jangles are scattered into the tight rhythms, followed by Clark’s soaring background vocals. In the end it’s like a trashier form of head-splitting power-punk, and this is still only the first single from the album! You can hear “Sea of White” right below, and you can also place your pre-order for the LP now. The vinyl drops on November 12th and features that infintely-awesome comic book-collage album art. Dig it! - Styrofoam Drone


Canadian foursome Tough Age create a kind of controlled chaos on their self-titled debut, which drops Nov. 12 via Mint Records. With thrashing and relentless guitars and no shortage of fuzzy hooks, Jarrett K. (vocals, guitar), Penny “Agamemnon” Clark (guitar), Lauren Smith (bass) and Chris Martell (drums) create the illusion of reckless abandon in their sound, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear that there is quite the steady hand behind it.

Check it out for yourself on today’s free MP3, ‘Sea of White.’ Clocking in at just over two-and-a-half minutes, the lo-fi gem is a great example of the group’s meticulously executed wildness.

“I tend to write songs either when waking up in the middle of the night or when I have things I should be doing that are much more pressing than songwriting,” Jarrett K. tells Diffuser.fm. “‘Sea of White’ was a combination of the two: written in the middle of the night after passing out the night before while on a deadline at work.”

“I had recently been experiencing some ‘life issues’ as well, and this storm of social anxiety manifested itself in a dream about drowning that carried into waking life and things went from there,” he adds. - Diffuser


Picking up from what we are all forced to contend with and confront every day, is former Korean Gut headmaster, Jarrett K. with a sound as tough as the world around him. Life is tough, paying rent, room, board and beer is tough, so Jarrett ushers in the Tough Age, premiering the drowned and out, "Sea of White". The Vancouver role model of Apollo Ghosts, Role Mach fame enlisted bassist Lauren Smith, guitarist Penny 'Agamemnon' Clark and Collapsing Opposites / Sightlines Chris Martell on the motor-steady percussion.

Combining decades of attitude, sweat, fury, and noise; their "fade in, fade out" minor chord clamor is brought out in full force by none other than our hero, Jay Arner, setting up shop at the production helm. The embodiment of the anxiety and the ecstasy fulfills everything you love about the grip, snarl and rip of the greatest stage destroyers ever. "Breathe in, breathe out, two lungs, can't shout, drown it out, drown it out, in a sea of white, drown it out, drown it out in a sea of white..." The fear and life loathing becomes ground and gets obliterated in primal sing-alongs and astral plain chord fire that maneuvers like a stomped up gear box hit by the pedals down into the asphalt's surface. The coasting crunch and guitar dirge creates a bursting reaction like the chemical chain effect of human responses where the impulse is to adapt and create something harder, louder and tougher than life itself. - Impose


Tough Age opened, playing its third show ever. Featuring members of Korean Gut and Sightlines, Tough Age dealt gritty, vaguely hardcore-tinged pop, frontman’s Morrissey T-shirt be damned. But the Age like to mix things up, too, and in a change of pace, the second-to-last song was a nod to the band’s previous life as Korean Gut. It took awhile for the crowd to warm up to them, but by the end of the band’s set, they were asking for more." - Discorder


"NEEDS, Ketamines, and Korean Gut turned in energetic sets, with the latter's sardonic surf rock showing that their buzz is well-earned." - Exclaim.ca


"Fist City came across as laid-back, compared with the energy of the other bands, and the Lethbridge act was definitely one-upped by the tirelessly spirited Korean Gut, which ended the evening with a high-octane bang. If the audience was sick of surf rock at this point, you simply couldn’t tell. Forming the first real mosh pit of the night, the audience members bounced and shoved each other around like a bunch of kids let loose at recess, soaking up Korean Gut’s summery retro melodies as heavy bass lines rolled over the room in waves of the noisiest, peppiest garage pop.

Peeling off his soggy shirt, mesmerizing singer-guitarist Jarrett Evan Samson declared, “Don’t be ashamed of your body!” And that was as good a message as any to take away from this sweatiest of record-store concerts." - Georgia Straight


Jarrett Evan Samson of Korean Gut appeared as a hurricane in board shorts and attacked the crowd with a wall of noise I never thought possible from a single guitarist. Korean Gut abandoned the irreverence of the Courtneys and replaced it with self-loathing, angst and fury. Going as far as dedicating a song to a girl who had left him and moved to Germany and describing with vindictive glee how her Visa had been declined. But for reals, Korean Gut is one of the best new bands in Vancouver. Their song “If You Want” is a perfect lo-fi surf jam and seeing them live proves they have a lot more material behind them and EVERYONE should be excited for every one of their upcoming releases. - CJSF 90.1 FM


You should be surfing for singles too, especially when there’s no shortage of smashingly superb local gems out there like Korean Gut, a four-piece combo new to these ears who have been plying their Phantom Surfers-meets-scruffy-pop trade for a few months now. The recently released Your Misery, Our Benefit EP kicks off finely with the treble-inducing tuneage of its title track, while the vocal-only number “If You Want” makes me shimmy with glee. Things get spooky on “The Creeper,” but closer “Gin Gold” ends things off with strumming and drumming good times. Instantly likeable, the EP gives a nostalgic nod to the lo-fi instro-craze that engulfed the Coast in the decade previous—and they do it with mucho gusto. Find it and flip out! - Discorder


In various repackaging of the same stale ideas, the lo-fi garage genre has been relentlessly crammed down our throats in the past few years, rendering itself meaningless with cookie-cutter songwriting and a samey aesthetic. Thankfully, some new acts are pushing that template in new directions. Along with Lethbridge’s Ketamines — who spice things up with fascinating arrangements and a heavy dose of psych — are Vancouver’s Korean Gut, whose surf-leaning choices mark a changing, er, tide.

“I still think the band is pretty weird,” says Korean Gut frontman Jarrett Evan Samson. “We sort of float in this ether between being a pop band, a garage band, a straight-up punk band and a surf band, and I think our songs actually stylistically reach pretty far.”

That expansive genre study should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the members, whose previous and current endeavours are countless and wildly diverse. When not working with the art-damaged rock music of Collapsing Opposites or Apollo Ghosts, Samson himself was most recently a member of the noise troupe Shipyards.

“My writing in that band often consisted of ‘put contact mic on cymbal, hit cymbal a lot,’” Samson says. “I guess I wanted an outlet to try and see whether I could write pop songs and, truthfully, have a band where I could be the frontman. The jury’s still out on whether either of those worked out.”

Samson’s self-awareness shines through in our conversation, but that’s for good reason — despite top-shelf, endlessly catchy songwriting on the band’s Mammoth Cave debut, Your Misery, Our Benefit, the group has yet to find a niche at home. “Maybe it’s my martyr complex talking,” Samson says, “but I feel relatively ignored in Vancouver, so I don’t feel very influenced by what people are doing, at least artistically, in Korean Gut.”

If there’s any distinguishable mark the city has left on the band, however, it’s a negative one. “I think Vancouver influences me in as much as it’s an oppressive place to live as an artist,” Samson says. “The music, the art and the community surrounding it is the only thing that keeps me here.”

With that in mind, Samson sees greener pastures in our currently slushy landscapes. “If we lived in Calgary, I think we would sound better than we do, honestly. Alberta brings out the best in me.”

It’s understandable, then, that Korean Gut is trying its hardest to be an Albertan band. Aside from regular recordings with Mammoth Cave’s Paul Lawton (who Samson describes as his “scuzzy George Martin”), the group recently recruited Lethbridge expat and formed Myelin Sheath Cassandra Ward as a full-time member. When he’s available, Fist City’s Evan Van Reekum also sits in with the band.

In fact, Samson’s love for the Lethbridge crew is palpable. “I trust the Mammoth Cave’s taste as much as I trust my own, which is saying something.... This has all come about by just playing shows and hanging out together for a number of years, and was all pretty natural. The best thing music has done is introduce me to those cats from the Cave.”

It’s at the point where Korean Gut may as well just uproot to our landlocked province. After all, despite their surf-influenced sounds, they won’t be missing the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. “I went surfing a few times in my youth. In the rain. In Oregon,” Samson says, then admits, “No, we don’t surf.”

Korean Gut’s surf mixtape

To prove he knows his way around the (sound) waves, we had Korean Gut frontman Jarrett Evan Samson make us some surf rock recommendations. Here are his top picks for your waterproof iPod.

The Nautiloids — “Nautiloid Surf”

Like a surf version of The Shaggs. I encountered this on some bootleg instro-comp years ago and it killed me with its perfect naiveté. The A-side (“Nautiloid Reef”) is maybe even better, but I might rip that one off at some point so I went with this one.

Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys — “Kanjinsho”

There is no better surf guitarist than Takeshi Terauchi, period. Proof? This is a traditional Japanese folk song, appropriated into a surf masterpiece. Picking one song to highlight for him was almost impossible. Perfect music.

Les Jaguars — “Guitare Jet”

These Québécois freak-rockers take standard surf structures for a walk on this number and come back with one of those perfect fuzzy-delay lead lines that I wish I could write — but I’d never be badass enough to break my own amp speakers to make custom effects.

Yuzo Kayama & The Launchers — “Demure Damsel”

Laid-back surf-swing from one of Japan’s biggest stars. This song just has this perfect ease to it, the waves rolling out over the sands while you hold hands with your best girl and... watch a turtle crawl ashore, or something. I don’t know.

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet — “Bennett Cerf”

The lead in this song is pretty much my blueprint for my own surf instrumentals... it’s so simple and perfect. I can’t play the guitar at all, so simple is always my best bet - FFWD Weekly


Discography

"Tough Age" s/t LP November 12, 2013 Mint Records
"50 Girls 50" 7" EP January 2014 Mammoth Cave Recording Co.
first single from LP "Sea of White" charting on Canadian college campus/ CBC Radio 3's R3-30
Plays on WFMU & KDVS

#2 on Earshot! Canada radio station

Top 50 for College radio stations across the U.S, #1 in Atlanta, Orlando, Portland & more

Photos

Bio

Tough Age is culmination-rock. The sound of four radical adults with shared decades of experience, chops and killer record collections coming together to create charismatic, idiosyncratic pop songs for the ages.

Following the dissolution of Vancouvers beloved surf-punks Korean Gut, frontman Jarrett K. (also a member of Apollo Ghosts, Role Mach and too many more bands to list) cherry-picked a stacked line-up for his next project. Penny Agamemnon Clark provides a jangly drone-wash of guitar and backup vox. Lauren Smith holds down the low end with beating heart basslines. Finally, Chris Martell (Sightlines, Collapsing Opposites, and last seen with Jarrett in a Minutemen cover band) rounds out the dream team with monster fills on the kit.

For their stated sonic inspirations, the band is quick to whip off a laundry list of musical heroes. From lo-fi godfathers Guided By Voices to the New Zealand fuzz-pop of Toy Love, the Clean and Bird Nest Roys, they also dig deep into Canadian garage 45s of the 60s from names like the Townsmen, Jury and Ferraris of Canada. Heck, there might even be a dash of Tommy James and the Shondells, plus the cartoon bubblegum of the Archies, Groovy Ghoulies and Ohio Express. Yummy yummy!

Nonetheless, lingering underneath the surface of their Saturday morning sugar-rush is an ocean of emotion. Channeling his feelings into sub-three-minute pop songs, Jarretts lyrics touch upon break-ups (both romantic and musical), dreaming of a different life, and in his words, being mutually complicit in agony. This internal exorcism comes across in the music --- placid one moment, frenzied the next --- and in his mind serves as healthy catharsis. I don't like therapy or drugs, so it's sort how I medicate myself, Jarrett laughs. I write these songs to get rid of them. I don't cut myself, I just write a catchy ditty.

So what does it actually sound like? Tough Age tapped fellow Mint Records signee Jay Arner for the production of their debut LP, and the results are immaculate. Emerging from the gritty basement recordings of previous projects, these golden-hued tunes mix head-rush rippers, swoon-worthy slow jams and hooks for days. From the barbwire riffs of Were Both To Blame to the beach blanket bingo of Open It Up and frenetic fills of Cocaine Vouchers, the band slows things down with the stop-start Ticket to Ride-beat of Have You Seen Her, paisley-pop jangle of Seahorse and soda shop romance of The Heart of Juliet Jones. For fans of timeless songwriting from an off-kilter filter, it doesnt get much better than this.

Jesse Locke

Band Members