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KEN Mode are pros at rackets and tax brackets
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Feb 21, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

KEN Mode are pros at rackets and tax brackets

The members of Juno-nominated noise rock band KEN Mode crunch numbers by day and riffs at night

OurWindsor.Ca

It’s unlikely anyone has ever listened to Jesse Matthewson seethe over KEN Mode’s pummelling, unhinged noise rock nihilism and subsequently wondered: Could this guy save me some money on my taxes?

In fact, he probably could. Matthewson and his brother, Shane, are both accountants trained at Manitoba’s Asper School of Business. They’re also the creative spine of KEN Mode — which stands for Kill Everyone Now, by the way — an anarchic, perennially pissed-off purveyor of throat-shredding tirades and titanic Shellac anti-grooves.

If it seems to you that there’s something incongruous about crunching numbers by day and eardrums by night, you’re not alone.

“It definitely helps us stand out,” laughs Jesse.

That much was obvious the first time KEN Mode was nominated for a Juno, at 2012’s soiree in Ottawa. The band triumphed in the metal/hard music category in its inaugural year, beating out the tattoo-strewn, long-haired likes of Anvil and Cauldron, bands that look every bit the part of hard-rocking, hard-living metal titans.

Then there was Shane, clad in a cerulean checked shirt tucked neatly into dressy navy trousers, and Jesse, wearing all black but still sufficiently buttoned-and-tucked business-casual that he was more concierge than Cannibal Corpse.

“We didn’t really look like the rest of the bands that were up for the metal category,” Jesse concedes. “We don’t necessarily wear the classic metal uniform. The mentality we have is different. There are a lot of people in (metal) that have that sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll mantra.

“We’ve always been on the nerdier side.”

The Matthewson brothers formed KEN Mode out of high school in 1999, while simultaneously aiming for careers that would financially support their musical passion.

For their first three albums, the balance worked, though their financial clients knew nothing of their heavy moonlighting. Bands they encountered were also in the dark, though they tended to come to a quick conclusion about the brothers.

“Yeah, that we’re nerds,” Jesse said. “They would find out we’re not all that ‘fun.’ I think we’re fun, but we don’t partake in a lot of the drug-doing that people equate with fun.”

Around 2010, the Matthewsons put book-balancing on the back burner and barrelled out onto the road full-time. Clearly, the decision paid dividends; the three albums they’ve released since have been more popular and all wrested Juno nominations, including another metal/hard music nomination at this year’s ceremony.

“Usually you tour your butt off when you’re young because you have nothing to lose: no kids, things don’t hurt, it’s OK if you’re not making money,” Jesse said. “Whereas we went to school, got jobs, then decided to quit the jobs. We were 30-year-olds.”

Matthewson turns 35 this year and, suddenly, the prospect of sleeping on floors, subsisting on roadside fast food and cramping into a van for hours on end is less charming. “I’m no spring chicken anymore.”

Just as the road became too taxing, the Matthewsons decided to reinvest some of their time.

The brothers are taking their parents’ business, MKM Management Services, and rebranding it to provide accounting, tax and business-management services for artists, combining their two areas of expertise. They’ve always kept close tabs on their costs — Jesse mentions that the band spent $20,000 on gas in 2013, for instance — in a way other groups haven’t.

Shane and Jesse have always felt that they didn’t fit in anywhere: not in hard music, not among accountants. The new venture might bridge that gap, though the ever-dimensional Jesse also mentions that he’s currently training for his first amateur kick-boxing fight on March 12.

In other words, KEN Mode will probably always occupy a bracket all their own.

“We have a whole weird, wide set of interests,” he said. “It’s this weird cross-section of not really fitting in anywhere.”

Juno nominees take care of business


Many musicians work other gigs to make ends meet. We take a look at some Juno-nominated artists.

Pharis & Jason Romero

Nominated for Traditional Roots Album of the Year

If there was a Juno for juggling, it might go to this industrious pair.

Consider that besides releasing five albums in less than seven years, the Horsefly, B.C., couple runs a custom banjo-crafting business with a four-year order backlog. They’re so busy, they accept only 25 orders per year. This year, they opened the call for orders on Jan. 1 at midnight. By 7 a.m., they’d already reached their annual quota.

Oh, and they also have a 2-year-old daughter and Pharis is eight months pregnant with a baby who’s due to arrive two days before the Junos.

“We’re tired,” laughed Pharis, 37. “We have to really, really love what we’re doing to do what we’re doing.

Chandler Levack

Nominated for Video of the Year (with co-director Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux)

Levack had just wrapped a six-hour shift running dishes at Momofuku when she took her apron off, sat in the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel and realized she’d been nominated for her second Juno in two years.

“In that moment, it just felt a little ridiculous because I feel like, if anything . . . I’m more unemployable than ever,” she laughed.

Well, a week later and Levack moved on from Momofuku, rendering the ramen joint another pit-stop in her quest to supplement her filmmaking career. She’s also worked in music journalism, as an SEO content editor, at a Russian daycare and as a helping hand at her mom’s catering business.

She and Schaulin-Rioux have now collaborated on two creative Juno-nominated videos for poppy punk band Pup, the most recent of which was made with a $20,000 MuchFACT grant and will compete against Adele and Xavier Dolan’s blockbuster “Hello.”

Levack is now writing a feature film about the Montreal indie-rock scene, but she doesn’t expect to quit the day-job hustle anytime soon.

“The idea that you could make a living as a music-video director for indie bands in Canada is really far-fetched,” she said. “It’s just a reality that if you’re an artist in Canada you’re going to need a day job.”

The Swinging Belles

Nominated for Children’s Album of the Year

Primary school teachers and band members Laura Winter and Erin Power have a secret weapon: a chorus of critics who are nothing short of blunt.

“The wonderful thing about kids is they’re brilliant, creative and incredibly honest,” said Power. “You can almost tell immediately if they like that song or not.

“It’s wonderful to workshop the songs with the kids and they’ll often hear them before anyone else does.”

Still, the St. John’s group — a trio with Power’s partner, Duane Andrews, with whom she has a 10-year-old son — can’t exactly claim that balancing full-time teaching jobs with music careers is strictly elementary.

“It’s pretty much two full-time jobs really that you have,” Power said. “We teach during the day and then we are either working on the business side of things with the marketing and promotions, or we’re (making) music and rehearsing.

“It’s a constant. We’re always at it when we’re not in school.”

Toronto Star

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