Taking care of business

KEN Mode pair a knowledge of accounting with noisy metalcore

It’s arguable that finance touches every aspect of life but it seems like the business world rarely intersects with the extreme-music universe. Which is why Winnipeg-bred noise act KEN Mode who are undeniably one of Canada’s fastest-rising exports are such an anomaly: Drummer Shane Matthewson and guitarist brother Jesse come from the accounting world. They’ve referred to their band — and the production associated with their band — in small-business terms. They’ve converted the success of their Juno-winning LP 2012’s Venerable and its bowel-stirring followup Entrench into government funding — and have been vocal about the process. And for their efforts they’ve even been praised by Forbes for manipulating the music biz effectively using their skills to propel KEN Mode beyond the DIY sphere.

Jesse Matthewson who we reach in Winnipeg on a rare break in KEN Mode’s touring schedule is plenty proud of his achievements — and that he spent all that time in organization behaviour courses while earning a marketing major. “Most bands don’t give us flack for it but there have been people in the industry who’ve trash-talked us for using government funding or having organizational skills” says Matthewson. “But those are the people who probably also don’t pay taxes. So I say fuck ’em.”

Besides it’s mind-boggling that anyone would berate a band for accepting funding that’s made available to them. “We run our band differently in that we treat it as a business. So many bands don’t and they have to throw their lives away because of it. Really we’re only able to live because of the grant work we put in. Places like Canada Norway and Sweden are a little different in that there’s funding available for the arts. And I mean why should we be giving grants to Feist? If our horrible noisy music can get government funding instead of some indie pop band then I say great.”

Plus Matthewson says he doesn’t plan on going back into the accounting world. (Though it might not be true of Shane who earned his CA.) Still he admits that the band is stuck in a “ South Park middle ground” where he gets to see both extremes: Sriracha-and-bacon-loving metal types condemn working within the confines of industry while the business-minded co-workers of his former life can’t comprehend why they’d pursue a career in music. “I can’t take the soapbox preaching that goes on on both sides” he laughs. “I’m too old for that shit.”

So are we. So we get off the topic of band administration and talk music namely KEN Mode’s blistering Entrench . Matthewson says it’s their most “varied yet aggressive” record yet and we’re inclined to agree. Built on an AmRep-worshipping noise foundation they’ve added spurts of dark hardcore and post-metal and accordingly it’s an album that’d pique the ears of plenty of Cursed or Neurosis fans.

It’s a sonic recipe that’s earned them plenty of international accolades — beyond the Juno they won for Venerable Entrench has led the band on all-year touring first with Today is the Day (who are an obvious KEN Mode influence) and Norma Jean. Heck they even landed a spot playing with R. Kelly at Pitchfork Fest — a strange place to be for a band who cut its teeth in Winnipeg’s noise scene. “Kittens was the reason I wanted to be in a band” he says. “We started in ’99 and Winnipeg has had a really healthy noise scene — bands like Meatrack Malefaction and Under Pressure. Lots of new bands like Dead Ranch are coming up too.”

As for new KEN Mode Matthewson say he hopes to get in the studio next January. “I’m already so sick of playing these songs” he adds. Until then though he says he’s glad to be part of a metalcore moment in Canada: Bands like Baptists and the Great Sabatini are thriving and bands like KEN Mode are actually getting government funding. “Yeah” he laughs. “It’s so cool to be part of it.”