June 16, 2014
by Nick Spacek

The Sidekicks are preparing to go out on a month-long summer tour with Sundials and Dowsing. It starts July 31 in Lansing, Mich. at Mac’s Bar, and goes through August 24 at DC9 in Washington, D.C. In the meantime, they’re holed up in Seattle at an undisclosed studio, recording the follow-up to 2012’s Awkward Breeds (Red Scare/Really). We spoke with vocalist/guitarist Steve Ciolek by phone about the Ohio band’s upcoming album and what’s up with all the Weezer comparisons.

The Runout: You’re gearing up to go out on tour with Sundials, which I think is a really great pairing. How did you guys come together?

Steve Ciolek: We just, as a band, talked about all the bands we’d be excited to go out on tour with. We’re friends with Sundials and Dowsing – we’ve been friends with Sundials for like, five years, since they were this other bands called Friendly Fires – and we’ve played shows together, and this was always this thing that we’d talked about.

It made a lot of sense. They were trying to go out west at the same time, so it just kind of worked out.

It seems like the Sidekicks end up getting these great opening slots – you opened for Against Me! last year, and I saw you open for Bomb the Music Industry! a few years back. How does all that shake out?

I guess it all depends. Some of those situations are just cold calls from the other band – them calling and being like, “Do you want to go on this tour?” The Bomb the Music Industry! one – we kind of knew Jeff [Rosenstock] of Bomb the Music Industry! for a while and he was like, “Hey, we should go on tour some time,” and I just started bothering him: “Hey, are we going on tour this summer? We should go on tour.”

I kept calling him and probably annoyed him, and eventually, he just had to take us on tour, just slightly by obligation. But, it ended up being one of the most fun tours either of our bands ever did.

But, yeah – some of the tours are just where a band knows our music and just likes it – that’s how the Against Me! tour came about. They knew our music, and knew Toby from Red Scare, who puts out our records. Weird little connections like that, I guess.

What I find interesting is that the Sidekicks have this ability to play with all kinds of different bands. On record, your music comes out as super clear and poppy, but live – I don’t know of any way to describe it, other than you guys just have this amazing low end. It’s heavy pop, for lack of a better term, and I’m just curious – where does that come from?

I would say – for me – that switch ended up happening partially from just watching videos of Elvis Costello or the Replacements, who are bands where, on record, it’s just totally like a pop thing, and they embrace that. Like, these songs could be listened to by pretty much anybody. But then, live, these songs are played twice as fast and with just unbridled energy.

Also, just naturally, when we’re in the studio, it’s just easier to pull back the reins on everybody in the band – especially our drummer – but live, I think everybody ends up getting so excited, it just ends up being way faster and louder. It’s just more fun to to play that way, I think, and more fun for people in the crowd.

It’s that thing – if you want to hear the songs the way they’re on the record, then buy the record.

Yeah, I think it’s also nervousness, too. It’s not always for the best. Certain tours, we’d be opening, and on this big stage, and we’d be playing twice as fast, and sometimes, I think it’s a little confusing for people who are just like, seeing us, maybe.

Is there a way of playing to different crowds?

I don’t know. It seems like sometimes, you just feel out what the night is like or how you’re feeling. But, sometimes, I think it’s cool to scare people. In certain situations, I feel the urge to be even more ridiculous – if people are being lethargic and just sitting down – I feel like it’s just funny to scare people, kind of. Just have this insane show.

But, I don’t know. I guess it’s just show-by-show, or really, just how we’re feeling, which is how we wind up how we play.

It seems like Weezer comes up in everything I read about the Sidekicks –

Well, we’re a Weezer cover band, so that makes sense.

Is that an accurate statement?

I don’t know. We’re going to put this next record out, and there’s no way that people will say it for this one, so I don’t really think about it. On the last record, I think there was maybe one song that had a direct Weezer influence, and the rest was kind of like, because there were heavy guitars.

But, to me, it’s a total compliment. If somebody loves a band and loves their record, and finds the same things they love about that in your music, that’s what I think you’re going for. I don’t know. All music is based on itself, and based on the past – everything is built on each other. We’re all playing to the same standards, essentially, especially with pop music.

So, if you’re able to do something that is exciting for people, and doesn’t sound totally recycled – but also reminds them of the things they like about pop music or rock ‘n’ roll or whatever – then I think you’re on the right track. I don’t really mind when people throw the same things at us, because, you know, it could be worse.

So, the new album – you say that it’s definitely not going to sound like Weezer. What has caused the changes since Awkward Breeds?

I don’t know. There definitely weren’t reasons for the changes in the songs, but I think mainly, I just wanted to make a pop record. More so than the last record, which – the way we did it – it was just, “this is us as a band.” Almost all the guitar parts were played live. There were a few overdubs, but they were mainly rhythm things, usually. That album was just us, live, in a room.

This one – no rules are set, or restraints that we had in the studio. We just went in, and it’s not done yet, but I think that’s the main difference: it’s a pop record.

Where are you guys recording?

I don’t know if I’m allowed to spill the beans yet, actually. I’m not sure if we’re allowed to say yet. So, that makes it mysterious!

It makes it seem like it’s going to be pretty awesome when we find out.

Yeah. It’s this guy – Rick Rubin? Nah, I’m just kidding.

Well, it seems like you’re having a good time in the studio. What are you taking advantage of this go-round, that you weren’t able to do last time?

Mainly, just getting everything right, and making it sound as cool as it can. I think that’s the biggest thing that this time recording has allowed us. But, there’s other things that we’ve done. There’s a bunch of strings on it. Not, like, real strings, but fake strings and piano – things like that. We’ve definitely added more things to our songs.

But, it’s hard to gauge how different things are, because it’s all based on just serving the song. The vocals and that kind of thing. But, what’s around it is definitely different than our past records.