True to his form as a Toronto indie musician, Andrew Walker is a pretty amiable guy.
The lead guitarist for Turn Off The Stars has no misgivings about playing phone tag with me, after our first interview attempt was botched due to conflicting schedules and general forgetfulness. When we at last get on the line with each other, Walker is friendly and apologetic for the earlier mishap, thus ensuring that the interview will go smoothly.
Given that Turn Off The Stars is comprised of the two Walker brothers (frontman Mike is "younger by about five seconds," jokes Walker) along with drummer Max Kennedy and new bassist Jake Palahnuk, this interview immediately begs for the sibling-rivalry question. It seems to be a common-known fact that playing in bands with siblings is tricky business, and things are no different with the Walker twins.
"We're like best friends, but it's definitely a love/hate relationship sometimes too," Walker comments. "It's like we're a toned-down version of Liam and Noel Gallagher. There'll be a lot of fighting, and then our drummer Max usually has to get in the middle of things to separate us. Things get interesting when we're crammed in a van out West!" He chuckles, presumably at some memory that isn't fit for publication. "But really, when it comes to us playing onstage and writing together, it's great. We can basically guess the next thing coming, or where the other is going with a particular idea. Also, knowing that we're always going to be together because we're family is a good feeling of security. There won't be any breaking up with us."
Not to mention it might be difficult to soldier on without their frontman, given that he is the band's primary songwriter. He unfortunately isn't with us to talk about his influences, so his brother fills in as best he can. "I've always said that we're pretty much a ballad band. And I can't speak for my brother, but I think his best songs come from times when he's feeling down and out - like when he's playing acoustic guitar alone in his room and feeling sorry for himself. It's just real emotion, y'know, writing about life and faith."
Upon noting that many of Turn Off The Stars' songs have themes of loneliness and isolation, Walker acknowledges this and is quick to add, "I don't see songs with messages like that as being a negative thing, though. It's more like it's saying that things are tough now but there's always hope for it to get better."
Fortunately, things haven't been so tough for Turn Off The Stars lately. They've performed opening slots for as varied acts as Switchfoot, April Wine and The Tea Party, along with plans for extensive touring through the United States in 2005. Yet they still consider themselves to be an indie band - complete with the beat-up van, the long hours driving across the country, and the hardships that come with the less-than-plush lifestyle. When asked about what the hardest hurdle is for an indie musician, Walker pauses for a while before answering, "I think it's just that it takes such a long time to get to the point where music is what you do for a living. You know, where the band is a full-time thing, and you don't have to take a day job. When all you want to do is music, it's tough to be stuck in an office, or flipping burgers or something.
"It's just hard to be patient, waiting for things to come together. You have to be able to be content with everyday life until then."
And what if it all ended now?
"If it all ended now, would I be content? You know, yeah, I think I would be. We've been successful so far, and really blessed in what we've accomplished. We've met great people, made a difference in peoples' lives and had people make a difference in our lives. That's the most important thing."
Writer: Caitlin Hotchkiss