While they displayed a youthful energy and defiant determination that earned them the ability to tour with the likes of Silverstein, Burlington’s self proclaimed ‘tough dudes with smooth moves’ otherwise known as The Turn It Ups never were able to achieve the success some fans hoped for.
Formed when the band members weren’t even old enough to drive in Canada, after four years the Turn It Ups split after recording their debut full length. Most of the members would move on to the Stick Up, another band that guitarist Ryan Henderson tried to keep afloat during his tenure at McMaster University while studying English and religious studies. But the Stick Up would also fade from the local stage and Henderson would leave music for the grown up life of family, home owning and teaching. But the former band mates never stopped being friends and over the years occasionally reunited for special events like last December for a special showcase at Ben Rispin’s Burly Calling. This weekend, the Turn It Ups play Hamilton again for the first time in fifteen years with word that the show is not just a one off.
“The summer of 2001 was a pretty idyllic summer for myself and the Turn It Ups we even named a song after it,” recalls Henderson on the Turn It ups formation with Alan Tindal (vocals). Dave Palmer (bass), Ryan Bruce (drums) and Kevin Kennaley (guitars). “The Turn It Ups was just a really great aging stage moment for all of us and it was great to be part of the local punk rock community, and a great way to travel across Canada in our limited way we got to tour. It was a nice focal point for all of our energies as we were going through our late teens. The original vision of the Turn it Ups was to rip off the Promise Ring, an early poppy emo band — we missed the mark entirely but tried to kept the pop sensibility as much as we could. As the band progressed, the music got heavier but we kept that pop sensibility in the back of our minds as we wrote.
“We played at the Underground, AFB, Transit Union Hall and more places in Hamilton,” adds Henderson. “At the time, there was a lot of camaraderie between bands and the biggest band we dovetailed with a lot of the time was Silverstein. We did a lot of touring with them and remain friends with them to this day. It was a pretty Utopian time as far as the music scene was concerned — first wave social media, still a lot of community feel, still a lot of youth run shows so the bulk of our performances was held at alternative venue spaces as opposed to bars.”
After a couple of EPs, The Turn It Ups hit the studio with producer Brian Moncarz (Pilate, The Junction) and released their CD Sweetness in Stereo but rather than being a new phase of their career, it’d act as a tombstone for the these boys turning into men.
“We released a couple of self–produced, no paper trail EPs and then we did our record Sweetness in Stereo just before the band broke up,” says Henderson. “It was recorded in two waves with eight songs ending up on it. Four songs were recorded eight months before the second session. The first set was more innocent and poppy sounding and the second set was more slickly produced and more melancholic and heavy. As we recorded, the foundation was laid for the band to disband shortly after. We were all starting to pull in different directions as nineteen and twenty year olds do.
“After that, The Stick Up included Ryan Bruce, Dave Palmer and myself when we connected with singer guitarist Dave Partridge,” adds Henderson. “We were only active for two years and burnt ourselves out. It was a more serious band, a heavier band and we toured more extensively. I had dropped out of Mac for a semester to accommodate touring but I tried to balance school and the band. We took a serious run at it and had some success but in the end, the touring lifestyle wasn’t particularly sustainable for any of us.”
With one off reunions in 2007 and 2019, the now thirty–five Henderson is excited about revisiting his own thoughts and creations from some two decades ago but the opportunity to reconnect with friends and make music — even new music — is what's the main focus in 2020 for the Turn It Ups.
“We all stayed in touch and whatever limited capacity we’re going to be performing in, it was simply a mechanism to see more of one another,” says Henderson. “It was great hanging out again and playing with a bunch of great friends. Part of the process of re-learning these songs was muddling through the inevitable embarrassment of like when you find an old journal - you sort of cringe at the pages but we’ve definitely enjoyed re–discovering and re–working the songs as well as reconnecting with one another. But it was a thrill to just play these songs again. I like to get into the head of my former self and figure out how and why I played something. But what’s really exciting is the new four piece unit is writing new songs so that bridges the gap. Probably within the year, we should have new music.
“I don’t think it’ll become as serious as our investment in the past but we’ve enjoyed our practices and the thought of making new music and music that is more reflective of our tastes now while staying within the parameters of the Turn It Ups is really exciting,” continues Henderson. “My chops are better now than they were back then. There are some things I couldn’t do now and maybe wouldn’t do right now so I think I’ve matured as a musician as well. Colin Morgan formerly of the Next Best Thing is joining us on drums this time around and Kevin is a guitar tech for August Burns Red — still a great friend but not part of these performances.
“And I’m looking forward to our return to Hamilton after fifteen years,” concludes Henderson. “There’s a certain element of nostalgia as we have a connection with all of the bands on the bill and the diversity of all of the music from the bands kind of reminds of shows we used to do back in the day. But the show isn’t about nostalgia, it can’t be about nostalgia because the Turn it Ups are now an ongoing concern — it’s funny, that’s something I thought I’d never say again. It’s so bizarre for us but it’s so nice.”
The Turn It Ups play Saturday March 14 at Club Absinthe with Pale Drone,The Crease Rule, Catapult,Shift-D. Doors open at 9 pm and $10 gets you in. Click on instagram.com/theturnitups