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"I don't really know too much about root beer" - An interview with Regina's Keiffer McLean

by Carter Vosper

photos by Frank Dávalos

Keiffer McLean (Keiffer McLean & The Curiosity Club) recently chatted with Carter Vosper (Blu Beach Band, Lova Lamp) about his music, his process and... Root Beer???

"Keiffer McLean & The Curiosity Club is an alternative Folk band from Regina Saskatchewan. Their original music has been compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Frank Zappa, Rufus Wainwright and Devendra Banhart. The group delivers a fantastical performance, flirting with

several genres but is rooted in their mainly rootbeer good sounds, tethering them to a progressive roots style. The band has been nominated for two Canadian Folk Music Awards and have played across Canada and the United States Sharing the stage with artists like (The Milk Carton Kids, Donovan woods, The Dead South) and many more. McLean and his band are gearing up to release their second full length album titled ‘It’s Bees for dinner'"

January 2023.

NSMZ: What does your creative process look like?

My creative process takes a long time and starts out like having seventy computer tabs open at once. The objective I start out with when writing my songs is to get rid of as many of those tabs as possible. It’s initially more of a removal job than it is a delivery of ideas at this point. Usually there is a concrescence between the chaos and a formal idea of organization during that stage which inspires the direction of riffs, lines stanzas, etc. More often than not, this is in a subconscious flow state. Then I edit things to rhyme or fit together rhythmically which is a more conscious part of the process. My best songs have come to be when I've tricked myself out of my own meta cognition which seems to get harder the more I do it. I usually have about forty songs in the three-quarters complete phase, and end up narrowing that number down through this process. From there, maybe about ten make it to completion. Of those ten, I’d be lucky to enjoy five of them, and after some years I only end up with one or two songs that I think endure through time. The discarded tunes and ideas go back into the bank to be drawn from in the next cycle, stored away in my bullshit bank account that constantly accrues about three percent anti-interest per week. Ideally, when enough time has passed and I forget about the intial first steps of my creative process with a song, I can look at my work more objectively and put the finishing touches on it, being more considerate to the audiences experience and hopefully removing any excess fluff. I try to make my process as germane to making a bread starter as possible, keeping a little bit of the by-product from each batch of songs to add to the next one.

You are a visual artist on top of being a musician; is there any way that these two processes intersect?

Chyeah dude! Music is an extremely visual experience for me. Sound creates imagery in my mind, from colourscapes and picture scenes, to imaginary characters and conversations. When I'm making visual art, it's the same thing but vice versa. I always pair painting, drawing or whatever with the auditory experience of music. So for me, they're intrinsically linked.

Does living in Saskatchewan influence your work? If so, in what ways?

Saskatchewan is like a carpet, laid out in the middle of Canada with a few stains on it and some weird memories. I've done a lot of writing on it though.

What else would you say has shaped you as an artist?

Just different experiences outside of art. Working different jobs, learning things that aren't music or art related have been the greatest gift to my craft.

Can you elaborate on your obsession with shrimp?

"Shrimp are some of the most generous creatures known to mankind. Our God is a master crustacean hereby referred to as Harimpno Shrimpla. He ordains all organized sounds extracted from the Curiosity Club. He's a root beer pug." TM.

Who or what would you cite as some of your influences?

Here's a few.

Haruomi Hosono


Cody Chesnutt

Arthur Russell

Dan Reeder

In what ways do you try to connect with your audience?

As a band, we act as transmitters. We get the pleasure to absorb the energy of a random collection of people, refocus it, and blast it back to them. We try to connect with our audience by sculpting the environment using music as our tool. Our goal is to open a portal where everyone’s mind can meander together and maybe even collide.

What do your live shows look like?

Our live shows are like if gasoline was as cheap as rootbeer good... Fuck around and find out.

In your opinion, what makes a good live show?

(This is a real family recipe)

One toxic couple fighting somewhere in a corner

One voice cracked egg

One broken glass

Three cups of sugar

An excellent sound man and some horrible bands, or vice versa

Optional: a missing capo and maybe a panic attack before the show for some extra flavour

I always find the banter in between songs at your shows very funny. Is it a conscious effort for them to be like this, or is it always spontaneous?

Mostly, it's just stream of consciousness. But sometimes it’s just a revisiting of car ride conversations with the big strong boys.

Has the music scene/industry changed at all since you first began playing?

The music industry is becoming increasingly polluted with NPC music. Also the money has gotten worse somehow. On the other hand, music has become more accessible which is awesome for finding cool shit, and there are some insanely talented independent up and coming artists hitting the scene, which is v v cool.

Your lyrics are always very poetic and ambiguous. Do you have a formula for lyric writing or does it vary from song to song?

I try and write lyrics like allegorical Madlibs. The goal is to leave enough ambiguity so the listener can anthropomorphize their own personal content into the song. I'm hoping this

invites people to almost co-write the song in their mind with me. Sometimes it’s just a rabbit hole, but there's no formula, that stuff's for babies.

Do you have a favorite artist or record currently?

Check out "So Hot You're Hurting My Feelings" by Squirrel Flower, if you wanna cry the bed.

What is the best brand of root beer?

I don't really know too much about root beer.

You can check out Keiffer’s latest single titled “Vieques” on all streaming platforms!

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