by Casey Ling
photos by Scott Roos of Scotty the Rooster Photography
As I write this, I am preparing to move four hours south from Prince Albert to Moose Jaw. It’s an event that almost everyone goes through in their lives. The chaos of playing Tetris with kitchen utensils, the indecisiveness of the size of U-Haul trailer to book, and the joy of making impromptu box forts. While everyone has a version of how this goes, everyone has a collective idea of what moving feels like. Aaron Karpinka's sophomore album The Current takes a look at and breaks down these collective events everyone has. The Current is both goofy and sincere at the same time. It makes you laugh and cry as it touches the part that everyone has but refuse to admit to having. I would like to take a look at three different songs from The Current and talk about how these three tracks reflect an element of us that we all have.
Moose Jaw: Provincial Pride
Within Saskatchewan artists, one thing I notice is the provincial pride I see compared to other provinces. Besides the odd “Alberta Bound” there haven’t been many songs about the land that artists reside on. The track "Moose Jaw" highlights one of the most overlooked towns in the province and how it still belongs as a landmark in its own right.
“Perhaps it's by being a touring musician and you have people chime in 'Saskatchewan is boring, it's flat…' but I enjoy the drives and small-town camaraderie. People slow down and wave out the windows. People are more observant of things here. Certain places are so special to certain people,” Karpinka tells NSMZ.
That camaraderie is something that I can attest to after living in Prince Albert. I remember my first day in Prince Albert from Regina. After getting groceries for the first time someone actually let us onto the road from the parking lot. I looked at my partner in disbelief with a look of “Did that actually happen?” on our faces. Back in Regina that never would have happened. We would have been either run off the road or stuck in that parking lot forever. The small-town energy here is something that I have learned to appreciate in the past few years here and I’m expecting that same energy in Moose Jaw when I move.
Hello From The Front Line: The Pandemic
Outside of writing music, Karpinka manages to run a grocery store in the Broadway district in Saskatoon simultaneously. Like all of us, the pandemic turned Aaron’s life upside down, especially as he was right on the front lines as an essential worker. I personally don’t see myself as a very social person but even with all that time alone, my motivation to do anything began to experience atrophy. Karpinka viewed that time as an opportunity to develop his own art and to notice some of the things we take for granted.
“Working in a grocery store brought out the worst and the best. There was a lot of isolation so a lot of people were alone with their thoughts. It gave people an appreciation of the little things in life that they took for granted, calling a friend over the phone instead of a text or social media. It gave me an appreciation of life. It's given me a new found appreciation of things,” explains Karpinka.
"Hello From The Front Line" discusses the absolute circus that Karpinka had to endure during the peak of the pandemic. The comparison of not being able to hug your mother while also being able to go out for beers with friends highlights the sometimes backward restrictions the government put on us. The song puts into perspective what we truly value and how not having access to those things for three years affected us as a collective.
Art Teacher: Arts Education and Teachers
I remember my first day as a teacher when I came to the school. My vice principal came to me and said “Casey, we do so much more work than just being a teacher. We are counsellors, police officers, role models, students ourselves, and even parents”. That just goes to show how extensive the education system is. Teachers go so much further than academics but they teach students to be productive members of society.
“The song 'Art Teacher' is a metaphor for the sweater-wearing teacher who teaches arts but also teaches life. It's the wisdom of an older person who has appreciated creating art but also getting along with others. As I get older, in a way it's embracing being myself,” Says Karpinka.
"Art Teacher" asks us to consider what our past educators have done for us and how that has influenced our upbringing. In my career so far, the things that I have valued have not necessarily been what I have been able to academically provide for my students. Instead it's been more about how they have been able to develop both socially and emotionally. While I am proud of the students that have been able to grasp the concepts that I have taught them, I am just as proud of the students who have been able to persevere through hardships.
The Current runs deep
“The Current” reflects elements that we all have and or have experienced, whether it be the pride we have for our province, the Covid-19 pandemic, or our experiences growing up in schools. The identity Aaron has given himself as a “Storyteller” is apparent in this album and is something that is fresh and not necessarily seen in much music today.
“When I write for solo projects, it's a lot more personal and like I'm reading from a diary. I like to document my life and express it. It's a lot more unfiltered…I tell the stories behind the songs and I dive deep. I won't shy away from anything and I'm always digging for things I'm into.”
The Current will be available on all platforms on Friday, July 28th. Aaron Karpinka will be performing with his duo band “The Karpinka Brothers” at PerogyFest near Martensville on Saturday, August 5th.