>>A lot of bands fizzle out after two records. Whether it’s lost interest, exhaustion from touring, disputes between members, or simply moving into different phases of life; it’s relatively noteworthy for a band to make it past that hump, especially in the DIY scene. Tough Age have managed to leap over that hump in the initial seven years of their existence. After releasing two full length records and relocating from Vancouver to Toronto, the band shifted into a three piece after beginning as a four piece. Tough Age now features the lineup of Penny Clark on bass/vocals, Jesse Locke on drums, and Jarrett Evans Samson on guitar/vocals. While speaking to Jarrett over the phone, he explained to me the transformation into a three-piece pushed him outside of his comfort zone, “I was more interested in having less to hide under. It was easy for me to lean on others before.” He explains how “being able to do more with less” was a goal of their new direction and the band pull it off with ease as they are now releasing their fourth record, Which Way Am I?.
Tough Age originally started in Vancouver and met each other through the Canadian music scene. Like a lot of smaller cities, Vancouver was tight knit; with community-based and ran DIY venues. Samson explains how “The Canadian music sphere is like if you’re touring for any amount of time, you are one degree removed from everyone. You’re gonna know someone who knows someone”. The values of a small community came with Tough Age releasing their first self-titled full length through long running and well-respected Mint Records, who is also based out of the same area. Samson was surprised and grateful for the labels early interest and has remained loyal to them throughout their discography. Samson actually met the label while the band was playing a festival in Calgary which ended up turning into a disaster due to a massive flood sweeping through the city. At the time “everyone was on edge”, but the meeting remained memorable and Tough Age is one of the longest running acts on the label.
Tough Age has a blatantly raw take on rock music. Melding a post-punk and lo-fi garage rock sound the band “want to make music no one can ever put on at a party”. Samson lists New York post-punk legends, The Feelies, as influential to their sound, which definitely checks out. The music is noisy, purposely unpolished, and lacks an adherence to strictly making music you can hum along to after one listen. Tough Age released three new songs prior to the drop of the new LP, which was recorded in Montreal with Peter Woodford at the Bottle Garden. It is their second recording with Woodford, as 2017’s Shame was also recorded there. The track “Penny Current Suppression Ring” features a faster-paced tempo with Clark taking over vocal duties and humorously repeating how she wants to get signed to New Zealand record label Flying Nun. The second track they’ve released of the record, “My Life’s a Joke and I’m Throwing It Away” features Samson taking over vocal duties and questioning what exactly he is doing with his life. It’s clear the band has a solid sense of humor and their lyrics poke fun at the longings or misgivings that come with growing older The first track they shared from the new record, “Repose”, which is my personal favorite I’ve heard, finds Clark singing in a subdued tone and features a mutli-minute outro that finds the band in a perfect groove. It’s clear upon just these three tracks the band have an undeniable chemistry together.
Tough Age, like many others right now, are unsure what their future plans are in these uncertain times. On top of being a band in a Canadian market which is extensively regional based and difficult to tour in; simply playing a show or hosting a release party for a record is not practical or safe. Tough Age have taken a unique approach to promoting their new record, releasing multiple animated videos to their songs and their promotional photo is an illustration of the band. Their new record is currently on sale for $1 on their Bandcamp page and all the profits go towards youth groups for the LGBTQ+ community and people of African heritage heavily impacted by COVID-19 in Vancouver. It’s going to take a lot of creativity and new ideas for music to flourish and Tough Age certainly seem up for the task. Check out and buy the abum here