As unlikely a duo as they might be, B.A. Johnston and Jimmie Killpatrick, a.k.a. Shotgun Jimmie, have crossed paths countless times in their careers. But the two have little in common: Johnston calls Hamilton, Ont. home; meanwhile, Killpatrick takes residence in Sackville, N.B. Johnston’s live show, all manic, drunken energy and high-kicks, is driven by a 50-50 split of crass humour and lo-fi Casio ditties, as evidenced on his 2012 album Hi Dudes; Killpatrick’s, on the other hand, is an absorbing one-man performance built around slacker-pop gems, such as those showcased on 2011 LP, Transistor Sister. One has songs about 7-Eleven cuisine; the other’s a vegetarian.
But the musicians aren’t just music scene acquaintances — they’re longstanding tour pals. (Killpatrick’s 2010 video for “One Trick Pony” even has the two wandering around Halifax.) So, we asked them to share their cross-Canada experiences with Fast Forward Weekly.
Fast Forward Weekly: So, how far back do you guys go, touring-wise?
B.A. Johnston: I remember the original tour we did was a November tour with Shotgun and Jaybird, and we did 40 shows together. Although, I saw you guys play the Halifax Pop Explosion [prior], and really dug it. Remember that show where the promoter spent all his money on VLTs?
Jimmie Killpatrick: Yeah, you were on tour with Falconhawks. And the guy who runs Sappyfest [in Sackville] puked on himself mid-conversation and you didn’t even notice! I was pretty observant. That was the highlight of the tour.
BJ: I also like playing the Townehouse in Sudbury on tour, too, because they let you sleep in the basement and eat pickled eggs. You sleep in this bed that, like, Stompin’ Tom probably had sex in. And they don’t even change the sheets.
JK: And I like The Area [in Inglewood, where Johnston and Killpatrick are playing at Sled Island]. When I played there last summer, they had a bonfire after the show, which is so unusual and awesome. I like the community vibe, it’s just a bunch of hangout zones. And in between bands you can go out and have a beer. Last time I was there, they made chili!
BJ: Because eating a lot of chili before a show is never a bad move. Right. [Laugh].
JK: Hey, are you going to have any vegetarian options at your Sled BBQ?
BJ: We’ll have veggie dogs and VIP dogs for special people. You know, like, if Dog Day wants a hot dog, we’re not going to feed them swill. But I don’t eat well on tour anyways. Jimmie, do you remember that Thanksgiving dinner we had?
BJ: It was Thanksgiving, and we drove all day, looking for a place with a special. We found one, and it was closed. So we ate at 7-Eleven, and there was this toothless gremlin lady working behind the counter being like, “I feel bad for you.” She was looking down on us. It felt terrible. And didn’t you also find a toenail or a claw in a pepperoni stick?
JK: Man, we were looking for the best pepperoni stick in Canada. But that was the end of me and meat. But yeah, I just got back from Germany, and was thinking your show would go unbelievably in Europe — they’d be engaged by how you poke fun at North American culture, fast food and movies. Your story is kind of like National Lampoon. I wanna see the B.A. Euro vacation.
BJ: I’m up for whatever. But the older you get, it’s harder to tour, and it’s intimidating to do that when you’re 40 rather than when you’re 20. I can’t like, play Poland and bomb a tour. And I don’t like playing squats or punk houses, because the dogs jump all over me. We stayed at a creepy punk house on [Johnston’s 2012 tour with the Ketamines], and when I was trying to sleep, these dudes sat around me in a semi-circle, coked out of their gourds, trying to talk to me.
JK: I’ve done squat tours in Europe, but I can’t complain. Nine out of 10 times, when people are giving you a place to stay, it’s food, shelter and warmth — it’s a generous thing. I don’t actually have any bad tour stories, though I understand it would be funny if I slept in the back of a car and woke up with a hobo next to me or something.
BJ: Well, the sleeping at The Cambie in Nanaimo is soul-crushing. The windows don’t close, they throw you out at 9:30 in the morning, and there’s no doors to your rooms. You wake up with, like, eight cats sleeping on your face. That’s my first question when sleeping at places on tours: How many cats do you have?
FFWD: So, Nanaimo aside, what’s the most underrated place you guys have played on tour?
JK: Well, the classic answer is that smaller communities are underrated. You can service those places that don’t normally have shows, and they reciprocate tenfold. That’s why people are drawn to places like Sackville — though it’s not really underrated, as it’s a buzzy place now. I guess my answer’s Regina — it’s not a popular thing to say, but I love it. There’s some nice shops and incredible people — there’s apparently a new restaurant, 15th Avenue Cafe, which is great, and the Regina folk fest is awesome. Regina’s underrated — I was just saying that last night in Winnipeg, and everyone was making fun of me.
BJ: Yeah, Regina’s super underrated, but the problem is, they don’t have any venues. But the shows there are, like, free, so everyone goes, even if they hate you and want to kill you. And it always feels like people want to kill you in Regina.
FFWD: Right. So, any advice on how to tour Canada with minimal hype and even less money? I mean, Jimmie’s toured via Greyhound to the Yukon before, and you’ve done a bus tour too, B.A.
BJ: Be sure to be playing with local bands all the time. They’re the ones who’ll promote your show, let you stay at their house and bring their friends — who might be your new fans. It’s that networking aspect that so many bands don’t get: Help other people when they come to your town, and they’ll help you out too.
JK: And be smart about it. The most important thing is to find people that work well based on common interest. If you wanted to tour Canada once, you could do it via word of mouth. But long-term, if you play with local bands, you’ll meet people you like and have meaningful friendships with.