Kill Chicago are a Fredericton based blues rock group looking to make a difference with their music. After releasing a video for their single “Take the City”, Canadian Beats had the opportunity to talk to Greg Webber about the new video, their latest album The Grey, and staying politically involved. The video, which sheds light on the experiences of Canadians struggling with student debt, touches upon an issue that is very important to the band.
To begin, could you please introduce yourselves to our readers who may not be too familiar with your sound?
We mix elements of blues, punk, reggae and garage rock with a bent towards storytelling and high energy performances. We sweat way too much.
You recently released a video for your single “Take the City,” which tackles an important issue that most artists haven’t touched on: the struggle of student debt in Canada. What was the main influence in deciding to dedicate your music to this issue?
The song was originally written after my involvement in the Quebec tuition hike protests in 2012. When I moved home to NB I realized that many of my friends were in the same situation, finding it difficult to get ahead with crushing student debt. So I wanted to make a video for the song that linked the whole story together and more importantly, would focus on other people’s stories. I didn’t just want to focus on the band, rather try and show the face of debt. I have the suspicion that our parents’ generation doesn’t quite get the severe differences between their university loan situation and ours. I worry that they feel we are being picky or making bad decisions, and I wanted to show stories that proved otherwise; that the system has become unbalanced.
The video features a number of Canadians sharing their stories regarding student debt. How did you find these participants? Was it difficult choosing which experiences would be featured in the video?
We put a call out on our social media asking if anyone would be interested in being a part of this project. We started getting a lot of response and a few media outlets picked up the story as well and it grew from there. When the day of the shoot arrived, we decided to try our best to use everyone who was able to make it, feeling that if the video was going to try and paint a real picture, it would be dishonest to cherry-pick the results. So we used everyone.
Aside from student loans, the video also displays facts about underemployment or unemployment in Canada, and the living/work situations of students and graduates. The song itself is quite powerful and urgent. Did you have any goals or outcomes in mind by shedding light on these topics through your art?
I think the first step as an artist is to get the idea out into the public. I would like to see the interest rates of student loans lowered or removed completely. I try my best to stay politically active and I will throw my voice and support behind anyone brave enough to include this as an election campaign. I am a middle school teacher, so I’m working from the inside to try an affect change also. Thanks to the media attention from people like you, the facts are already getting out there.
The video was featured on Generation Squeeze, an organization that aids young Canadians that are struggling with student debt. Can you tell us more about this organization, and why you decided to partner with them?
The partnership was a brilliant idea from our friends at Pigeon Row. The mandate of Generation Squeeze is the grassroots response to the problems the video speaks about. They help people in repayment in many different ways, whether it’s advice on how to deal with the student loan office, budgeting help, different debt assistance programs you can apply for and most notably trying to affect policy changes that could make a real difference in people’s lives. Imagine if a policy was pushed through that reduced the amount of interest a bank could charge on a student loan, it would shave years off our repayment. Those interest payments don’t go to the professors that taught me either, it becomes bank profit.
Do you have any advice for people trying to get involved with helping out students by putting a halt to tuition hikes?
I believe in legal protest. There will always be professional anarchists who will hog a spotlight for a moment, but when I saw entire families marching beside me down the streets I realized that the protest couldn’t be ignored or labeled insignificant. The youth in Quebec are so politically involved and they know what’s going on in their government. I would also insist that young people vote and make sure politicians see you vote and that you show up to events. If there is political gain to be had by pleasing you, there’s at least a chance it will happen.
“Take the City” is a single from your first full-length album, The Grey, which focuses on the experiences of life in the Maritimes and moving elsewhere to find work. What can fans who haven’t heard it yet expect from the full album? Will there be any more video releases from The Grey?
We have a few videos out already for other tracks on the album “Count to 10” which is a more blues garage rock kind of tune as well as a live video in the works for our next single “Sharing Space” which mixes pedal steel into the sound and deals with a more personal story of the inability to escape small town drama.
At Canadian Beats we like to ask a few questions that allow the readers to get to know you a bit better:
Who is your favourite Canadian artist and why?
Neil Young, because of what he says and how he says it.
What was the first album you bought?
Barenaked Ladies – Gordon
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
New Orleans, because it is a musicians heaven.
What would be your dream festival lineup?
Elvis Costello, Beck, Led Zeppelin (in 1970), The Clash and Howlin’ Wolf.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with your fans?
If this video speaks to you in any way please share your story with us. It has helped me out already just knowing what others are going through.
I’ve been involved in music my whole life and have developed a passion for helping out or working in the industry any way I can. I’m interested in helping talented artists gain the recognition they deserve in this crazy business. I am currently studying Communication Studies at York University in Toronto, and working at a local theatre doing marketing and communications, as well as helping out a local festival called Rock the Coliseum. Indie, alt-rock/pop, and metal are my favourites but I’m open to all music genres! If I’m not at a show, I’m doing yoga, grabbing coffee, or looking for some craft beer.