If ‘You Know That You Want To’, there’s no sense going half-assed: Redhead Mack Band is rockin’ for fun!

Apparently Kevin Phillips, lead singer and songwriter for the newly minted rock quartet Redhead Mack Band, plays a custom electric guitar made by Northwood, a Canadian company that “normally makes acoustic but occasionally electric guitars.”

Given what Kevin tells me about his own musical development, he’s kinda like the guitarmaker, in that he normally makes acoustic but recently electric music. This comes up because their recent album release, You Know That You Want To, is 4 on the floor rock without traditional rock lyrics: so we ask, of course, “How do you explain that?”

CD album cover with woman sitting on a bar
You know, in real life what “You Want To” has nothing to do with model Martha Szumowska, really. Photo by Erin Molly Fitzpatrick.

“I didn’t grow up as a kid who wanted to play rock,” Kevin explains, “but I grew into writing as a folk-focused artist. And then during Covid got stuck at home with my electric guitar and finally figured it (the guitar) out. So my focus is songwriting and having something to say.

“And THEN taking that and rocking out and having fun with it. But the main focus is I always want to have something to say and not just a lot of anger and issues to share. And I like positive!”

Kevin references a performer called American Aquarium, who is initially a country artist, but refuses to remain within the constraints of the genre. And this is Redhead Mack’s intentions.

Kevin describes his bandmates as helping him create the music from the songs he’s written, basically doing what a band is supposed to do which is contribute to the final product onstage. As he says, they don’t just play the songs and then go home and forget about it until the next time!

“So the energy onstage is very much 4 guys in sync, and it totally shows in how much fun we have, and and how the songs go, and it’s something I couldn’t have engineered: it’s the fluke of good people!”

And then, just to throw everything back into the standard Rock vernacular, he equates it to a good romantic relationship!

“You’re looking for this; or you’re looking for that: but when you meet the right person it just kind of is. There was no great wisdom in finding the right people, I just found some people around me who were semi-connected, somewhat interested, and there was just an Immediate connection musically!”

For example, Kevin plays rhythm guitar, Lee plays lead guitar and rhythm, Jared plays bass, (“and is a better guitar player than I am, but a killer bass player” Kevin says)and he sings harmony, and *Ian is drums* (*Drummers Get Stars*.

3 guitarists and a drummer in a recording studio
Kevin was quite delighted to point out they recorded this album basically live off the studio floor! Photo by Rachel Joy Olsen.

MUSICAlive asks if the components of this 4 man band were involved with him musically before Kevin electrified himself. Metaphorically speaking.

“Lee played with me about 3 lineups ago with (an earlier) band, which was much more folky: he was my lead guitarist About 12 years ago!”

“How did the change from acoustic to electric go for your folk followers?” we ask.

“ I expected to lose more audience than we did! Most people were ‘It’s still the songs! I like it!’ People are into the band because they like my writing, and they’re still getting that.

“But what’s been really cool is the number of people that we’ve gained. As a writer, ultimately what I want is people to hear and connect with the songs. And a really good solid rock band is really hard to dislike! Even people that don’t listen to Rock normally, in a movie soundtrack or when someone’s playing it, will say ‘Well, it’s kinda catchy’.”

“Most of my friends are broken” is a strange start to a positive song, we suggest.

“That song came from the beginning of Covid. So many of my friends are artists and musicians, or people that are in dance, or visual art, or videography: people that work with (other) people all the time, and so many were stuck at home. And for those of us who are artists that connection with people is vital, and once you pull those plugs, it meant we had to deal with ourselves!

“I had friends who were single who were suddenly going from social existence out in the world with other musicians 4 or 5 nights a week, to stuck in their apartment by themselves. and after a couple of weeks we started to hear these little cries for help: ‘I’m not doing good. I’m having a hard time with this!’

“So I made a point of trying to connect with anyone I knew who was isolated: you know, chat with them and let them know they’re not alone. Because you could see people kind of spiral. And most of the people I’m friends with are carrying a lot of hurt. A lot of damage. But they’re good people, they really are! They make a point of helping other people out.”

Now we get into their album title,You Know That You Want To.

“It’s actually one of the lyrics out of the song “Pick It Up”. Which is a love song to my electric guitar. I know I’m a weirdo, but that’s what it is! (mutual laughter) It’s something I don’t want to put down!”

MUSICAlive! points out we had wondered, when listening to it, what the hell they were picking up? That you had put down that needed to be picked up? did we need to be disturbed by this? We weren’t really sure! (more laughter all around)

We ask :”Have you named the guitar?”
Kevin “no.”
MUSICAlive! “You’re in love with a thing that has no name? that’s even more troublesome!”
Kevin tries to defend himself: “It’s the ambiguity of the guitar that is part of its beauty!”

We point out that the album title is talking to Kevin: He knows that he wants to pick up his guitar?

“Because it is such a rock album, I wanted to nod to the albums of my youth. And rock when I was younger ALL had sexual overtones: everything had 2 meanings.” The salacious album cover, starring a fellow female teacher sitting on a bar (who also happens to be a model) “ implies the title is about this hot woman. but in actual fact it’s about the guitar: it’s the rock & roll bait and switch thing!”

Final thoughts on Redhead’s performance strategy?

Mobile selfie of 4 men standing above a beach.
“This is a photo of the band looking out over the ocean from the bluffs above Santa Monica Beach.” Image courtesy of the artist.

“the main thing is I don’t want to half-say anything. I mean that sonically: if the energy of a song is big, we should play it as big as you can. Because otherwise you’re just half-assing the message! If the message is ‘let everything go and rock out,’ then we should do that with full abandon!

So, maybe bring earplugs? Nah!

Upcoming performances:

February 24 in Red Deer, AB The Velvet Olive;
March 21 in Calgary, AB The Ironwood Stage & Grill

Posted by Carey Rutherford

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.

One Reply to “If ‘You Know That You Want To’, there’s no sense going half-assed: Redhead Mack Band is rockin’ for fun!”

  1. Patty Ann says:

    Well-written, witty, profound, entertaining, funny, quirky. Who could ask for more?

Comments are closed.