Kevin Drew is a renaissance man. A founding member of Broken Social Scene and its record label Arts & Crafts, Drew is also a solo artist, songwriter, producer, director, and now, adding to that long creative list, a visual artist. Last night Drew’s first art exhibit, Skid Marks Of The Soul, was unveiled at a private premiere at Analogue Gallery. A large collection of minimalist chalk pastel abstracts – many of which feature poetry – are compelling in their starkness. Seemingly floating against the perimeter of the room, his pieces are alive with motion, pressure, and emotional energy within their frames. Beauty and pain are never completely abandoned by a sense of hope that appears in the colours, shapes, and messages of each piece. Light yellows, pinks and blues are peppered with the occasional shade of deep red or black creating an inviting curiosity that engages the viewer. Drew’s poetry is deeply moving in its many forms: rhythmic whirlwinds of imagerial verbs and nouns, repetitions of a phrase syncopated with slight variations, or those pieces that contain only a single phrase.
In the hour before the premiere began, Kevin Drew spoke with Stories Behind The Songs about his artistic expansion into the visual art world and how his “farewell to an unnecessary cry for help” became Skid Marks Of The Soul.
Kevin: I’ve always done pastel drawings but I put them away for years. One night, I was working on The Tragically Hip record and we were working on a mix session and the studio we were working in, in Toronto, wasn’t working for us. I was so frustrated and came home feeling very defeated. It was near the end and you just want to get the project done and get it right for everybody. I was going through my cabinets trying to find a power supply for a pedal and my pastels fell out on the floor and I just picked them up and I didn’t put them down. So that’s how this started. It was through working with The Hip. I went out east where their studio is and I just sat outside on the park bench and started making all these drawings.
K: Yes. It all comes very quickly. If it doesn’t come quickly then I’m not doing the right thing.
K: Well, I had so many so when we were selecting them, we did sort of go towards a theme. I’ve always wanted to have a sense of hope inside things not working. It’s always been my vendetta. The reason I called it Skid Marks Of The Soul is, one, because I love the title, and two because it’s the truth. There’s nothing that’s extremely pure to me.
K: There’s nothing that I don’t feel has something in it. Everything comes with a certain cost and that’s not a bad thing. That’s very realistic. But, so, I didn’t quite know the writing. The writing was more curated towards the colours and as I was getting the pieces from the framer, I started reading what I wrote and thinking, “Okay, does this work? Does this match together?” But it really all does because all of my themes have been the same since I was 18 years old.
K: Yes. I’ve always wrote about the struggle to keep going, even if everything is incredible. I’ve always wanted to connect with the highs of love and the lows of love.
K: They did. I usually wrote first and then I illustrated second, but for a couple of these, I designed around the words. For many of them, I would write, see what I wrote, grab colours and go for it.
When describing this exhibit, you’ve said that colours and words are the best way to describe emotion. I notice that there are a lot of yellows, pinks and reds in this series. Do colours means or represent certain things to you?
K: They did as I was working on this. I mean, in stages of my life I’ve worn all blue, then wore all black, then wore all gray and never really busted out of that, but for me, I really got to discover colours more than I ever have while doing this. I knew how I was feeling after I did a piece. And that’s what was really similar with music. It’s usually afterwards when you figure out what you’re writing about. You think you know what you’re saying, but it’s afterwards that you piece it together. I’ve always told my friends: Songs aren’t about your past. They’re premonitions. So be very careful. Because you’re going to go and sing and repeat it again and again and again and again.
K: Yeah, it’s strange. It’s strange. I lost sleep the other night. I told my girlfriend, I said, “I don’t know if I want to let these go.” I always believe you’ve got to show people what you’re doing. That’s basically what everybody’s doing now. So I just wanted to do it in an old-school fashion, even though I put these up on Instagram. You like it, it’s nice. You want the gratification of “Hey, I did this.” But once this show got hung, it hurt a little. I got stressed out a little. I thought, this is maybe a little bit much. And also, I dated everything “2016” but a lot of it is in 2015 and as life progresses and things happen, you don’t want to mislead people that you know who are coming to see this. I got a little concerned about my content, though I never would have thought of that while making it, because they were private, they were for me. And then you put them up on the wall and you think, “Oh, shit.” But I do stand by everything that’s here. I’m always speaking about the change, the death, the birth of things, letting things go, trying to move forward. You know, I came from a time where I’m coming out of something and this is a really great way to say goodbye to it. Someone said to me, “What do you think this show is?” and I said, “I think it’s a farewell to an unnecessary cry for help.”
K: Oh yeah. But making records is my favourite thing in the world to do. But when you put them out, you can’t look for the gratification you used to be able to because everyone’s busy. So here, it’s like, if you come to this, I’ll have your attention for eight, ten, nine minutes and you made an effort to come and you’ve seen it. I hope when you walk into this room, you take a little breathe, it gives you a little peace. And that’s what you want when someone plays your record. You just want them to feel good. I’m going for what everybody else is going for – relevancy, gratification, all these things. I’ve just hung it up on a wall.
K: When I was a kid, I always wrote “Help me” all over my binders. I used to write “Please help me”. I remember one of my teachers talked to me about it one time and I was like, “Oh, no no, I’m good. I just like writing ‘Help me.’ ” I just always did. There’s a dear friend in my life who recently just reminded me that helping people is the greatest thing you can do. Obviously this was done months and months and months ago, but I guess my choice to hang it was because that’s what we need. That’s what we all need.
Kevin Drew’s Skid Marks Of the Soul exhibit is showing at Analogue Gallery from April 15th-28th.