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May 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Lots to love about The Courtneys | Concert preview

The Courtneys

Vancouver’s The Courtneys, from left: Courtney Loove, Sydney Koke, Jen Twynn Payne. Photo by Andrew Volk.

The eponymous 2013 debut from The Courtneys, who headline Barboza Thursday, was an archetypal indie success story — made on a shoestring budget and released on a tiny label (Hockey Dad), reaching an audience through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

“It’s taken on a total life of its own,” says singer-drummer Jen Twynn Payne, speaking via Skype from her Vancouver apartment.

As with any great pop record, the best track on “The Courtneys” tends to be whichever one is playing at the moment — tight musicianship matched with tough-but-sweet hooks.

“We have this idea of perfection of a song,” Payne says. “We throw a lot away.”

“All the components have to fit together,” adds bassist Sydney Koke, “and if they don’t, we’ll ditch it.”

While the twentysomething trio’s lyrics emphasize a love of matinee idols (“KC Reeves” — as in Keanu) and local bands (“Nü Sundae,” a nod to punk peers Nü Sensae), indictments of minimum-wage drudgery (“Insufficient Funds”) and non-committal boyfriends (“Social Anxiety,” below) show a grittier side.

Still, despite being named for the “mean girls” at Koke’s elementary school — “they were all called Courtney or Colleen, and had parties that I was never invited to” — their vibe is more cool-girl gang than too-cool clique.

On the album cover, the guitarist, alias Courtney Loove, models a custom-made navy blue-and-teal ballcap branded with the band’s logo — also the insignia for an actual baseball squad comprised of Vancouver musicians and friends.

“We play in a league, against a bunch of jocks,” Payne laughs. “It’s… interesting.”

The team will sit out the 2014 season, though, due to its co-captains’ busy schedules. Following the interview, they’re headed to their jam space to load out for a hometown tour kickoff show. The Seattle gig is a prelude to a two-month coast-to-coast jaunt with Payne’s pop-star cousins Tegan and Sara.

Once that’s done, The Courtneys plan to record their second LP. There’s no title or release date yet, but the group hopes it’ll clear up any lingering misconceptions about what they’re going for.

“The first thing that pops into my mind is how often we get called ‘riot grrrl,’” Payne says. “Sonically, I can see it, a little bit… but to me, that’s less about the music and more about a political statement, and I’m singing about, like… Keanu Reeves, or whatever… it just seems like an insult to riot grrrl.”

“Yeah, we’re not overtly political at all,” agrees Koke. “I think everything people do artistically is political, but it’s nice to not have to be so explicit about it. It’s just a genuine expression of our creative suits and directions… and the tension between that.”

7 p.m. Thursday at Barboza, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $10 (206-709-9442 or

Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: Barboza, Canada, indie


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