For the past year local metal band KEN Mode has been trying harder than ever to live up to its acronym: Kill Everyone Now.
The phrase, taken from Henry Rollins' Black Flag tour diaries, Get in the Van, isn't literally about killing people, but about having a fierce onstage attitude and "killing it" during live shows by making them as intense and in-your-face as possible.
Last March brothers Jesse and Shane Matthewson quit their jobs and hit the road hard in support of the band's fourth album in 12 years, Venerable, which received widespread acclaim.
Now, the band has received its first Juno Awards nomination in the new metal/hard music album of the year category.
"I literally just found out that we were nominated, and I think the whole thing is pretty silly. I know we won't win since we're up against more industry-savvy acts. I hope F--k the Facts and F--ked Up win and everyone gets their panties in a knot," vocalist-guitarist Jesse Matthewson says as part of an email interview from Gothenburg, Sweden, where KEN Mode is on tour.
Matthewson admits he was surprised by the nomination since his band's uncompromising blend of noise rock and metal is as non-mainstream as it gets.
"I never thought the Junos would ever pay attention to music like this. This is pretty hilarious. I think it's cool, I just hope it doesn't get treated like the Grammys' heavy metal category. Seems so far that they are selecting at least a few legit groups," says Matthewson, whose band is up against Anvil, F--k the Facts, Cauldron and the Devin Townsend Project.
While KEN Mode celebrates its first ever nomination, the Wailin' Jennys are cheering for their third Juno nomination for their third studio album, Bright Morning Stars, which is up for roots & traditional album of the year: group.
"It's totally exciting because there's so much good stuff out there. I know how many bands are making great music all across Canada, so you can't ever assume anything. It's pretty crazy," says Nicky Mehta.
The Wailin' Jennys have one Juno to their name for their 2004 debut album 40 Days.
"This kind of stuff is the gravy. It's fun. It's also an opportunity to get together and see other friends and artists in the music scene, plus (former Winnipeggers) Twilight Hotel are nominated in the category," says Mehta, who will try to attend the Junos in Ottawa.
KEN Mode and the Wailin' Jennys make up half the contingent of local artists whose names were read out Tuesday when the Juno Award nominees were announced at a press conference in Toronto. The other Manitoba acts are past Juno winners Doc Walker, whose 16 & 1 is up for country album of the year, and first time nominees Bruthers of Different Muthers, a rock band up for aboriginal album of the year for Speakers of Tomorrow.
Additionally, several expats were nominated for awards including James Ehnes (classical album of the year: large ensemble or soloist(s)); Twilight Hotel (roots & traditional album: group); Dave Young Quintet (traditional jazz album); Bob Rock (producer); and the late Ann Southam (classical composition). Toronto's David Travers-Smith earned a recording engineer of the year nod, in part, for his work on the Wailin' Jennys' Bright Morning Stars.
Elsewhere, City and Colour, Dan Mangan, Drake, Feist, Hedley and Nickelback are all competing in four separate categories at the 41st annual awards show.
"It means something to everybody, whether they acknowledge it or not," said Jim Cuddy, the Blue Rodeo frontman whose group will be inducted into the 2012 Canadian Music Hall of Fame. "Whether you're an established artist or a new artist, the hype around the telecast is definitely important for all of the nominees."
Cuddy, who is also nominated for two solo awards for his album, Skyscraper Soul, will perform with Blue Rodeo at the ceremony on April 1. Additional performers include City and Colour, Feist and Deadmau5, who wore his trademark oversized mouse head to the unveiling of the nominees.
Rapper Drake, pop prince Justin Bieber, and crooner Michael Bublé will face off for album of the year. Rounding out the contenders for that prize are Nickelback (Here and Now) and Avril Lavigne (Goodbye Lullaby). Bieber (Under the Mistletoe) and Bublé (Christmas) are both nominated for their holiday albums, while Drake is nominated for his critically acclaimed effort, Take Care.
In the artist of the year category, finalists include City and Colour, Deadmau5, Drake, Feist and Bublé.
Last year's Juno telecast was watched by 2.4 million viewers, a 48 per cent increase in total audience over 2010. Aiming to surpass that TV record -- 7.6 million Canadians tuned in to at least some of the 2.5-hour program -- the Junos are beaming in William Shatner to host the event.
"He's this country's Betty White," joked Phil King, president of CTV programming. "Although he hates when I say that... he's not really that old."
Other multiple nominees include Lavigne, Bublé and Deadmau5, who wore a wallet chain, blue jeans and red T-shirt with a polar bear firing two guns.
-- With files from Ben Kaplan
Nominees in some of the major categories:
Album of the year: Avril Lavigne, Drake, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Nickelback
New artist of the year: Alyssa Reid, Dan Mangan, Diamond Rings, Jordan and Lindi Ortega
Pop album of the year: Avril Lavigne, Down With Webster, Hedley, Lights, Marianas Trench
Rock album of the year: Sam Roberts, Sheepdogs, Arkells, Matt Good, Sloan
International album of the year: Adele, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, LMFAO, Rihanna
New group of the year: Braids, Hey Rosetta, Mother Mother, The Rural Alberta Advantage, The Sheepdogs
Fan choice: Arcade Fire, Avril Lavigne, City and Colour, Deadmau5, Drake, Ginette Reno, Hedley, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Nickelback
Group of the year: Arkells, Down with Webster, Hedley, Nickelback, Sam Roberts Band
Alternative album of the year: Braids, Dan Mangan, Destroyer, F--ed Up, Timbre Timber
Metal/hard music album of the year: Anvil, Cauldron, F-- the Facts, Ken Mode, Devin Townsend
Artist of the year: City and Colour, Drake, Deadmau5, Feist, Michael Bublé