Meet the Musicians—Close Kicks feat. Louwop

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We’re used to seeing far-off places in our media. New York lofts, tropical beaches, Icelandic vistas—all perks of living in the Internet age. But it can make it all too easy to forget about the scenery and stories in our own backyard. Darryl James’ Close Kicks project is unabashedly local, and there’s a thrill of recognition in his music videos to seeing our landscapes and streets not as stand-ins for another place or era, but as themselves. Speaking to James and his collaborator Luis Segura, aka Louwop, at Lindsay’s Academy Theatre, it’s clear their commitment to nurturing the local scene runs deep.

“I think you get inspired by your community,” says James, “you’re constantly being inspired by others around you, what their story is and what they’ve done.” As the bass player for the Strumbellas, the indie rock band best known for the breakthrough hit “Spirits,” he can take credit for being a force of inspiration himself. Touring with the Strumbellas has taken James around the world, but his hometown connection to Lindsay remains strong. He and Segura met at a basketball game for their daughters, and discovered a shared love of music while chatting on the sidelines. They would go on to record the single “Small Town, Big Dreams” together, which capture both artists’ attitudes towards creativity.

“I was in that boat of kind of like, maybe I’ll pack it in,” Segura says. “Then I’m seeing Darryl shoot his own videos and put EPs out, put music out. I was like, yeah, you know what? Why can’t we just keep doing this. In that process I released a single, we released a single together, now I’m trying to finish up my own EP. Metal sharpens metal kind of thing.”

Segura is also a veteran musician, having toured extensively with the Latin hip hop collective Los Poetas. Around the time the group disbanded Segura relocated from Toronto to Lindsay, drawn to the less hectic pace of Kawartha Lakes. As a rapper, his verses became the unique twist that helped James carve out a niche separate from his output with the Strumbellas. “We started chatting and it was like, why don’t we do something together? Why don’t we start to collaborate? And then it came together very quickly,” Segura recalls. “We had an idea for the concept we wanted to do. We had our kids involved—my oldest son plays my younger self, and Darryl’s nephew plays his younger self in that dream that starts in a small town.”

In the video, two young boys make their first steps into becoming musicians. The message is sweet without being saccharine, perhaps because it draws directly on real life experience. “Not everyone has a building like this in their community,” James says, gesturing at the Academy Theatre’s expansive stage. “I want to raise awareness that hey, this is here, and I want this here to stay. I want this to prosper, and I want to continue to see bands come in here.” He lists three-sold out dates playing the Academy with the Strumbellas as a career highlight. “People still talk about that show, so I want this place to be around for my kids to hopefully sell out, or another kid to sell out… When you see a show in here it sounds great, feels great.”

“For myself, same thing,” Segura says. “My youngest daughter is like, ‘Can you put on Small Town, Big Dreams?’ She knows it. Four years old and she’s rapping the whole song. Those things are special, right? That’s the stuff that inspires me.”

James sits on the Academy Theatre’s programming committee, working to bring artists back to the space after COVID forced a long pause. “Even outside of music, it’s important to dance and theatre. There’s so many things that come through this building. You can see it in here—it’s just kind of magical.” He and Segura have also been collaborating on the Homemade Concert Series, helping organize intimate house concerts for emerging talent. “Coming out of the pandemic, I just hope as things lift that people really do embrace the arts again, because it really has been impacted. When you think of when the pandemic hit, it was one the first things that was closed, and it’s kind of one of the last things that’s really opening to the fullest level.”

“During the pandemic it was one of the things that kind of gave people hope,” Segura adds, of how music continued to inspire him through the bouts of self-isolation. He notes that all the extra music and art he was exposed to at home was a silver lining of the pandemic, and smiles. “Small town, big dreams, right?”

Hear more from Close Kicks by visiting the website

Discover more local musicians through the Meet the Musicians series, released regularly through Spring 2022

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