Reminiscent of a young Josh Ramsay, Curtis Steeksma of Fighting For Ithaca is steering the pop rock genre into a fun, yet inspirational direction. His blend of pop rock with a slice of punk is one that is familiar in a comforting sort of way, but at the same time new in that the song themes are as relevant as ever to today’s generation of youth. Similar to some of the famed Canadian pop rockers before them – Sum 41, Hedley, Faber Drive – likely, you’ll find Fighting For Ithaca a staple in any teen’s playlist.
With gleaming charisma in his eyes and an undeniable star quality, we can’t help but fall head over heels for Steeksma and his clan of fresh-faced rockers. Not that we’re casting aside our beloved Marianas Trench, but baby, make room for the new kids on the 604 block.
Firstly, I want to start by asking what is Ithaca and why are we fighting for it?
I’m going to give you the real answer because if our drummer Phil were here, he would give you one of our many fake answers. Ithaca is actually a reference to Greek mythology. In Homer’s Odyssey, basically the main character has to leave. He’s the king of a land called Ithaca. He has to leave to fight in the Trojan War. It takes him twenty years to get back. What is translates to for us is fighting to get where you belong. So Ithaca is kind of like your goal or your vision.
The new album To The Rescue drops in October. When there is an emergency, which one of you in the band is most like to come “to the rescue”?
That’s me for sure. And I’m not just saying that because I’m the person you’re interviewing. My job in the band, other than be the singer and front man, is to keep everyone happy and keep us working as one cohesive unit. When you’ve got five guys that are all artistic, all have their own idea of what they want from the band, there’s always going to be heads that butt. I tend to be the one that comes in and smooth things over for the most part.
On a more serious note about the album, what expectations did you guys have for yourselves going into the making of this album?
I think we as artists, we set the bar really high for ourselves. It’s been a bit of a crazy year for us because we went from just being a local band to now suddenly, we’re rubbing shoulders with big bands like Marianas Trench and Faber Drive – all these bands that we’ve looked up to and still do. I think we really set the bar high as musicians. We wanted to write songs that we thought would appeal to a national and ultimately an international audience. There’s definitely a lot of pressure there on a songwriting aspect, but I think from a production side as well, we wanted to take our time. We were able to do that fortunately with 604 [Records] supporting us on it. We just wanted to make the best record that we could and I think we did that.
Our old stuff is a little more punk influenced. There are some heavier elements. So we’ve been going through this transition, and we still are a pop rock band with emphasis on the pop. We wanted to write a pop record. It still has those rock elements, but it’s a pop album.
You mentioned that you guys are rocking with Faber Drive and rolling with Marianas Trench. What’s it like being a part of the 604 Records family?
It’s awesome, amazing and also really intimidating because these guys like I said, are bands that we’ve really looked up to, that we would even consider some of our influences. It’s made us grow up really fast in the sense that we’re used to being locally a big fish in a small pond. Most people in the pop rock scene know who we are. And then we starting working with these massive artists and rubbing shoulders with these massive artists that have done things at this point, we’ve only dreamed of. They’re extremely welcoming, but it is very intimidating for us.
The power pop/ punk rock genre that you guys belong to, it appeals to lots of people, but particularly it resonates with a lot of the youth. How much thought is put into making your music relatable and making sure the guys in the band are relatable?
Everything that we do, we have a very clear idea of our demographic. We know our target audience is thirteen to twenty-year-old girls, mostly. We are aware of that. We’re okay with that. We just want to write fun music that we would listen to on our own to and just be able to have a really great time and experience that with fans. A lot of our music has a positive message. We’re not a negative band. You could listen to our record and there’s not one swear word on it – not that that matters. We try to stay positive and pass on an optimistic message.
A lot of teenage girls in particular, a lot of people in that age category struggle with things like self-esteem issues and self confidence, they have trouble with their parents, they’re not doing well in school – all these pressures you get as a teenager. Having all of us [in the band] been through that already, one of our goals when we’re writing music and developing that experience whether it’s a personal connection with fans, is to let them know that it’s going to be okay. Everybody goes through these things and if we can help them in some way get through that, then I think that’s what we want to do. We try to make that come across in our music by making it fun and also on a personal level, just connecting with fans is huge with us. We try to respond to every tweet, every Facebook message.
There’s a lot of genre blending going on in music right now. If you guys could pick a genre to combine with your punk rock, what would it be?
Well it depends on who you ask in the band. If you ask my brother Jon for example, he would say dubstep. He really wants to throw some dubstep stuff into what we’re doing. I think it’s great. On the pop side for me, it would be more…not like house elements, but synthy-pop elements into what we’re doing. I love pop music. I have no problem cranking out One Direction in my car or Cody Simpson. I love pop music. I want to keep things fun and happy and having more dance elements in there is what I would love to bring in.
Going with the theme of your new single, “Last Chance”, how would you recognize and embrace a last chance at success?
I think you have to approach every opportunity with optimism and 110%. It doesn’t matter what it is. I think staying confident and tackling everything with everything you’ve got is just the best way to approach life. Whether or not it’s your last chance, you should treat every opportunity like that because anything can pass you by. If you sit, if you hesitate, if you don’t take action, you never know when that opportunity is going to come around again. Treat everything as your last chance. Jump on it with enthusiasm and an open mind and an open heart.
Would your answer be any different if I changed the question to a last chance at love?
No, no it would be the exact same. I mean, right?! Love is such a huge influence on us all and on everything. Love is the single most powerful thing in the entire world really. So yeah, you should approach it the exact same way. Take that shot.