“Don’t you wish you were a past you?” Steve Ciolek intones five tracks into The Sidekicks’ new LP, “Awkward Breeds.” The song, “1940’s Fighter Jet,” is a probing examination of friends going through the motions of growing up — a frustrated throwing up of hands set to exultant rock ’n’ roll.
The band’s third album finds Ciolek and his bandmates chafing against the expectations of the American Dream. This is not a new sentiment, and it wasn’t much newer three decades ago when Paul Westerberg sang, “Look me in the eye and tell me that I’m satisfied!” (No wonder The Sidekicks were blasting The Replacements throughout our interview.) But on “Awkward Breeds” they make quarter-life crisis sound urgent and revolutionary, not to mention fun in the high-fivingest sense.
“I think the idea for ‘Awkward Breeds’ was thinking about there being some mold that people need to fit into, and that is not attainable, so the fit isn’t true,” Ciolek said. “Or just thinking of people as sort of like actors fumbling through this role.”
The Sidekicks are growing up, too, or at least evolving. They began a decade ago at Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, where Ciolek and drummer Matt Climer were freshman classmates. Upon graduation, the bandmates dispersed across Ohio, with Ciolek settling in Columbus for college. Eventually he moved into Monster House, a South Campus hub for touring DIY punk bands.
Geography be damned, they kept the band together (with the occasional lineup change), practicing on weekends and touring on breaks from school. It was enough to make them an underground sensation; in 2009, influential website PunkNews.org named their sophomore release “Weight of Air” album of the year.
By summer 2010 all four members were living at Monster House, completing the migration to Columbus. With the addition of bassist Ryan Starinsky, they commenced work on “Awkward Breeds,” which finds them shaking off not just society’s expectations but also the straightforward pop-punk of their youth. Despite its punk-rock roots, “Awkward Breeds” is purebred pop laced with melody and youthful exuberance.
The evolution mirrors that of band pals Tin Armor, whom the Sidekicks see as a major influence for their work ethic and record collection alike.
“I view them as mentors, almost,” guitarist Matt Scheuermann said. “They probably don’t know that, but I think they’re really — they just like rock ’n’ roll a lot. They know a lot about it, and they’re really good at conveying certain things.”
Wednesday’s album release show at Carabar launches a 50-date tour that includes a stop at Austin mega-fest South by Southwest. Even more dates are piling up for the summer. For a band reared on searing basement performances, two straight months of playing bars is a new frontier.
They’re not leaving behind house-show culture though, even with their home base Monster House disbanding at summer’s end.
“This city has an extremely awesome DIY community,” Climer said. “It’s something rare that I feel like you don’t find in a lot of towns … It’s cool to be able to be a part of that and to feed off each other.”