Over the past handful of years of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about Canadian post-punk act and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations, and as you may recall the band which features Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Mike Wallace (drums), Scott Munro (guitar) and Daniel Christiansen (guitar), initially formed under the highly controversial name Viet Cong that managed to put the band in the middle of a furious and tumultuous debate centered around cultural appropriation and the usage of terms, names and symbols closely associated with historical groups and actions that evoke the horrors of despotism, fascism, genocide and so on. Ultimately, the band decided it was best to change their name before the release of their sophomore album, an effort that found each of the individual members of the band in rather unsteady and uncertain positions — at the time, each member relocated to different cities across North America, which made their long-established writing process of writing and testing material while on the road both extremely difficult, if not highly impractical.
Additionally, a couple of bandmembers were reeling from long-term relationships ending around the time that they were preparing to enter the studio — and unlike their previously recorded material, the band went into the writing sessions without having a central idea or theme to consider or help guide them along, essentially making the recording sessions a collective blind leap of faith. Eventually the album’s material wound up drawing from something specific and very familiar — the anxiety, despair and regret that causes sleepless nights.
Building upon a growing reputation for crafting dark and moody post-punk centered around themes of anxiety, uncertainty, creation, destruction and futility will be releasing their third album New Material was released earlier this year through Jagjaguwar Records, and the album, which was self-recorded and self-produced by the band is as the band’s Matt Flegel said in press notes, “an ode to depression. To depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred.” Much like their sophomore album, the band met without having much written or demoed beforehand — and according to the members of the band, it was arguably one of the most collaborative writing sessions they ever had as a band, with the sessions being extremely architectural in nature, with some ideas (proverbially speaking) being built up while others were torn down to the support beams.
Initially they didn’t know what the songs were about or where they were going with them, they had resolved to let the material show and not explicitly not tell; however, the writing and recording sessions reportedly led to a reckoning for the band’s Flegel. “Finishing ‘Espionage’ was when I realized. I looked at the rest of the lyrics and realized the magnitude of what was wrong,” says Flegel. In fact, the murky and angular Manchester/Joy Division-like first single “Espionage,” while being among the most danceable songs they’ve written and released, focuses on a narrator, who has finally become aware of a disturbing penchant for self-sabotage in every aspect of his life. “Antidote,” New Material‘s second single was centered around propulsive, industrial clang and clatter based rhythm meant to convey a sweaty anxiety, while being about how people forget that we’re all talking, walking, shitting animals, who have an infinite amount of knowledge within their fingertips but still manage to repeatedly make the wrong choices. “Disarray,” the album’s third single was meditative and slow-burning single featuring shimmering guitar chords, an angular and propulsive bass line, organic drumming and boom bap-like drum machine work during the song’s bridge. And while superficially nodding at Turn On the Bright Lights-era Interpol, the song captures something much darker and uncertain — as it’s centered around someone, who from their perspective, views everything they’ve ever known to be a lie. As the band’s Flegal recalls, When I was writing ‘Disarray,’ it started off with an image of a mother combing her daughters hair that came into my mind, I liked the metaphor of splitting the braids and combing through the tangles, and wrote the rest of the lyrics around that image. This song sat untouched for close to 6 months as a recording with just bass and drums before we came back to it and wrote and recorded the guitar line while out of our minds one night in the early AM.”
New Material’s latest single “Decompose” continues in the angular and propulsive vein of its predecessors but centered around twinkling synths, buzzing guitars and an eerie melodicism that underlies the song’s danceable yet murky vibe. Interestingly, the release of the video comes as the band finished an eventful North American tour in which they were robbed twice, having all of their gear stolen. Luckily, they were able to finish the remaining dates of the tour borrowing instruments and gear from friends and openers. The North American leg of the tour ended with a positive note, as they were able to reach their fundraising goal to replace their gear — and in time for them to embark on the European leg of the tour. You can check out the tour dates below; but in the meantime, the video was directed by Evan Henderson and features live footage of the band performing at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern shot on film that had been boiled for two weeks in a salt water brine prior to filming — and while capturing the band performing, you’ll see explosions of geometric shapes and bright colors, which gives the video a subtly psychedelic vibe, while hinting at decomposition and decay.