Preoccupations have emerged from an interesting year. The band formerly known as Viet Cong have survived an unusual amount of chaos with an ongoing appetite for mayhem, and a self-titled album that promises to be one of the most interesting offerings of their career so far.
Following an exercise in renaming the band that have been together since teenagers, the friends from Calgary, Canada, set about recording an album that captures the sense and scale of disruption but also the continuity and cohesion of perseverance.
During FYF ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann caught up with Matt Flegel and Scott Munro from the band to discuss their life on the road, the transformation that kept everything more or less the same, and the path to the new album Preoccupations.
Christopher Friedmann: We’re seeing you here at FYF Fest, you’ve been touring all summer, and you’re about to released a new, new self-titled LP. How is the mood in camp?
Matt Flegel: Everything’s been going pretty well.
Scott Munro: Yeah, had a few months off.
MF: We’re excited to be back at it. It was kind of the longest chunk of time we’ve had off for a couple years now, so we got to enjoy the summer. We all moved to different cities, so settling in and now gone for the next year.
SM: (Laughs) Just in time to leave again.
CF: You’ve were touring earlier in the summer right?
SM: Yeah, we did a little tour at the beginning of the summer. We’ve toured up to this festival and then like a month ago or two months ago we did a little Europe tour.
MF: It was sort of a press tour.
CF: You’ve hit a variety of different sized venues and festivals along the way. How is an event like FYF Fest unique? And what does it allow you to do differently as a band?
MF: It allows us to play at three o’clock in the afternoon in the blazing sun.
SM: Honestly I kind of like music festivals, but I’ve also never gone to a music festival that I haven’t been playing at. And so, I don’t know, maybe my perception of it is a little but skewed.
MF: Yeah, it’s different when you’re just a spectator, but that is sort of the nice thing about playing early in the day because then you’re just free for the rest of it.
SM: Yeah, you’re just blackout drunk by 8pm. It’s great. It’s great.
CF: I read that you made Preoccupations during lots of upheaval in your lives. Despite the difficulties that you were going through. How did your collective experiences help to create the new record?
MF: In an offhanded way it definitely influenced a lot of it, but I don’t think we were thinking of specific instances or anything as we were writing, necessarily. Maybe a little bit in the lyrics, just ‘cause I’m not necessarily writing lyrics for a specific song at any given point. I kind of just have a big pile of notes and iPhone memos and stuff like that and kind of go through it.
I was pulling a lot of things that I’d written while we were on the road and going through whatever kind of s*** we were doing, so there might be some outside influences I guess. We kind of did the same way we always go, where we just get together and make music. We end up throwing away half of it.
SM: Or more. (Than half)
MF: We end up going back to things we’d written two years ago that we’d forgotten about, whatever you have to do to make everything fit as a cohesive unit.
CF: The track titles alone off your upcoming album show the struggles you were going through at the time of writing and recording. You said, “Monotony is a dead end job; Anxiety is changing as a band. Memory is watching someone lose their mind; Fever is comforting someone. It’s all drawing from very specific things.”
MF: Yeah I guess so.
SM: That’s a good quote:
CF: Could you dig into one of these feelings and give us insight on how how those “specific things” formed songs?
MF: Yeah, like I said, I’ll have a couple of lines that I really like and a melody for the songs that we’re working on, and I usually just try and build it from there, but I guess this record is a little bit more personal, as far as the lyrics go. It’s more of an inside your mind record rather than an outside of your head record, where I thought the last one was just a little bit more abstract. This one is maybe a little bit more real life. It’s kind of just the process. A lot of it is us just doing it, not even really thinking about, you just do it.
CF: You’ve been through quite a few changes. Through all the upheaval how have you changed and is their a particular memory that you hold from those difficult times that you use to propel you today?
SM: Nah. No sorry.
MF: We kind of operate the same. We’re pretty easy going. We’re pretty easy at taking things as they come and dealing with things when they all go to hell, which happens all the time. There’s always constant struggle, but we’re all pretty easy going with it. We all get along that’s kind of the… from the get go, putting this group of dudes together was more important than whether we made sense musically together or anything. It was more of, “Can I spend two years in a van with these guys?”
CF: That’s gotta be a huge thing…
MF: Oh Yeah.
SM: Like you’re living on top of everyone. You spend 45 minutes a day playing music and the rest of the time you’re just hanging out with those people.
MF: That’s it.
SM: You have to live with them.
MF: It’s usually pretty easy.
SM: There’s definitely always, when you’re touring there’s always something to deal with, like the suspension blows out in your van and it rips your back tire to shreds the first day of tour, or you, we had one where we had a flight get cancelled from Dallas to Austin because of a tornado, and we took an Uber from Dallas to Austin. You get good at just dealing with adverse situations all the time.
MF: We’ve been doing it since we were teenagers, so at this point you kind of know anything that can go wrong usually will.
SM: And it’s good to have people around you know you can count on to at least do whatever you can do in whatever those situations are.
CF: You’ve recently been touring with Explosions in the Sky.
SM: And after this we’re continuing to tour.
MF: Yeah a few more shows.
CF: Have they offered any wisdom that you find yourself using?
SM: No (Laughs).
MF: They’re super friendly and we’re very approachable and pretty easy to talk to, and they’re in the same vein, I feel like. Like as soon as we showed up for the first show they all came out and introduced themselves and they make each other feel comfortable. I think that’s hugely important when you’re life is basically meeting people every single day. You got stay level headed. You can’t get cool. You just gotta be friendly and I think that’s super important.
CF: Far from now, what are you most looking forward to when you finally wrap up your tour?
MF: At this point it’s seeing people in different cities. We’ve doing this circuit for awhile now. There aren’t too many places where we don’t have friends. So that’s kind of the most exciting, you get to see the people you don’t get to see every day when you are not on tour.
SM: I feel like after having a bunch of time off, we’re all stoked to get back at it again. You kind of get sick of whatever you’re doing all the time, so…
MF: … Give us two more weeks on tour and we’re gonna want to be back home making food
CF: Aside from the creative accomplishments of the band, and the ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ experiences that you’ve had throughout the years, is there one particular memory that was grounding, and of a more human scale?
MF: I can’t think of anything specific on that human scale, but any time you get to play a big music festival like this and see some pretty inspiring music that makes you want to be better and makes you want to do better…
SM: Yeah. We just saw the cure at Sasquatch!
MF: I never thought I’d get to see The Cure, let alone play the same music festival as them. A lot of time you get your mind blown and it’s humbling to see some of these bands. It makes you want to be better.
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