Mon Mar 2 2020
7:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Under 16s with an adult
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Hope & We Are The City
Singer-keyboardist Cayne McKenzie, drummer Andrew Huculiak and guitarist David Menzel started We Are The City way back when they were teenagers, and in the decade-plus since then, they’ve used the project as an outlet for their wildest creative whims. They’ve unveiled masked alter-egos (2011’s High School EP), created an album with an accompanying Norwegian-language feature film (2013’s Violent), and staged a live stream of their recording sessions (2015’s Above Club). Now, with the joys and occasional tragedies of adulthood having fully set in, they’ve taken on their latest challenge: absolute, unflinching sincerity.
RIP is their fifth full-length, acting as the prog-pop counterpoint to last year’s experimental AT NIGHT. The Vancouver-based trio created this latest LP by returning to the basement of Cayne’s family home in Kelowna, where they first formed the band.
“We went back to where it started, and that was pretty potent,” reflects Andy. “There a few times on the record where Cayne’s almost crying when he sings, and I just don’t know if you could get that in a studio in the same way. It was really capturing an honest and true feeling of where we’re at right now.”
“We’ve entered a world of sonics. It’s like painting or something,” Andy explains. “The spirit is the same but the execution is different. We do it on a computer, but we keep the takes raw in order to have that human feeling.” These homemade tracks were masterfully mixed by JUNO-winner Matty Green (The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Paul McCartney), and three additional tunes were mixed by Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat, Mounties).
The resulting 11 songs blend the explorative pop-rock We Are The City are known for with intimate, introspective examinations of mortality. Opener “Killer B-Side Music” juxtaposes the slinky electro-soul of its verses with the towering guitar explosions of its chorus, while “Me+Me” adventurously dips a toe into atmospheric hip-hop. A number of tracks are packed with dense syncopations, but the trio are equally adept at paring down: the haunting “You Can't Blame Me, But You Can Blame Yourself” is a wordless groove laced with gossamer sighs, and “Children’s Hospital Ambience” is a reverb-soaked mood piece.
The cryptic “Saint Peter” features soulful guest vocals from Cayne’s dad Pete, a longtime musician who joined the band for an impromptu jam in the family basement. “Pete got on the mic and we were blown away,” remembers Andy, laughing with disbelief. “It was one take of different melodies and impromptu lines that don’t really make sense. After the take he shrugged and was like, ‘I don’t know, something like that?’ It was amazing.”
RIP’s thematic focus was inspired by a childhood friend who passed away during the sessions, and the guys aired their souls while collaboratively writing lyrics. They held nothing back: “God&Man” is a nakedly confessional exposé on past shames, and the aching title track “R.I.P” is a bittersweet reflection on a lost friendship which features an improvised one take vocal by McKenzie just days after learning about his friend's sudden death.
As with Violent, the band created the album alongside a feature film directed by Andy and produced by Amazing Factory. The film, titled Ash, isn’t directly connected to the new songs, although it’s similarly unflinching in its examination of moral ambiguity and human failings. It was shot in British Columbia’s Okanagan region during the devastating wildfires of 2017, and it features an original soundtrack from Cayne. Following the success of Violent (which earned numerous awards and was a critical hit at Cannes), it’s already making a splash on the film festival circuit.
RIP will be out in early 2020. In the past, the band might have attempted to pull a fast one on fans with a sneaky rollout and outside-of-the-box promotional strategy. These days, however, they’re happy to let their art do all the talking.
Hope & We Are The City
Mon Mar 2 2020 7:00 PM - 11:00 PM