The cheerful band members draw inspiration from their fascination with a post-apocalyptic world
Listening to the dark, heavy tones emanating throughout Viet Cong’s EP, Cassette, and self-titled debut album, one would assume that the men behind the music were sombre individuals. “Everybody thinks that we’re going to be really serious,” confirms guitarist Scott Munro.
Munro was joined by Matt Flegel on vocals and bass, Mike Wallace on drums, and Daniel Christiansen on guitar to form the group, Viet Cong, in 2012. Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, they released their EP, Cassette in July 2014 and are set to release Viet Cong from Flemish Eye Records on Jan. 20. Their sound can be heavy at times, but is rich with heavy drumbeats, samplers, synths and vocals that evoke the angst of old school British bands of the 1980s. Viet Cong belongs more in the punk rock and experimental spectrum rather than fitting into the all-encompassing school of indie rock.
The new album was co-produced by Munro, Flegel, and Graham Walsh of electronica band Holy Fuck with contributions from musician Julie Fader. Over eight days in the winter, the band split their time between Munro’s home studio, recording vocals at the studio of Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor, then recording in a refurbished barn near Hamilton, Ontario. They see winter as the perfect season to be working, since, essentially, you are stuck inside and somewhat forced to be productive. So, Viet Cong hibernated and then emerged with seven exquisite tracks.
A fascination with the gloomy post-apocalyptic landscape has been an influence for some members of the band and is reflected in their heavy sound. The obsession with apocalypse, natural disaster, raptures, and the collapse of society has been permeating popular culture for decades. This fascination has manifested in novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road—a book which Munro fittingly happened to be reading leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar.
On the topic of the end of the world and post-apocalyptic thought, Munro says: “I think everyone wonders how they would deal with the collapse of everything they know… I’m always thinking about how defensible my house will be. [These] thoughts in everyday life, I think, factor into how I think about music.” Hence the melancholic vibes running through their albums. Yet, Viet Cong are not quite the pessimists their angst-ridden songs make them out to be. “We’re all pretty upbeat people and we’re all pretty stoked about everything,” Munro says.
Viet Cong are surely stoked to be embarking on a fourth month-long tour, playing nearly forty gigs across North America and Europe from now until May. In months past, they toured in a compact Toyota Echo.
“Can you imagine that four of us lived in a car that size for seven weeks? I had some of the best sleeps of my life on that tour. I prefer sleeping outside on the grass than sleeping on some hippie’s couch,” Munro says. Now they have purchased a new tour van from fellow musician, Chad VanGaalen. The van came complete with a rainbow coloured floor.
Touring the Viet Cong album will prove to be much different than recording, and to keep things fresh the band tries to build improvisation into each show. Munro says this is good for them, because “you have to listen to each other” and “nobody can just get into their own little world, because its not always the same.” This improvisation on tracks such as “Death” allows for an exciting set, as Munro says that the improvisation “gives you something to look forward to.”
“Being in a band is always a compromise … nobody in [the] band has egos,” Munro says, which makes the writing and recording process quite smooth. Not to mention, many of the members have been playing and recording music for years, so their experience has helped them to improve on the collaborative process that is music making.
They respect a policy in which ideas presented in the group are “[followed] through to the finished recording,” Munro says. Instead of throwing away material, they try to rework songs and ideas that can be picked apart and then reuse them. When they first began Viet Cong, Munro and Flegel sat down with material they had been collecting and working on, and decided that everything was ripe for the picking, using samples and riffs for new innovative tracks that would end up on Cassette and Viet Cong. Ultimately, as a band, their goal is “to make music that [they] like and [to] make something good” which requires work and dedication. But this has been achieved thus far with both the promising Cassette and their full length album, Viet Cong.
Viet Cong play Bar Le Ritz Friday Jan 30.