We’ve all been hearing the ironic phrase “May you live in interesting times" a lot more often recently, and it seems to be the underlying theme of Fast Romantics’ latest album, American Love. Released on April 28 on Light Organ Records, the follow-up to the Toronto-based indie rockers’ 2013 album Afterlife Blues delves deeply into the current state of political and social turmoil through what singer and lyricist Matthew Angus describes as his outsider lens.
More specifically, Angus wrote much of the album in the heat of the U.S. presidential election, a period that also found him embarking upon a new romantic relationship. The collision of those forces in his life led to questions about how one maintains their identity—and sanity—in a world where they have to seemingly be engaged 24/7.
The results on American Love, produced by Gus Van Go and Werner F (Arkells, Wintersleep), are not so much a collection of protest songs, but a clear snapshot of the confusion permeating our daily interactions, and how to stay above it all.
Having survived their own turmoil of multiple personnel changes during their formative years, Fast Romantics’ current six-piece line-up has been stable since 2013, and the positive reaction so far to American Love is a testament to their perseverance.
With the band just completing a tour with Said The Whale, Matthew Angus was able to take some time to shed more light on the new album before Fast Romantics undertake more dates in western Canada this month. For more info go here
What sets American Love apart from your previous work?
So much. It is definitely beyond an evolution. The band ended up rebuilding almost from scratch and has four new members. So that on its own has had a huge impact, but the songwriting process was also different. I found a lot of these songs started with lyrics. Then we decided to tour the songs around in the early stages, and half of that touring was in the U.S. during the election.
For us six Canadians, it was eye-opening, sometimes scary and confusing, and it really changed the songs. We felt like outsiders but at the same time deeply connected to what people were going through in the States. I mean, they’re our neighbours, right? So it all seeped into the tunes, meaning the record got rewritten a couple times over the last two years to become what it is now. Very different from the last record.
American Love was recorded in both Toronto and Brooklyn. Were there any distinct differences between those two sessions?
There were actually way more sessions than two in each country. We spread them out purposefully, and as the songs changed, we scheduled more sessions.
We’d fly Gus and Werner up, explore a few more songs, change the ones we already thought were done. Then we’d go back down and repeat. It was an interesting way to make a record and I think doing it in both countries really helped flesh out the themes on the album. The songs were living and breathing and we never really closed the book on them until we knew they were right.
You've stated that a major theme of the album is that bordering is becoming less relevant. What in particular made that the focus of your writing?
That might have just been a direct experience that became an underlying theme. Borders simply became less relevant to us. You cross borders and they become simultaneously more and less relevant somehow. From day to day we found that as we came back to Canada, our friends were talking about all the same things strangers were talking about at our shows in the states. You can see that even with a simple swipe on your phone.
We’re all impacted commonly by these stories, and they all have varying shelf lives for varying reasons, thanks to the weird new reality of both traditional and social media. And so the concept of borders, of being connected, of feeling simultaneously disconnected, of being the same as our neighbours but of also feeling completely removed from them at the same time; those themes found their way into the songs purely because it’s what we were experiencing as the songs were written, and as we toured. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened.
What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
I fell in love and stayed in love. I’m actually happy. And I feel like I’ve managed to burn all the clichés—it turns out you don’t gotta be sad to write a good record. At least, I think it’s good.
The album still has its darknesses, I still have my darknesses. But this happiness is new for me and it turns out you can write about darkness from a happy place and the songs turn out pretty great. And that makes me even happier.
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
The way music is released and consumed now doesn’t inspire long attention spans. All of us, me included, suffer from shorter-than-natural attention spans.
Sometimes I fear there’s so much going on and so much noise in the world now that far fewer people sit down and really dig into a record. We spent two years on this album and I know the reality of the situation is that some people have so much to absorb that it’s rare that a new record gets a full listen, or multiple listens. And we’ve made a record here that I think really takes a few listens, front to back, to really make the strongest connection.
There are layers to it you won’t pick up on the first go around. I know that’s a concept that the music business isn't necessarily set up to support anymore. And maybe that won’t ever change, but my hope is that people manage to find time to listen to this one as an entire 12-song record. Maybe even more than once.
We created it with that in mind. And maybe if more listeners show that they value that sort of thing, the music business will start to support the concept of “full-length records” again and inspire people to dig deeper into them. I think it’s a powerful art form, but maybe that’s just coming from a guy who just finished spending a hell of a long time making one.