Call & Response: Young Galaxy
Montreal four-piece Young Galaxy first got my attention a couple years ago when I heard their song "Outside The City". Singer/keyboardist Catherine McCandless' haunting vocals and lyrics really got to me, as did the unique groove. The band seemed destined for the kind of indie stardom Arts&Crafts specializes in when the Toronto label released their self-titled debut.
I was surprised to hear recently that their second album Invisible Republic was self-released (with help from distributor Fontana North). Even without A&C backing, Young Galaxy will surely turn heads once again with a wider variety of sounds and moods on the new set of songs.
Their cross-Canada tour ends Friday with a show at the Horseshoe. I spoke with singer/guitarist Stephen Ramsay about their new album, the break from A&C, and I get his opinion on the Montreal vs Toronto thing. There's also a contest!
blogTO: How does it feel to have your 2nd full-length completed?
Stephen Ramsay: It feels great, but we hope it's just one of many more to come. We look at records as snapshots of our creative process rather than looking at them as definitive articles. The best is yet to come!
How did the making of this album differ from the first?
The making of this album was night and day compared to the first - the first one was made before we ever played a show live, so the making of Invisible Republic was definitely informed by having played live a lot, and as a band rather than a duo. We rehearsed the songs and played them live before we recorded, that was the biggest difference.
Why is your new album called Invisible Republic?
It's a phrase that I have loved since I first heard it as the title of the Greil Marcus book about Bob Dylan and The Band's Basement Tapes recordings. I see it as a reference to counter culture and secret societies. Plus, the title I really wanted for the album - Cauldron Of Jazz II: Saga Of The Barf Wolf - was shot down by the rest of the band. Go figure.
Overall, it feels that this album is darker than the first. Would you agree? Did you set out to make a darker album?
Why, thank you. I suppose we did set out to make a darker album - the first record really mined the theme of bittersweetness for the most part. It felt more genuine to be less disciplined or careful about what our "message" was this time around. We wanted people to see more perspectives from the band, warts and all.
Plus, it was a dark time in general I'd say - the honeymoon period for the band was over, the line-up was changing and we were struggling to stay afloat financially, Bush was in his second term, North Korea and Iran were testing nukes, An Inconvenient Truth had just come out... it seemed like the world was about to end. I suppose not much has changed in a way...
"Long Live The Fallen World" starts the album off with a bang. Would you agree that it's your most adventurous recording to date? How did that song come about?
It came about because we wanted to write a horror disco song, something like Goblin or Georgio Moroder would have written for a horror soundtrack in the seventies. The beat is a direct lift from Blondie's "Rapture" and the end is certainly heavily influenced by German bands like Neu! and La Dusseldorf. We wanted it to sound like a cross between a good and bad dancefloor trip; good and bad drugs mixed. We wanted to shake the tag that we were a good-natured, sleepy shoe-gazer band. Creatively, we couldn't be further from that!
What happened with Arts & Crafts? Why are you no longer on that label?
We are stubborn and need to learn how everything works for ourselves. We don't listen to others. We are lazy workaholics. We do things by long division rather than short division. We have our own made up language. We are pirates - we steal and pillage wherever we go. I'm an asshole. I suspect that makes us very hard to work with.
Whenever I interview bands from Montreal and ask them what they think of Toronto I always get a negative answer. What do you folks think of our city?
Well I can understand why, because nine times out of ten the majority of a Canadian band's business occurs in Toronto. The pressure is on when you get there. Most bands are pussies though - get over it and enjoy yourselves. For us, it was ground zero for our band's existence so we are used to going there a lot. Toronto is great, except for the Leafs fans!
What do you like to do when you're in Toronto? Any places you prefer to eat/drink/hang out at?
We love the Italian restaurant Terroni, Boom for breakfast, Jet Fuel for coffee, Paul's Boutique and Capsule for music gear, Nomad for men's clothing, plus every time I go I'm introduced to a new hole in the wall to have drinks at. There are so many of them! The list goes on and on...
Has your live show changed (new members/gear/etc) since you last played here?
Well, since we played there only two months ago, not really. We are playing a few songs we hadn't played live yet, so the change is mostly in the setlist. Plus we have sweet outfits and a light show now, so it will be for many like seeing a whole new band!
Now that the decade is almost over, what were your favourite albums of the 00's?
1. Studio - West Coast/Yearbook 12. Radiohead - In Rainbows
3. Primal Scream - XTRMNTR
4. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People
5. Arcade Fire - Funeral
6. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
7. The National - Alligator
8. Baxter Dury - Floorshow
9. The Besnard Lakes - Are The Dark Horse
10. The Horrors - Primary Colours
CONTEST: The first two people to post their favourite Young Galaxy song will get tickets for this Friday's show at the Horseshoe. Good luck!
Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with bands from or playing in Toronto. Photo: Joe Yarmush.