Dec 16, 2015
Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Issue #54 - August/September 2015 - CHVRCHES
Seoul are in the middle of nowhere-or more precisely, at a cow-lined truck stop halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Although gleeful to be on their first U.S. tour in support of debut album I Became a Shade, the three musicians (Nigel Ward, Julian Flavin, and Dexter Garcia) crowd around the phone to explain that their current surroundings are perhaps the farthest away from a geographical representation of their reverb-drenched sound.
"We picked that name in a large part because it evokes an urban space," explains Ward of their Asian moniker. "Just the fact that our band name is Seoul, we're from Montréal. Some of our music videos are shot in Tokyo. It's not to be cosmopolitan. It's meant to be urban neutral. It's more about the common dominator of cities."
I Became a Shade is an assemblage of synths, drum machines, and pop swells, with each member taking a turn at both the microphone and keys. Constructed piecemeal directly after the band graduated from college (where they first began working together), the album skips from hushed, atmospheric tracks that narrowly escaped the chillwave label by a matter of years, and more anthemic singles such as "The Line," a track that opens with a playful glitch riff that evokes early Passion Pit.
With the help of a portable recording rig, the trio moved around during the writing and recording process, hopping across various neighborhoods in Montréal (including a stint at a rehearsal complex shared by Canadian heavy-hitters Grimes, Dirty Beaches, and Mac DeMarco), heading to Boston for a short period, and decamping to Kingston, Ontario. Flavin describes the final product as something akin to a soundtrack for reluctant wallflowers.
"The album that we're putting out deals a lot with that feeling of being in an urban environment and being in a populous space," he says. "Being surrounded by people and being involved in things, but also feeling this sort of tendency to feel like evaporating out of a room at a party. This sense of being able to be there but not there. Of being intimate with people but feeling very disconnected, and how that tension is so prevalent in people's lives."
During this time, the trio also dealt with the swell of post-collegiate emotions that leave many graduates struggling to define themselves once the safety net of school has fallen away. Spread between the ages of 24 and 25, all three members say that they're still very much in touch with that youthful alienation.
"You have all these human feelings rushing through you all the time," muses Flavin. "Luckily our work is designed in a way that you have an outlet to deal with it. Confront them on a daily basis. I think it's really healthy."
"You're still transitioning and realizing new things about yourself," adds Garcia. "And leaving old parts behind. Someone can listen to the record and get that feeling that your 20s aren't supposed to be this crazy, happy time. It's okay if it's confusing. It's that transition."
[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's August/September/October 2015 Issue. This is its debut online.]
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