Young Galaxy

Noble Pop

Sep 26, 2013 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Issue #46 - June/July 2013 - Charli XCX
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Catherine McCandless hesitates when she speaksparticularly when it comes to describing the nuts and bolts of her work fronting Montréal-based five-piece Young Galaxy.

"I was going to say 'as an artist,'" she begins, attempting to explain exactly why she pursued a life in music. She pauses and laughs, acknowledging the potentially cliché nature of the phrase: "It's one that's hard to own because you don't feel justified. It feels self-indulgent. It feels overblown in its importance. Capital 'A' artist. It sounds a little much."

To record their fourth full-length, Ultramarine, McCandless and bandmates (husband Stephen Ramsay, Stephen Kamp, Matthew Shapiro, and Andrea Silver) decamped to Gothenburg, Sweden to work with Swedish musician/producer Dan Lissvik (The Mary Onettes, Studio). Young Galaxy had communicated with Lissvik via Skype when he mixed their 2011 album, Shapeshifting, but this was their first time working face-to-face. McCandless describes the month long session as being full of jokes, dancing, and wild hand gestures, as the band used any method possible to convey their vision. In an attempt to expand their electro pop-based sonic palette even further, Young Galaxy dissected their demos and dabbled in automatic writing and improvisation to help harvest new ideas. Some of those sessions are still evident in the hot, breathy vocals found on the album track, "Fever."

"Within the first half-hour of entering Dan's studio, we were trying to get to the heart of something sickly and bodily in the atmosphere," McCandless recalls of the song. "Dan had us improvising with breath and voice as a group in the middle of the room."

The result of their exercises and experiments is an album that marries sunny pop harmonies with Balearic dance rhythms. McCandless' vibrato-filled alto swaggers through it, weaving the kind of do-or-die romantic narratives that have been the bread and butter of fellow Canadian band Stars for years. From the emotional swells of opening track, "Pretty Boy," to the apocalyptic tale of youthful love, "New Summer," Ultramarine continually finds beauty in pain.

"What we chase after is a bittersweet quality in the melodies," McCandless says, acknowledging the observation. "There's a lot to do with things falling apart, coming apart, disintegrating. Returning to some earlier or new kind of order. It's a compelling idea to me. I don't mind the idea of things coming to an eventual... I won't say end because I think they go on from there. In a different form or evolution. Things decompose and change and turn into something else. I think that's what makes it an interesting narrative."

McCandless also credits her two-year-old son with Ramsay, Fergus, as another force driving her to continue making music. As she sees it, Young Galaxy is just as much a part of Fergus' legacy as it is hers. (So much so, the pint-sized muse occasionally makes an appearance in band photos.)

"It really drove home our confidence and our risk-taking," says McCandless. "He's made us both braver. You just feel like you're doing it for him instead of just yourself. It feels so much more noble!"

[This article first appeared in Under the Radar's June/July 2013 print issue.]



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