Preoccupations | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, July 17th, 2024  


By Any Other Name

Nov 01, 2016 Issue #58 - The Protest Issue Photography by Alessio Boni Bookmark and Share

In the middle of April, the members of Viet Cong found themselves in an unusual position. It was a little over a year since their self-titled debut had established them as a post-punk buzz band, but they already had their sophomore album exactly how they wanted it: completely mixed, mastered, and its song titles chosen. But they still didn’t know what the name of the band was going to be. Having been confronted by Vietnamese expatriates who had been brutalized by the military regime from whom they had taken the Viet Cong moniker, the Calgary quartet led by vocalist Matt Flegel had spent the previous year pondering just how to rebrand themselves. They compiled list after list of prospective names, soliciting advice from their record label and friends, but on the verge of officially announcing their new release, they still didn’t know.

“We narrowed it down to the final five names,” says multi-instrumentalist Scott “Monty” Munro. “And we had the five names that everyone agreed were fine. And then we went through them, and all of them were already bands except for Preoccupations,” he says with a laugh. “It’s really hard to find band names that aren’t already band names.”

Preoccupations ends up being a perfectly suitable name for the obsessive, darkly churning sound of their self-tiled sophomore release. Though the album came quickly, it did not come easily. Having started their new tracks in 2014 during breaks from touring, Munro, Flegel, multi-instrumentalist Daniel Christiansen, and drummer Mike Wallace scrapped a 70-minute set of 12 songs around Christmas of that year, keeping only two because the others sounded too much like their previous work. Changing their name presented them not only with a problem but an opportunity to see themselves as a new band in a sense.

“I definitely think the Preoccupations record sounds like the same band in a lot of ways,” Munro continues. “The sonics of the record are often different, but I feel like it’s believable as us. There’s a lot more keyboards on this record than last time; there were a lot of keyboards on the last record, too, but they were always buried in with the guitars. There’s plenty of the same kinds of themes on the record before, too. It is pretty dark, although musically I think it’s a little lighter. There is some major key stuff on this record, and there wasn’t really any of that on the last one.”

Appropriately, the sound is one of, well, preoccupation. The textures are thick and engrossing, the writing is broodingly meticulous, and the overall feel is one of seams about to rupture. The song titles tell the tale“Anxiety,” “Monotony,” “Forbidden,” “Fever”adding up to an album that glows with white hot discomfort. No, they chose a perfectly suitable name. Something frivolous just wouldn’t have had quite the same ring of truth, though that doesn’t mean they didn’t consider such options.

“Goofy Buddies was definitely on the table a lot of different times,” Munro recalls. “It was like, ‘Fuck it! Let’s call the band Goofy Buddies. Fuck everyone, Goofy Buddies it is!’ We didn’t go with that one in the end, but I would have been fine being in a band called Goofy Buddies,” he says, then laughs to himself contentedly. “That would have been awesome.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s August/September/October 2016 Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]


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