The day is almost here! I Heart Hamilton’s 4th anniversary and annual fundraiser is this Friday, May 1st. I’m really excited to have Toronto-based band Fast Romantics in the lineup this year. They are in the midst of working on their third album and we will hear brand new material at this show. Their newest tune, “Julia” is online now with a fantastic lyric video and an official video is on the way. I chatted with lead vocalist and lyricist Matthew Angus to get to know the band a little better.
I Heart Hamilton: The Playlist 4.0 (Fundraiser for Food4Kids)
Featuring Fast Romantics, Grey Lands, Aukland, Munroe, DJs Kristin A/B
+ Pop-Up Shop Girls With Gunz
Friday, May 1, 2015 / 9PM
This Ain’t Hollywood, 345 James Street North
$10 Advance / $12 at the door
I Heart Hamilton: You’ve said the band started in Calgary in 2008 during a “whiskey storm.” Which sounds fun, and also a little dangerous! Was there an inciting incident that kicked off the start of the band?
Matthew Angus: The whiskey storm in question was this party we all threw together when we were really just getting to know each other. It was a poker and pie party. Everyone had to make a pie and bring that pie, and we ate each other’s pies and smoked cigars. And drank copious amounts of whiskey. The night ended with the climax of a food fight, with the apartment (and our bodies) completely saturated with a strange goey mixture consisting of pie, cheese-its, chips, playing cards, whiskey, and whatever other consumables were around. And that’s a whiskey storm.
At what point did you make the move from Calgary to be based out of Toronto? It must have opened up more opportunities but it’s also hard when a scene is so large, it can be hard to stand out. Was it difficult at first? How do you find Toronto’s scene?
It was really tough at first, yeah. But we’d gotten to the point of ‘standing out’ in Calgary and we were all sort of like, “okay, what now?” A lot of people doing the clichéd move to Toronto were doing it to get ‘huge’, but I think we were more doing it to be the small fish again. Make it hard on us. It was a challenge and we were too cozy in Calgary. So yeah eventually the move to Toronto became a wise choice opportunity-wise, but really we did it because we needed to shake ourselves up and get uncomfortable. Toronto, for a buncha Calgary kids, is about as uncomfortable as it gets, at least at first. Now we love it and some of us even have Ontario accents.
How does the songwriting process work – does it begin with just yourself, and then you bring it to the rest of the band? It must be a cool experience to see a song that begins as so personal to you, to then begin to take shape and evolve into the final version as everyone else comes on board.
Yeah, the songs are usually intensely personal at first and Iget sort of attached to them on my own. Which is good and bad. But then you throw it into the room and all these amazing personalities start taking hold of it and changing the way it sounds. It’s definitely rewarding. It’s one of the things that helps us not get too stuck on one sound I think, because so many different inspired people have come through the band as time goes on.
You’ve had some changes in lineup over the years – have you settled into a more or less permanent lineup now, or is it flexible? Does having more of a rotating lineup help in shaking things up or has it been challenging?
Yeah exactly, we’ve sort of turned that into a positive. It seems like every time we go into a new record we have new faces and have lost some old ones. That used to be frustrating but you sort of realize it’s just a natural part of being in a band after a while, and I think I’ve learned to turn it into a positive. The band just keeps coming more and more into its own, as more and more talented people touch the project. And yeah, of course every time you get a new group of people together you hope it’s a permanent lineup, but I’m not naive enough to think things don’t or won’t change. Jeff and I are the only two original members left. I’d love it if Kevin and Kirty and Nick were all with us from here on out forever and ever, but if god forbid one of them needed to leave us, what can you do? You can’t replace these kinds of people, everybody that’s been in our band is one of a kind and amazing. So you try to find someone else that brings you into the next phase, that will grow you to the next rad song or the next great show. The impermanence of everything in music is finally getting comfortable. It’s keeping us fresh, like we’re a brand new band every time. But all of that said, if any of the current members are reading this, I’ll kill you dead if you leave.
Your sound changed quite a bit from your first, self-titled album to your second album, Afterlife Blues. What can we expect from the new album?
More changes probably! Ha. Like I said, every record I tend to think of as a new project, even a new band. It will sound like Fast Romantics, but it will definitely be an evolution. This time around we’re working with two incredible producers named Gus Van Go and Werner F, and I think they really get me and my writing process, so it’s really helped open me up. They’ve also really forced me to throw away a lot of the background noise and just get to the meat of the songs. I’ve been a lot more focused on lyrics during these newer writing sessions. But at the same time we still seem to come out with simpler, happy-go-lucky songs every once in a while. So I can’t really tell you what the new record is going to turn out like quite yet, we’re in the thick of it. We’ve written all sorts of songs and recorded several already, but we have lots further to go.
Having been active as a band since 2008, you must have seen a lot of changes in the music industry. Is it more challenging than ever right now to find creative ways to get your music out there?
Hell no, it’s super easy to get your music heard. Not only that, but we’re making money hand over fist, like we’re all mega-wealthy now. We just make a song and upload it to Facebook or whatever and next thing you know we get to buy another car or a house. And that’s every time we put out a song. And thanks to the Internet, it’s all automatic, we don’t even have to think about it. Suddenly people are just listening to your song everywhere around the country, and then a few days later this really nice guy in a helicopter lands on your roof and gives you a cheque for a thousand million dollars. The music business has never been healthier and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
You’ve toured extensively across North America over the years. What’s something that you learned early on during your first tours that helped for future ones?
Don’t pack so many clothes. Seriously, you only need one shirt and one pair of pants. You’re not going to wear your second best outfit. Ever. Just stink, it’s rock n’ roll. But also, I think I learned not to expect packed gigs every time. We learned early on that you have to enjoy playing to six people just as much as you love playing to 5000 people. You’ll get to Regina on a Tuesday and you’ll play to thirty people and you have to really remember that these thirty people came to see you and to give them all of yourself. I think that sort of thing kept us honest and hungry early on, and occasionally still keeps us that way. Also, don’t eat Taco Bell. Just seriously, don’t. For so many reasons.
I’m really excited to have you be part of I Heart Hamilton’s The Playlist 4.0 (Fundraiser for Food4Kids)! Have you had the opportunity to play Hamilton quite a few times now over the years? Will we be hearing some new material at this show?
We couldn’t be happier to be a part of it! Yeah we love Hamilton, everyone has always been super kind to us there, and all of our friends are moving there so maybe it won’t be long before we’re Hamiltonians. Hamiltonites? Oh and yes, new material for sure. Buncha new songs, right into yer ears, Hamiltonarians.
Favourite place to eat in Hamilton:
My aunt’s house.
Favourite breakfast food:
If you were a drink, what would you be?
Your go-to karaoke song:
“I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by the Darkness (That’s Jeffy’s answer)
If you could speak flawlessly with any other accent, what would it be?
The sexy French.
Favourite concert/live performance you’ve seen:
Leonard Cohen’s first live show back at the Hummingbird a few years ago. Got teary.
What is on your playlist right now:
I just listened to the new Father John Misty album for the millionth time. So I guess that.
If you could take a detour to anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
The centre of it. The centre of the Earth.
Favourite mode of transportation:
What’s one thing on your bucket list:
Playing the I Heart Hamilton Playlist 4.0. I swear to god we’re gonna do it.
Thanks, Matthew! Looking forward to seeing Fast Romantics in action this Friday, May 1st at This Ain’t Hollywood!