Interview: Ought

Ought - Tim Beeler, Ben Stidworthy, Tim Keen, Matt May

2014 was een goed jaar voor Ought. Qua gitaargedreven bands is Ought een van de belangrijkste en beste nieuwkomers: hun debuut More Than Any Other Day werd geprezen door onder andere PitchforkDrowned In Sound en Clash. Ik had het geluk Ought's debuut te recenseren vooraleer Pitchfork zijn 'Best New Music' medaille aan de plaat gaf. Mijn review was toen één van de weinige online, waardoor ze - naar mijn normen - massaal bekeken werd.

Ought ontstond in 2012 tijdens grootschalige protesten in Montréal, Quebec. De regering had besloten om het inschrijvingsgeld van universiteiten te verhogen - van ongeveer 2000$ naar 4000$ - waardoor de bevolking massaal naar buiten kwam om te protesteren. Het viertal, oorspronkelijk drie Amerikanen en één Aussie, was toen student aan dezelfde universiteit in Montréal. Te midden van de opkomst bouwden ze een hechte band.

De reden waarom ik hun ontstaanslegende vermeld, is omdat verschillende karakteristieken van dergelijke grootschalige protesten in Ought's muziek verweven zitten. Zo is Ought een zuiver democratisch project. Niemand leidt, niemand werkt in isolement. Het viertal komt samen en speelt jamsessies die soms uitlopen tot een anderhalf uur. Uit dit gezamenlijk experimenteren plukken ze de meest interessante passages. Nummers zijn daardoor nooit een vast gegeven. Matt May, toetsenist van Ought, legde me uit dat optredens het kloppende hart van de band vormen. Hun studio-opnames klinken dan ook vitaal en tastbaar. Ought gelooft in verandering en hun muziek inspireert de luisteraar om met hen mee te geloven.

Volgende week brengt het Constellation label Ought's nieuwe EP Once More With Feeling uit. Met deze release cirkelt Ought terug naar hun begindagen. Twee van de vier nummers stonden namelijk op Ought's eerste zelf opgenomen EP New Calm. Ik interviewde toetsenist Matt May, door de band ooit omschreven als de "devilishly handsome one". Hij verhelderde drugsreferenties in lyrics, sprak over het belang van optredens en noemde touren met Viet Cong, een nieuwe Canadese band opgebouwd uit de brokstukken van Women, onwerkelijk.

Ought staat op 20 november in de Ancienne Belgique te Brussel. En alsof dat nog niet geweldig genoeg was, kondigde de AB Viet Cong aan als voorprogramma. Beide behoren tot de boeiendste rockbands van het moment, dus ik kan je dit niet genoeg aanraden. Ought en Viet Cong staan de dag erna - vrijdag 21 november - op een podium van het indrukwekkende festival Le Guess Who? in Utrecht.

(Zowel Habit als Waiting kunnen via de soundcloud gratis gedownload worden.)

I clearly remember hearing Ought for the first time. I stumbled upon Habit, the first single from your debut More Than Any Other Day, and it impressed me in a way few other songs in 2014 did.

I'm still trying to grasp the full meaning of the song Habit. At its core, I feel it’s about the compulsive need to express your thoughts and feelings. But because of the screeching Velvet Underground-esque violins and the lyrics "And when you get it in your bloodstream / And you feel at home with it but you just can't get relief”, it feels like you're also referencing to drug addiction. How far off am I?

Matt May: It's tough, because for me - though I did not write the lyrics, of course - the song feels like an attempt to talk about addictions of various kinds and degrees, though not specifically drug addiction. I feel it's open to one's ears to think about what it means to them because I feel like it talks about a process rather than a specific incident.

The slow-burning ballad Pill has a similar motive as Habit has: "I took a drug for you. A funny thing, escaping reality to find a common place." Are Habit and Pill coming from the same place?

In a sense, but I think this references a specific moment rather than an experience of grappling with agency. For me, that moment of Pill is more about trying to share common experiences than a drug experience per say.

Lets talk a little bit about your new EP Once More With Feeling. If I’m right, three of the four songs are reinterpretations of already existing songs. Pill & New Calm pt. 2 were included on your self recorded New Calm EP released in 2012. How much did the songs change between 2012 and 2014?

That is correct! I don't think too much has changed in terms of what we want to do, which is make music that excites and challenges us. But we are just better at our instruments - I think - and better at listening to each other and playing together.

I think Waiting – which closes the Once More With Feeling EP - is an incredible and lively song, so I’m glad to see it getting an official release. Waiting was actually recorded during the More Than Any Other Day recording sessions, why didn’t it make the cut?

It was recorded at the same time, yeah! It was cut when were talking about the shaping of the record and how to get what we wanted on the space of a vinyl record. So basically it was in part a time/space thing, but it was also about cohesion to some extent and what felt like an ideal collection of songs we had written up to that point. That being said, I'm really glad it made it on this EP, where it sits well.

To me, one of the most attractive aspects of songs like Waiting, Pleasant Heart and The Weather Song is the dual core of your music: it's all angsty and frustrated, but at the same time it's uplifting and hopeful. Despite all the beating, you're enjoying life. Is that the energy you want to put in your songs?

Yeah that's a really nice way to phrase it. I believe it's not a duality, per say, because there's so much bleed and overlap. But, yeah, there is no absolute state of things or of being. So by that token there's lots to be angry about, for sure, and some things to feel good about as well.

I will finally see you play live, on November 20 in Brussels to be exact. I heard great things about your performances. How important are live shows?

We are essentially a live band at the core, so we really thrive in that setting. We like to mess around with songs a bit (or a lot sometimes haha) because that's where the song stands on that day in that moment. In general though we really like playing live, so I hope that comes across!

How important is the connection with your audience while performing?

My friend Dave once said to me that if you are excited, people respond well to that. And I think that's, in general, very true. We really enjoy playing live and hope that people engage with the show in a positive and/or generative way.

You’ve played shows in the Netherlands, France and the U.K. this summer. How is Europe treating you? Do European and Canadian live shows differ?

Hmm, there are some differences for sure but in general people have been really kind and supportive. The European shows we did last time around were really special to us, so we're excited to be back for more shows this time around.

You’re touring with Viet Cong – a relatively new band with members of the dearly missed Women. I loved their tour cassette, so I’m extremely excited to see both Ought and Viet Cong on the same evening. Do you have some sort of connection with Viet Cong?

Viet Cong are amazing! It's pretty surreal to me that we get to play with them, being one of my favorite bands of late and having come from the wildly creative and inspiring Calgary band Women, who are greatly missed. We met them for the first time when we just recently played in Calgary - with an incredible band called Burnt Shrines - and the Viet Cong folks I met were really nice, so it should be a great couple of shows!

Thank you. I’ll see you in Brussels!

Thank you! Do come say hi at the show - see you then!

0 reacties :

Een reactie posten