Any band named after a Vietnamese militant group is sure to come up against a little controversy. Case in point? Viet Cong – the critically acclaimed Calgary-based, post-punk foursome.
Despite the band issuing a statement dismissing any intent to cause offense – explaining they naively chose the name knowing little about the Vietnam War – it’s definitely rustled some feathers among Vietnamese-American communities.
Even with the name controversy, Viet Cong continues to sell out shows. They recently returned from an extensive European tour, where they performed to packed venues on a nightly basis.
But this wasn’t always the case. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Flegel – previously part of the punk band Women – says that before their debut self-titled album dropped, the band went on a mini-tour that involved playing to a lot of sparsely populated audiences. This time on the road allowed them to lock down their sets and really get to know each other.
“We were testing the waters just to make sure the four of us could get along in an enclosed space for that amount of time,” Flegel says.
Flegel appreciated the chance to flex his muscle as a lyricist. He describes the songwriting process as long but says it was about more than finding themes – it was about getting it right: “I can deal with putting a lot of time into the lyric writing because I didn’t want to fail.”
Flegel admits that the repetitive nature of performing has some pull over the tracks that will get produced. “I go into recording thinking, ‘Okay I’m probably going to have to play this song 250 times this year,’” he says. “So we try and keep it interesting for ourselves.”
In the ten years since Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg started First Aid Kit, they have been going non-stop. The indie-folk duo got their start when their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” went viral, and have since released four albums, won five Swedish Grammis awards, and brought two of their idols to tears on live television. Following a brief hiatus, and four years after their last record, Stay Gold, First Aid Kit is back with Ruins, a raw account of losing love and finding yourself. In the middle of a North American tour, Georgie talked to Klara and Johanna about the new album and what brought them to Ruins. G—You’ve said in past interviews that Stay Gold was a more put-together, polished kind of album, and Ruins is a lot rawer. What caused that shift? JS—The production of Stay Gold is very lush and elegant, and I think that’s what we wanted at the time. But we started longing for this rawness, this almost lo-fi aspect that we had on our first records. [For Ruins]…our attitude was that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If we sing a bum note or there’s a little crack
Charlotte Cardin is on track to having her biggest year yet. The electro jazz-pop singer has been nominated for Songwriter of the Year and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at next month’s Juno Awards. Along the way, she has performed at Osheaga—an experience she calls “surreal”, having attended for years growing up in Montréal—and Festival d’été de Québec where she opened for Sting and Peter Gabriel. More recently, she has been touring behind her EPs Big Boy (Cult Nation Records, 2016) and Main Girl (Sony Music, 2017). Through this past September and October, she supported Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), and she’s been on tour with BØRNS since January. This spring, Cardin will headline her own dates. Prior to her full-time career in music, Cardin modelled in fashion which afforded her pocket money and freedom to work on her art. She also competed on the first season of La Voix, a francophone Canadian version of The Voice. But being on television, like modelling, was never her passion. “I never really felt that much pressure when I was on TV. For me, there’s something a lot more real about what I’m doing right now.” She feels more pressure performing her own
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad