Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
The Fast Romantics play a mean pop tune and their songs have quirks of Okkervil River proportions. The band recently released its second album, Afterlife Blues, and will play its first Ottawa-area show tonight. Ahead of the gig, Sound Seekers conducted a Q&A with former Ottawan Alan Reain (drums) and singer-songwriter Matthew Angus.
SS: Fill in the blanks for us, Alan. You left Ottawa five-ish years ago, moved out west, and started a band. Miss us? What’s the scene like there?
AR: For sure, I miss Ottawa all the time. It’s where I grew up, where I feel most comfortable, where I played my first gigs, had my first drinks (well, I guess that was Gatineau, technically)–you know, all that stuff. It’ll always be home. I felt like Calgary was pretty similar to Ottawa in terms of the size of the music scene. I did notice that the frontier mentality still runs strong, even in the arts scene. And I mean that in a good way. If people want something done, they just get together and make it happen, and they really get behind what they’ve built as a community. Oh, and there are also a lot more metal testicles hanging from trailer hitches on pickup trucks.
SS: What took you so long to come to Ottawa for a gig?
AR: This is the first time Fast Romantics have played in Ottawa and it’s about time! For years, people have been hassling me about it and we’ve just never had the perfect combination come together of the right venue, the right timing, and the right acts to share the bill with. So, I’m pretty pumped to show people what I’ve been doing for the last few years. My biggest fear is that they’ll say, “Um, so that’s what you’ve been up to, eh? Hmmmm.”
SS: The new album has a lot of wistful tunes with titles such as “Afterlife,” “Funeral,” “Friends,” and even some nostalgic stuff about the 1990s. One might sense that y’all are having a moment here. A crisis? A deep reflection? What are you trying to tell us?
MA: Ha, yeah. A few friends have asked us if we’re okay and if we need to talk. It’s kind of funny. Everything is fine. We’re actually quite happy. There are a lot of songs on the record about change. Things ending, and being replaced by other things. And so while it seems like we’re all death-crazy, it’s really not that at all. We’ve just been through a lot of change in the last few years, personally, and as a band. So this is what came out. It’s a bunch of musings about how to deal with it when things end, and a lot of this is really an attempt to stare it down confidently and even with a bit of irreverence.
SS: What changed from album one to album numero deux?
MA: Quite a bit, y’know. Two new band members, Shane and Lauren. And I think we learned how to really focus on the song, rather than the sound. We came at this music not thinking too much at all really. It was basically about, ‘Here are these songs, now how do we make them make sense?’ So the whole writing process changed, the sound definitely changed, and I think the songwriting is a bit more open and honest, and maybe a bit more confident.
SS: This is a bit of old news, but it must be told. How did Jeremy Piven come to play a set with your band? Did he Ari Gold you and curse and yell and stuff?
AR: This was at a ritzy celebrity event in Calgary that we somehow got asked to play. It was pretty bizarre. There were chocolate fountains and TV stars everywhere. Actually, we kinda thought we’d scared Jeremy away when he first showed up because Jeff (Lewis, bass player) ambushed him and yelled something like, “Ari Gold, I fucking love you, man!” But later on when Lindsay Lohan’s ex-girlfriend was in the middle of her DJ set, Jeremy asked if he could sit in on drums. So we pretty much kicked her off the stage and then everybody realized that Jeremy and the band didn’t know any of the same songs. Jeremy wanted to play something funky and we’re not exactly a funk band, so Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” got massacred that night. Sorry, Iggy. It was a hell of a night.
SS: You call yourself Fast Romantics. Is that, like, dirty? Is it a counter-response to the Slow movement? Something about that George Michael song? A tribute to that New Wave band that sang about Talking In Your Sleep?
MA: Everyone’s a little bit dirty, right? But no, it’s not about sex. To be shamefully honest, it’s not about anything. We like the way it sounded. We were pretty drunk at the time and we secured the domain name before the hangover kicked in and woke up and all agreed we still liked it, so it stuck. No deep meanings. No machismo. No premature ejaculations. Just…. Fast Romantics.
SS: What’s on the horizon for the band?
AR: Now that the record’s finally out, we’re planning to keep on playing shows until the wheels fall off our van. After hibernating for so long to get the record done, we’re itching to play a lot. We’ve had some really positive response to this record, so we kind of need to strike while the iron’s hot. We’re working on a European tour for 2014, and it would be really cool if we could figure out a way to get to Australia, now that we have two Aussies in the band. Somewhere in there, we need to get some new songs written too! And I’m really hoping it doesn’t take another five years to get back to Ottawa.
The Fast Romantics play the Black Sheep Inn on Dec. 19. As for tickets: You can buy ’em or else you could enter a draw to win some freebies by tagging yourself in a photo of a cat eating a cactus on the band’s Facebook page.