“We want to get off when we’re onstage,” says Matthew Angus, “and we want to get people off – permanently.”
Angus is the front man of Fast Romantics, an indie rock group that formed in Calgary in 2008 and relocated to Toronto in 2010. Any promise to get people off permanently should be taken with a grain of salt, but Fast Romantics may just have the chops to pull it off. They have two albums under their belt – The Fast Romantics (LP, 2009) and Kidcutter (EP, 2010) – and an impressive CV that includes major festivals (Virgin Fest, SXSW, NXNE, CMJ) and TV soundtracks (Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars).
Their long overdue return to Calgary comes on October 18 at Broken City for the release of their new album, Afterlife Blues.
“This album has more guts,” says Angus. “It’s not so much about, ‘Hey, let’s do a cool riff like the Beatles, or let’s do a crazy drum solo like Keith Moon.’ It was more about, ‘Let’s write songs that mean something to us, then build the music out of that.’ We’re spilling our guts on this record.”
How did the Romantics get to that level of vulnerability? “There was a lot of booze involved, for sure. There’s a big whiskey thing happening with us right now, but beer is the staple.”
More seriously, Angus says the album’s mature sound comes from the fact that… well, the Fast Romantics are growing up. “There’s a fear associated with being young,” he says. “You don’t want to give away too much of yourself and you think a little too hard about how you’ll be received. That damages the art and it’s no good for anyone listening, because they can see right through it.”
After finishing their last album, Angus remembers feeling empty. “Whatever we were trying to get out, it didn’t get out,” he says. “Whereas this record has been sitting on the shelf for, God, eight months now and I still love it. I think that’s the test of whether you’re being honest with your music: if you can stand to listen to it afterward.”
The move from Calgary to Toronto – “It’s a bit of a cliché, isn’t it?” – came with some challenges. “It was scary to go to a big, bad, cold city where nobody’s ever heard your name!” says Angus. “We wanted to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone. What better way than to put yourself in front of seven hipsters at the Horseshoe Tavern and see if they throw things at you?”
By all accounts, the experiment was a success – but that doesn’t shake the sense of displacement. “We still consider ourselves on a long vacation. We don’t really know where we’re from. Christ, we’ve got two Australians in the band now. We’re this global, lost, travelling band.”
Fast Romantics’ current lineup includes founding members Angus, bassist Jeffrey Lewis and drummer Alan Reain, recently joined by those Australians: Shane O’Keeffe and Lauren Heron.
“It was the boring old story about a classified ad, except with a twist,” says Angus. “Our drummer answered one of their ads to play a project, but had to back out because he was busy with our stuff. Then we put out an ad looking for a guitar player and, lo and behold, the same guy answered! It turned out his girlfriend plays a mean keyboard, so it was just one of those really happy accidents.”
Coming back to their hometown has given Angus perspective on their musical career, including this last nugget of wisdom: “It’s funny: we came to Toronto in search of help, because the music industry is supposedly out here and now we’re releasing our record on a small label in Winnipeg [Pipe & Hat],” he says. “From a music business standpoint, it doesn’t really matter where you end up living. If you surround yourself with good people, anywhere, you can make great art.”
Catch the Fast Romantics at Le Garage (Winnipeg) on October 15, the Artery (Edmonton) on October 17 and at Broken City (Calgary) on October 18.
By Mark Hopkins
Photo: Richard Yagutilov