It’s been quite a year for Preoccupations, the Canadian post-punk quartet formerly known as Viet Cong. Between a well documented name change, endless touring and new, celebrated debut album, they’ve done well to land themselves in the indie spotlight. With another chance at a first impression, the foursome hit it out of the park with their self-title record, Preoccupations. With more, extensive touring planned on the horizon to show off their new identity, Preoccupations is just getting started.
We caught up with frontman Matt Flegel in advance of their performance in Atlanta to discuss their name change, musical influences and facial hair.
First off, you’ve been asked this probably a million times, but is it liberating to an extent to be making music under a new name? Do it feel like a new slate?
Yeah, I think so. I was curious to see how these shows would be attended. We just started this tour and they haven’t been packed. I feel like people are still catching on to the fact that we changed our name. I also think a lot of the people coming to the shows weren’t Viet Cong fans and think we’re a new band – which is cool. I think it’ll take a couple of rounds of touring until it picks up again.
Almost as if there’s Viet Cong fans and Preoccupations fans – before too long, they’ll come together.
Yeah, exactly. It’s really nice to be under a new name. People rediscover you for the first time. It’s refreshing and cool. I guess what I;m trying to say is that it is liberating.
I ask because the sound changed quite a bit between your album under Viet Cong and Preoccupations’ self-titled debut record? The Viet Cong album felt more driven by the instrumentation whereas the meaning behind Preoccupations album is felt in the lyrics.
That’s how it turned out. I’m not sure if that was intentional. The vocals are more in the forefront this time around and they’re much more up front.
Did anything influence that?
At times, certain things are influencing you that you can’t really tell at the time. A lot of people ask me if all the stress with the shit going down with the band name, being on the road for 200 shows – did that affect the making of the album? I’d say it didn’t because at the time I wasn’t thinking about it, but then I look back and of course it inadvertently would have. You don;t really realize when it happened, but in hindsight it’s a bit clearer.
Do all four of the band members take part in the creation process and the song writing?
I write all the lyrics. Mostly out of necessity because no one else will. As for as the song writing goes, it’s collaborative – it usually starts with Monty and I. From there it’s just re-recording because we tend to over think things and re-record things five times because it doesn’t have the right feel.
You recorded this self-titled album in six different studios, is that right?
Something like that.
And one was in a barn?
It was a barn-turned-studio. There wasn’t like rats running around. It was a professional recording studio that sounds awesome.
Did recording in that environment change the way the music comes across?
Yeah, I think it always does. Different rooms have different acoustics and different studios have different equipment. I think you can hear it a lot more on this record whereas on the first Viet Cong record everything was recorded in the same room. I think sonically this record is a bit broader.
How did the song “Stimulation” come about. It’s one of the more interesting tracks off the album – upbeat vibe with darker lyrics?
We wrote that song for almost two months and playing it everyday before we could get through it. We still fuck it up live. It’s hard song and technically it’s weird and all the parts we wrote were too hard for us to play. That song was definitely not written in the studio, but more while jamming and fucking around. Probably while drinking a lot of beer. I found a few things that I liked that I wrote and expanded from there. The lyrics are pretty dark even though it’s an upbeat sounding song. Take what you want of this, but it’s kinda about pedophilia. It’s super fucking dark.
But, there’s an appeal in that. The melody of the entire album is upbeat but the lyrics are dark.
It’s pretty bleak. That’s usually where my mind goes when writing. I read a lot of dark things and watch a lot of dark movies. I’m not a blackened, suicidal soul, but that’s just where my mind tends to go. I think it keeps your real life positive and upbeat when you let out all the dark shit.
According to your Instagram, it looks like you guys have quite a bit of fun when you’re not on stage. What do you enjoy doing outside the tour bus?
There’s not many times when we’re not outside the van or venue. But, when we get a day off we like the usual things: find an arcade, go bowling or find a movie. If we’re on the coast, we’ll go to the beach. For me, my favorite thing is finding good food and the local delicacy.
If you could pick one place right now to stop at and eat, what would it be?
I’m eating Pringles and Mike & Ikes right now, but I’d go with Ezell’s Famous Chicken in Seattle.
Lastly, just curious, how long has Monty been growing his beard?
Danny just said “too long.”
Preoccupations’ are on the road through November, stopping in multiple major U.S. cities in addition to the European hotspots. For more information on their album, tour and tickets, click HERE.