Listen To Fast Romantics While You're Fixing The World

Matt Angus is lead singer and songwriter, and Kirty is singer and instrumentalist for the Toronto-based band Fast Romantics, who are about to drop a massive album created partly during the pandemic, titled Pick It Up out August 7th. They joined Whitney Moore from their home studio for our Tower Livestream on Instagram to talk about the new release.

Matt Angus and Kirty have had some positive experiences despite quarantine, since they “live in their studio”. The whole thing has been “bittersweet” for Kirty, but they put some pressure on themselves to “get some stuff done” and do some “reflecting” during this time

Asking about how things have been about “following rules” in Canada, and whether people are more “respectful” there, Angus said that technically the grass might be “greener” on the other side, but nowhere is perfect.

Angus related that the band went to California on a kind of “retreat” and were there for three days before they had to change their flights and get home since Justin Trudeau said that Canada was going to close the border.

Regarding making their latest video “Only People “, Kirty helped film it, and she had to hold a heavy camera and try to do the recording in one take. Matt Angus had to fix a lot in post-production, Kirty laughed. Moore observed that the video has a simple idea, but it’s probably difficult to execute. Angus said that it’s funny how simple things can get when you realize how many limitations you have.

Moore asked about the notes that Matt Angus includes for his videos, and the notes on “Only People”, specifically, about avoiding things that hurt you. Angus said that he “oscillates” between extremes, including a “dark protective mode”. He’s been in one of those for a long while, and it was keeping him from putting out music, he felt. He wrote this new song from a place of reminding himself to “stop worrying” about the outcome of his music too much.

“Song are weird.”, Angus admitted, and it’s hard to describe mental states when you write songs. Moore asked if “Only People” is a song that arose from COVID since it seems relevant. The verses came first before COVID, but the choruses came in later, during COVID, so it’s a mixed song, Angus said. There were many “variants” and they chose the final version during COVID. The situation had an impact on making the whole record, asking “If not now, when?”

For the video for “Pick it Up”, we get vibes of Fast Romantics’ current experience, and Moore asked about their living situation and times. Matt and Kirty live in their studio, and the four other band members are in their apartments. They finished the video only four or five days before they released it. They wanted to have the whole band in the video, so Angus went around to everyone’s houses and filmed them at a distance. Then they had the idea of bringing in elements from the band’s “past” to have a feeling of “remembering” in the video. Moore agreed that the video makes a viewer miss their friends and the video itself shows how close the band members are in Fast Romantics.

Moore asked about Matt Angus’ comments that he’s made about struggling with mental health leading up to the album’s release, and Angus said that Kirty was the one who convinced him to talk about. It’s been a rough two years for Angus, a “dark hole”, though he’s struggled with depression and anxiety his whole life. This song was only about 20 minutes in a room recording, he revealed, though the emotions behind it built up for a long time.

After a brief internet struggle interlude, we caught back up with Matt Angus and Kirty. Angus said that the song was written at a piano at the end of this heavy time. He didn’t think it was even a Fast Romantic song since it wasn’t like anything they’d recorded before. But Kirty convinced Angus to play it for the band, and they rewrote the song as more of a Fast Romantic sounding song rather than a kind of Elton John song.

Kirty said that she was motivated to get the song out there because when she first heard it, she was “moved by it personally” and knew what Matt was going through, so it seemed very “emotive”. She convinced him to bring it to the band and that it could be spun into a band direction. When Matt wasn’t sure about speaking about depression, she convinced him that many people could connect with that, and even if they don’t have the same struggles, many do. Regardless, many people “need that pep talk” that you’ll find in the song.

Moore observed that people are speaking more openly about mental health these days, perhaps even more due to quarantine.

Matt Angus said that a lot of people told them not to release their record during COVID since they couldn’t play live to promote it and said that it would not be listened to by fans without live performance. He has not at all found that to be the case. People are interacting with it, though the band itself may not know at the time, the way they would know during live performance. They are seeing people stream it, so they know it’s being listened to. There are more people, rather than less people listening, he thinks. It demonstrates the “power of music” to him.

Moore said that it shocks her that bands are being advised not to release music during this time, but others are hearing the same thing, she confirmed. We need music more than anything right now, she said, and is glad they made the decision to release the album.

Moore asked about how their times have informed the music on the new album. It seems to Angus that “every time has been an insane time” when it comes to trying to make a record, though this one has “taken the cake”. It’s the “least specific” record they’ve released in a long time, since their last record was “pretty political”, though that was placed the context of relationships. For this one, a lot was written before COVID, but not before Trump and Trump denying a pandemic.

Since they were finishing the record during the upheaval, it has had an impact, but Angus described it as a “feelings record”, rather than a “whole bunch of thoughts” record this time. Kirty said that American Love was more about thoughts, and this one is more about feelings. The band also recorded a bunch of material ahead of this time, enough for another record, that’s a mix of thoughts or feelings.

Moore asked about their process recording and mixing this album by e-mail, and Matt Angus said that they had a “wealth of material” that they had before COVID, but after the album was complete, they still had a lot of songs that were 75% done and they are currently working on those. Their bandmates have been great, not only working on the album at a distance, but also on this new material.

Moore asked about working with Marcus Paquin (Arcade Fire) and his need to do work remotely. Kirty said that he’s an “awesome person” and made it feel “okay” that they couldn’t mix the album in person. She didn’t think it could be a good experience to do it “virtually” but it really worked. They’ve all become friends now, despite never meeting in person. They used Zoom for two weeks to mix the album Pick it Up.

Matt Angus said that the next album is not far from being done but they have a “lot of life left in the new album” and they are going to be “coy” about what’s next and just keep building up their music.

When Fast Romantics are creating a new record, and there are too many songs for one album, how do they decide which songs go on the record, Moore asked. On this one, they looked at what kind of sounds fit together, and which themes seemed to cohere, Kirty said. They picked a set list and track listing for the album by looking at concepts that helped pull the songs together.

It was fairly easy to do this time, Matt Angus said, maybe because “shit’s fucked up” right now and songs that spoke to that reality seemed to fit together. The next album is also distinctive and seems to fit together, he teased. The next album will be a “feelings spiced with thoughts” album, Matt Angus explained, with thoughts as a little “paprika” in there.

Asked about how they build songs, Matt Angus said that it’s changed in recent years to be “lyrics-first” for him. A lot of time the melody is there, too, at the same time. Kirty works with the structure and melody well before the lyrics come, so she’s a little different than Angus. She’s “music before words” in her approach. “There’s no right way to do it.”, Moore observed, and Matt Angus said that he’s felt so much better since he realized and accepted that.

Do they have a normal timeline for song production, though? The 20 minutes it took to write “Pick it Up” is not normal for Matt Angus. He usually spends a couple of years on songs, but Kirty is much faster and might have “rubbed off on him” in her approach. Co-writing between them often moves quickly, but Matt Angus is often a much slower songwriter. They really tend to “balance” each other’s “tendencies” out, Matt Angus observed.

Asked about how touring seems to them now, or where they’d like to go someday, Matt Angus said that “Going anywhere seems incredible right now.” They’ve already been having a big Brazilian reaction to the new songs, so they’d love to go there. Kirty said that putting the songs out during this weird time means that it hasn’t been on her mind to travel. She thinks she’s “compartmentalized” the idea of touring and doesn’t seem to be allowing herself to think about it.

What do Fast Romantics hope that fans will get from the new album? Matt Angus said that he’s really happy lately with whatever fans make of their music. He’s spent his lifetime hoping that people will praise their work, and it’s a “crappy way to make music”. He’s personally “graduated” from expecting much and that has helped his songwriting process. They once got a written letter from a fan, with a “tear-jerking” situation described in it, and “That is the most we can hope for.”, Matt Angus said.

Kirty said that there’s a lot that Matt Angus has brought to this album, in her view as a listener, and she hopes fans react the way that she has. She recognizes the “feelings” in the songs and hope that audiences will connect with those. The band each put their own “piece” into the songs and hopes fans will hear that too. They hope that they will share “some kind of mutual feeling and idea” with audiences, and that even strangers will be able to receive it.

When they think about this album and people listening to it, do they have an ideal circumstance for listening? Matt Angus joked, “Having sex.” He hasn’t thought about that question, really. He likes listening to music in cars and finds that memorable. He can usually remember where he was when he heard big songs or albums, like “Bittersweet Symphony”. He thinks that being in a car makes you focus on the lyrics. He thinks fans have to hear the whole record and the lyrics.

Kirty said that she imagines people absorb music the most through listening to the vinyl or putting on headphones and going for a walk. That’s what she pictures, an “independent venture” listening to songs. Moore agreed that the songs so far feeling “introspective” so that makes sense to engage with them when alone.

Asked about Tower Records’ motto, “No Music, No Life” or “Know Music, Know Life”, Matt Angus said that he’s definitely in the “Know Music, Know Life” camp, and music helps him know life. You could have life without music, but it would just “really suck”, he said.

Kirty said that the two major threads in her life have been her large family, which has been a huge root-element to her life, and also music. She thinks you could still have life without music, but it’s shaped her life in so many ways that she can’t imagine life without it.

As a final message, Matt Angus said to fans that Black Lives Matter and this US election matters, not just to America, but to others, like Canada. Vote and “Fix what you started.”, he advised. Also, “If you want to listen to Fast Romantics while you’re fixing it, that’s okay too.” Kirty said that you can keep up with the band on their social media channels, and especially Instagram.

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