Published Sep 17, 2015Despite spending the majority of 2014 on tour, when Ought returned to Montreal in January to start work on the follow-up to their acclaimed debut More Than Any Other Day, they found themselves easily settling back into their respective daily routines. Still, there were some physical changes the band couldn't help but notice on the road to follow-up Sun Coming Down.
"I watched a video of us from the start of our U.S. tour the other week, and we looked about 10 years younger," drummer and violinist Tim Keen tells Exclaim!
Working with producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (Jerusalem in My Heart) at Montreal's Hotel2Tango studio, the group of Australian and American expats who met in university — Keen, vocalist and guitarist Tim Darcy, keyboardist Matt May and bassist Ben Stidworthy — took a largely "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" approach to recording, while tightening small details and tones.
Compared to More Than Every Other Day, Sun Coming Down (out September 18 on Constellation) is more deliberate and measured — or as Keen puts it, "Where we would have an explosion before, we don't necessarily jump to the explosion."
Its eight songs reflect a band who've honed their studio process — "Men for Miles" and "Celebration" bristle with the energy and wry observational humour, while the slow-burning "Passionate Turn" is a departure from their tightly wound post-punk.
The album's centrepiece, "Beautiful Blue Sky," a longtime staple of live shows, is a seven-minute anthem with Darcy's cathartic declaration, "I am no longer afraid to die because that is all that I have left." While the song name-checks markers of consumerism, gentrification and political unrest, including condo developments, oil freighters, and war planes, the quartet insist their core beliefs are more subtle than their audiences might expect.
"Even when the label 'art rock' gets used to describe us — it's funny to me for a number of reasons — but particularly because it invokes this seriousness," says Darcy. "It's there in the sense that I care a lot about making good and interesting music, but I'm not sitting around stewing."
The story of how More Than Any Other Day was largely influenced by the 2012 Quebec student protests was quickly built into the band's mythology, but today they say they're just as likely to be inspired by online and real-life conversations with family and friends.
"I'm mostly interested in music that has a strong sense of community to it, and builds around playing music with people you care about and for people you care about," says Keen. "Regardless of whether or not we had a bunch of Twitter followers, I'd still be talking about my friends' bands."
As previously reported, Ought will take their new album on the road starting tonight (September 17) at Pop Montreal. You can see their full schedule here and stream all of Sun Coming Down below.