In the period since the Two Koreas released 2007's Altruists and finished their explosive new record, Science Island, guitarist Kieran Grant almost died. "I had symptoms that indicated I might have some serious plumbing problems," he says frankly. "I had a really bad, sudden case of ulcerative colitis. I ended up in the hospital for 45 days and had major surgeries. I'm back to normal now, or as normal as I'm ever gonna be, but I dropped from 160 pounds to, at my worst, 98 pounds. I didn't think I was gonna check out but I felt shocked, like it was happening to somebody else."
The peril impacted the Toronto band's style on Science Island (a destination Grant's kids made up); lead singer/rock critic Stuart Berman says they now play "glacial garage." "His joke about our sound early on was, 'pre-punk and post-punk with no punk in the middle,'" Grant explains. "Kinda '60s garage, Krautrock, post-punk, but no Sex Pistols or the Clash. The glacial thing is because we slowed down a lot with this record."
When Grant emerged from the hospital, the band wrote new songs, subtly reflecting his ordeal. "They were a little slower, meditative, and perhaps in the long run, more belaboured than anything we'd done," Grant says. "We were writing very slowly all of a sudden. Unbeknownst to me, Stuart tried to document my experience from his version of my perspective."
Though darker in tone, the Two Koreas' trademark wit and sharp pop-punk fury remain intact on Science Island, and with Grant conquering his illness, their songs ring out triumphantly. "Well, especially for Stuart because he gets 100 percent of the publishing," Grant clarifies. "And when the sheet music starts to sell? It's another feather in Stuart Berman's cap."