Published Jan 01, 2006Vancouver's lovelorn, lyrical popsmiths Young and Sexy began the way most bands end with a break-up. Their flowery bio describes the fateful day a decade ago when Lucy Brain ordered a sandwich from Paul Hixon Pittman, sparking a year-long romance that left Pittman in the dumps. Then, in a twist fit for a masochist, he enlisted his British-born ex to share lead vocals in his band, her clear, confident singing style and mildly English tones being the perfect compliment to his bittersweet coo.
And along with inadvertently launching the band now comprised of Pittman (vox, guitars), Brain (vox, percussion), Ted Bois (keys, guitar), Ron Teardrop (drums) and bassist André Lagacé, who married Ms. Brain last summer (how's that for a twist?) Pittman and Brain's aborted affair also gave credence to his growing mound of pretty melodies, fuelling the kind of cutting and heartfelt verse he's now known for. As he's written on the band's recent sophomore album, Life Through One Speaker: "Another child/ grows up to be/ a writer with a vision and a grace/ voice of obscure and swift attack/ you'd better watch your step."
"For a long time, I didn't care about lyrics when I played my first shows, I would just babble," says Pittman, whose tolerance for poor lyrics dropped as his own penmanship bloomed. "It's hard enough to sit through modern, mainstream pop records because the music and vocals are so absurdly contrived, but I can't listen to the lyrics at all. I don't believe a word."
Conversely, Pittman suggests that he's sometimes too earnest for his own good, and his more introspective lyrics have occasionally drawn criticism. Vancouver's media didn't fail to pick up on "The City You Live In Is Ugly," a little pop delicacy from Young and Sexy's 2002 debut LP, Stand Up For Your Mother. The song paints a resolutely sour picture of the city, one that Pittman tends to amplify in interviews.
"It's only getting worse these days because all the clubs are closing down," he says, mentioning the impending closure of Richards on Richards, the recent loss of the Starfish Room, and shortly after the demolition of the house where they recorded their first album the fire that brought down Miss T's, the site of Young and Sexy's first show.
"It's depressing. There's a thrust to centralise, to try and have all of the clubs along one street like a lot of other cities, but Vancouver just doesn't have the history."
According to Pittman, his hometown's tepid nightlife, dull architecture and junkie explosion have inspired thoughts of relocating to Toronto or joining his girlfriend in Montreal, but mass moving or cross-country commuting aren't feasible options. Besides, Pittman is reluctant to leave the local attraction he holds so sacred: the music scene, past and present.
"The bands I listen to most are Vancouver bands," he says, hyping lime-minded acts such as the Radio, the New Pornographers and Destroyer, as well he would the Pornographers' Carl Newman was instrumental in Young and Sexy's signing to Mint Records and the supergroup's producers, John Collins and Dave Carswell (aka JC/DC), also recorded both Young and Sexy albums.
"It's a healthy scene, which is very inspiring for us. It's funny, sometimes I'll hear aspects of our music, certain instrumental breaks, that remind me of bands like Vancouver Nights or Zumpano," says Pittman, hinting at some hometown pride. "The sights are one thing, but the sound of Vancouver is pretty great."