Viet Cong Talk Their Debut LP and the Nature of Winter Music

Viet Cong Talk Their Debut LP and the Nature of Winter Music
Calgary's Viet Cong had a pretty eventful 2014, playing shows across North America and Europe in support of their reissued Cassette, a seven-song EP originally and modestly released as a demo tape in 2013.

But singer/bassist Matt Flegel is ready to leave those recordings in the past and move on to the band's self-titled debut full-length, due on January 20 via Flemish Eye/Jagjaguwar.

Flegel was surprised that Cassette surfaced on some 2014 year-end lists, but seems a bit puzzled by the praise. "It's obviously a good thing," he says. "It's helpful, and I hope that people who liked that shit mix of songs will like this new record. I'm trying to forget [Cassette] and move on to new songs. There are still a couple songs from it that we're playing live, because they make some sense with the newer stuff, but a lot of them I just want to leave alone forever. Some are still fun to play, but I don't think they don't excite me the way the new songs do."

While Cassette channelled a range of influences, specifically mod rock and post-punk, Viet Cong makes a much darker turn. Back in June, Flegel told Exclaim! to expect something "gloomier" and more "gothed-out," and we can confirm that he wasn't kidding. Flegel says this resulted from the band members coming together on these new songs.

"I think once we started getting together as a group of four dudes, that was the natural direction things went," Flegel explains. "I don't know how intentional it was, it's just what took shape. I had four or five of the songs written at the time we were writing and recording Cassette too. But I set those aside for the full-length because they felt a lot more natural. And I don't know why it's so 'gothed-out.' We're not 'gothed-out' dudes. It doesn't really make sense, that's just where we were at the time. Who knows what the next record will sound like?"

Though it wasn't pre-arranged to suit a January 20 release date, Viet Cong has been described by its labels as a real "winter record" — something with which any band from Calgary is all too familiar. Flegel says his hometown's reputation for miserable winters definitely had an effect on the songwriting.

"I'm sure they wrote [it's a 'winter record'] because it's coming out in the winter, but it does make sense to me," he says. "It's dark, the days are shorter, there's not as much sunlight, a lot of grey, which makes sense in the context of the record. All of these things make up, in my mind, what you'd call a winter record.

"At the time I was writing these songs I was working a pretty bleak warehouse job, and the city of Calgary in general is bleak, a big sprawl with construction happening everywhere. It all contributed in a weird way, if not intentionally than subconsciously, [to] making it a bleak record. And it's winter eight months out of the year there. In Calgary we don't really get a spring or a fall. It's just winter then summer and that's it. I find all of that stuff inspiring in the writing process."

Also, who can forget the album cover of Public Strain by Flegel's former band Women, with its torrential blizzard scenario? In a year where Viet Cong gained significant buzz, perhaps the only thing that has slowed down for him is the amount of attention focused on his previous work — which is definitely something he isn't complaining about.

"I've been doing a lot of press, and [Women] comes up more often than not," he admits. "But it's not the main focus of the interviews anymore, I guess, as maybe it was when I first started talking. I think after people have heard the new record, Viet Cong is now more of its own kind of thing, it stands on its own. I still get asked about it, which is expected, but hearing the record gives [us] more of an identity."

Viet Cong have some Canadian shows on their upcoming North American tour, and you can see all their dates here.