Interview: Ought: “We wouldn’t trade this for anything”

Ought: “We wouldn’t trade this for anything”

Despite climbing the ranks with new album ‘Sun Coming Down’, Montreal post-punks Ought remain immersed in other projects and musical day-jobs.

Ought are relentless. Sure, that could be said of most bands, but there aren’t many who’d agree to do an interview post-running off stage and bustling into a van after finishing a show in the Netherlands. When they get home, some of them will run off to work on different projects and put on shows without stopping for a second. The four piece have a unique, exciting energy about them, one that permeates through the entirety of their fidgety, frantic new record ‘Sun Coming Down’ and can be traced right back to the record’s inception - which was literally immediately after they’d wrapped up touring the first.

“There wasn’t a break in time between the first one and now,” admits Ben Stidworthy, the band’s bassist. “Basically, ‘More Than Any Other Day’ came out and we toured pretty much non-stop until the winter. We had a lot of pent up energy and were really excited to get writing come January, when there was two feet of snow on the ground and nothing to do”. That energy is dominant throughout ‘Sun Coming Down’, an album that’s as restless as it is catchy - a turbulent record of anxious art-rock that is more direct and in-your-face than their bold debut.

‘More Than Any…’ came almost out of nowhere, but when it did, it struck with an immediacy like a sucker punch to the face. Everyone was caught up in just how interesting and fresh these guys sounded - now staple songs like ‘Today More Than Any Other Day’ and ‘The Weather Song’ had a stark personality about them, but also drew a lot of comparisons to contemporaries like Talking Heads and Wire. With ‘Sun Coming Down’, Ought are pushing those comparisons to the side and brewing a cocktail of their own. ‘Men For Miles’ is a biting, rampant sing-along, and the sprawling ‘Beautiful Blue Sky’ makes the mundane seem like a million fireworks going off at once.

“To hear that we sound more like Ought this time round is cool for sure,” vocalist Tim Darcy enthusiastically replies to the idea that they’re moving away from their peers. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a product of developing our own sound… or maybe it is, maybe it’s a dual thing. We were much more conservative about how we wanted things to manifest on this record, but we’d also been around as a band for another year. We’ve played a trillion shows. We definitely all feel more deep in ourselves and other things we're taking in."

While drummer Tim Keen notes that the band were “very fast to do this one,” he also reckons that they won’t end up making a record in the same way again. “We had the right intersection of time, a proper space and a lot of energy,” he adds. “I don’t think we’ll make another record like this one, but it was certainly an interesting experience”. ‘Sun Coming Down’ is kinetic and feverish - songs like ‘The Combo’ and ‘On the Line’ dance like hooligans and hit fast and hard, spruced up even further with Darcy’s scratchy tones and oddball lyrics.

“We had a lot of pent up energy and were really excited to get writing come January, when there was two feet of snow on the ground and nothing to do.”

— Ben Stidworthy

Based in Montreal, the band’s first album was fuelled by the student riots that were happening at the time, and while Stidworthy recognises that there’s inevitably going to be an extension, Darcy adds that they both come from very different places despite similar “thematic currents” running through both. “There are definitely more [direct] songs on this record,” he says, noting ‘On the Line’ as a good example. “When I think about songs on the first record, they're more like thesis statements. Maybe on this record there's a bit more narrative happening - In my head on ‘On the Line’, there's like a weird, loosely formed constellation of meaning that happens, between the two parts especially.”

When they move at a breakneck speed, it’s hard to tell what’ll be next in store for Ought. Keyboardist Matt May - like many of the other members of Ought - is deeply intertwined in Montreal’s DIY scene, and will be springing into show-promoting action as soon as he’s home. A lot of bands experiencing Ought’s level of success might shy away from so much involvement, but for them, being busy and in the muck of it all is simply what they love doing. “It's a thing that drives a lot of people here,” May says on Montreal’s music scene. “Creativity and experiencing creativity... Social encounters and hanging out with friends... There’s a genuine interest in what people are making. I wouldn't trade this for anything."

Ought’s new album ‘Sun Coming Down’ is out now on Constellation Records.

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