By Julijana Capone
WINNIPEG — Bedroom-pop outfit iansucks is the kind of band that likes to revel in its despair.
And truth be told, finding the fun in misery can make for pretty good music. iansucks’ sophomore outing, Don’t Give in to the Bad Feelings, is built on awkward energy, lo-fi quirkiness and spurts of synth-y exploration (hear: “Secret Tunnel I”), while navel-gazing on a gamut of unpleasant feelings.
“It was three years worth of bad feelings,” says Emma Mayer (also of Figure).
“Relationship things, political things” adds Ian Ellis (of Hut Hut and Animal Teeth), also the band’s jokey namesake. “Just about everything, really.”
Mayer and Ellis, both admittedly shy performers, have shared songwriting and vocal duties for the project since they started collaborating a few years ago, though Mayer sings most songs live. “She’s a lot better of an actual, real life player than I am,” Ellis says.
The band’s formation was by all accounts an accident, conceived as Ellis’ low-key personal project without much intention of taking it out of the bedroom. Enter Mayer, who came on board to contribute vocals and play violin, and the duo’s aptly titled 2014 debut, Boring Stuff Go Away, soon followed.
iansucks has since expanded to include Kelly Beaton (Les Jupes, All of Your Friends) and Adam Nikkel (Animal Teeth), and the group says there are future plans to tour out West. “We weren’t really planning on growing so much, but things just keep happening,” says Ellis.
Much of that may be attributed to their latest album, Don’t Give in to the Bad Feelings. Along with its sad/funny tunes about relatable disappointments, some of the more amusing lyrical content on the record feels as if pulled from the inexplicable thoughts derived in dreams, particularly in Ellis’ case.
“In the winter, I get shut in…I get really insular and stuck in my own head,” he says.
Case in point: the song “Person Box,” in which Ellis muses about living in a street level apartment and the many outside interferences. “There was a furnace that would smack, people upstairs that were always screaming at each other, and I always felt like people were looking in at me from the windows,” he says. “People would walk by and stare at me. I just felt like the world was really loud outside, and it was disturbing my nice sadness.”
Elsewhere, “Boring Showers” finds Ellis singing about his history of concussions and cartwheels mixing up his “brain juice,” while “Clo” takes cues from warped videogame-inspired tunes. “Bedtime,” on the other hand, is the drowsy pop interpretation of falling weightless through the air.
“I like to play with synths and I don’t like when an album sounds the same,” Ellis explains. “I wanted to play around to find something interesting or something where the songs had their own personality.”
And the band certainly achieves that. The sonic and emotional arc of the album goes in many directions of casual despair—sadness, fatigue, ennui, and so on—with the exception of the sad-words-happy-vibes track “Spring,” written by Mayer.
As for other enjoyable downers, “Too Hard” and “Crying” are Mayer’s personal accounts of previous disappointments. “I think I had a letdown in a potential relationship that turned out to be nothing,” she says. “I was very sad, and everything felt very hard.”
“We’re always trying to be happier and always falling short,” Ellis says with a laugh.
Iansucks performs on March 2nd at the Handsome Daughter in Winnipeg.Handsome Daughter, Iansucks, Winnipeg