By Jodi Brak
CALGARY – Keeping the momentum going after a 2016 JUNO Award nomination for their 100 per cent independently produced album, A Life Well Lived, Calgary’s indie-electronic duo AM Static is set to release their latest album. Rise & Shine debuts June 9, and will be unveiled with a performance at Calgary’s own Festival Hall.
Chris Austman and Nils Mikkelsen are the masterminds behind AM Static. The band performs a folky style of chill electronica, complete with cascading vocals, blipping keys, and a skilful merging of acoustic instrumentation with computer produced sounds. The self-sufficient pair of musical minds has been responsible for almost the entire production process of their music.
“We started writing this one the day after our last one came out, so we’ve been working on this record since late November of 2014,” says Mikkelsen. Their previous was released on November 18 of that year; its iconic artwork depicted an elderly man adorned in a red toque, not unlike Steve Zissou. In contrast, their impending release features psychedelic rainbow artwork of perhaps the same man, a conjoined rainbow revealing his brain matter.
Austman explains, “Everything is pretty homegrown between the two of us. It’s nice to have that control, but with that also comes the responsibility of making sure it is all done correctly and on time. We can’t just make a record and wait for it to come back from the audio guy.”
During the writing process, the pair realized that the themes they were writing about were particularly relevant, and the idea of shifting their upcoming release into more of a conceptual project started to take form.
“One of the things that maybe a few months ago would strike me as more entertaining and maybe now is a little more dreadful, we began toying around with this concept of the distortion of reality, which at the time was novel and kind of fun,” Austman explains.
“But that was well in advance of the household recognition of such a dystopian term as ‘alternative facts.’ We found our way from this cartoony musical dystopia into a period where all of a sudden what we had been working on was more timely than we ever imagined.”
Album single “Start Select” showcases this darkly metaphorical theme in fine form. It’s subdued and tragic, with mournful vocals about “vanquishing foes” alongside eerie percussion and relaxed electro beats.
“One of the songs on the record is called “Burn Cycle,” and we wrote that in a very frantic three hours live at CJSW,” reveals Mikkelsen of other songs on the record.
“The name is from this ‘90s video game where you have a disease and you have two hours to cure yourself, so we looked at the game and we started thinking ‘well, what are our burn cycles? What are the things that you have a limited time to engage in before the bottom just totally drops out?’”
Mikkelsen concludes, “You see a lot of those situations, but you never really hear the story of why. So “Burn Cycle” kind of took on a lot of meaning, but you can also take that and apply it to politics.”
AM Static’s album release show takes place on June 9 at Festival Hall (Calgary).
AM Static, Festival Hall