By Safiya Hopfe
CALGARY – If there is anything Cayne McKenzie, Andrew Huculiak and David Menzel have mastered in their decade spent playing music together as We Are The City, it’s tapping into the hearts of listeners with their combination of raw energy and vulnerability. Tracks like “Time, Wasted” and “Astronomers” captured the Vancouver-based trio’s capacity to blend deep, melodic melancholy with sharp intensity back in 2009. And now with two simultaneously-announced albums — RIP and At Night — they return to their free-flowing creative roots.
Drummer Andy Huculiak describes the experience of working on RIP from McKenzie’s childhood home, triggering nostalgia and a layered search for creative freedom. “It was really potent. We’ve been a band for over ten years now and that’s a long time, a lot of things happen and things change. I would say that a lot of the music we make is influenced by where we make it. We were kind of hitting a wall at a studio here in Vancouver, and were like, ‘Okay, how do we get out of this? How do we change things?’ And so we decided it would be a good choice to kind of go back to where it all started and that just proved to be the ticket.”
This was indeed the ticket for the construction of RIP, the more thematic and anthemic of the two records. But they couldn’t stop there. “We felt like there was something missing,” says Huculiak. “A scrappiness or spontaneity? So we just picked up the pieces that we threw away in the RIP sessions and built something out of those too.”
A two-week stint in Vancouver was all it took. Everything emerged quickly and fully once they allowed themselves to drop all inhibitions and free that which was dying to come out, come about, and come apart. “A lot of it was just pushing past,” Huculiak explains. “And once you push out the sludge out of the pipe, suddenly you’re free to say and do whatever you want. It felt like we were completely free and, in a funny way, back at the beginning of making music again. There’s no expectation here.”
The second album, At Night, is an emotionally-charged palette of hazy, dirty etherealism. At once erratic and hectic then still and quiet, it proves the band’s self-awareness and capacity to balance full creative freedom with mastery of all they have come to be renowned for.
When trying to sum up the band’s 10 years of musical material, Huculiak says, “It’s trashy sometimes, it’s beautiful sometimes. It’s mixing those two things together.”
We Are The City perform Nov. 10 at The Gateway (Calgary) and Nov.11 at Temple (Edmonton)big bang, Temple, The Gateway, We Are the City