By Maddy Cristall
Royal Unicorn is the highly anticipated fourth album from Victoria’s Did You Die. The album is a compelling body of work that showcases the band’s relentless talent. The vocals of both frontman Richie Alexander and long-time singer/songwriter Katherine Kovna are reminiscent of shoegaze heavyweights such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride. The vast scope of the music coupled with the pop-sensibilities of Dinosaur Jr make for an album that is familiar but fresh at the same time time. Did You Die are more at home with the Philly bands of today (Nothing, Spirit of the Beehive) than their Canadian west coast contemporaries, and that can be boiled down to one thing: dynamics. It is to this end that the influence of Vancouver producer Felix Fung’s production can not go unnoticed. He is completely in his wheelhouse here. Alexander’s songwriting is brought to life with Fung’s production from every vocal layer to the perpetual guitar ambience to every bass drone that devolves into rhythmic chaos. Royal Unicorn took two years and came with a vast array of unforeseen circumstances.
“The process was epic,” Alexander says. “We tracked everything with Jordan Koop at his studio in Gabriola, BC. Some of us lost our jobs and I broke my arm during the sessions. We enlisted Felix Fung who came to our house to re-track guitars and drums, and then re-mix the whole album at his studio in New West.”
As Bruce Cockburn says, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.” This record bleeds with complexity and emotional endurance. The pace of the album brings about a sense of urgency to the listener, but ultimately makes you understand the uneasiness, like when you realise something is wrong but you’ve been oblivious the whole time.
Alexander explained he named the album this because “Royal Unicorn was the name of the old Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver. One of my favourite places to see or play shows back in the day.”
The album artwork was created by Victoria artist Lyle Shutlz. You can almost hear the album cover, it’s a dark and dreamy painting which pairs perfectly with the nature of the band. Did You Die just returned from an album release tour out east. Alexander describes their touring experience positively.
“What makes it work is that everyone is very adult and respectful of each other’s space. We also love the same music, making it really easy in the van for what to put on.”
Royal Unicorn is a lived in album that was well worth the struggle of making it.
Did You Die perform Dec. 7 at Static Jupiter (Vancouver). Royal Unicorn is now available through all streaming platforms.