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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Canadian band We Are The City to kick off first U.S. tour at Double Door in Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Although the members of Canadian band We Are The City wear T-shirts tied around their faces in videos for its latest album, "High School," that can't disguise the fact that the band is carving out its own identity in a sea of sound-alike groups.

After generating a buzz in its own country, We Are The City, www.wearethecity.ca, will kick off its first U.S. tour when it performs Oct. 15 in a Dirtroom show at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, www.doubledoor.com.

Said The Whale also is on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $5, available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to drummer Andy Huculiak about the new album and its upcoming U.S. tour.


Q - Do you have any expectations for the upcoming U.S. tour? Do you think the time is right for the band to tour the U.S.?

To be completely honest, I thought I was excited to tour the U.S. when we first departed on the Canadian tour a few weeks ago, but somehow with every passing day I redefine that excitement. 

Maybe that's a bit of a hyperbole, but we're completely buzzing. I mean, I look at our tour dates and I see cities that have only existed on television shows or in films or songs, some far off neverland that we as a band have only dreamed about visiting and now we're just days away from our first American show in Chicago. 

That said, we have to have realistic expectations. We are attempting to break into a new market, which we're comparing in our minds to our first tour of Canada, and so there will definitely be a few mental adjustments made I think in comparison to the shows that we've been playing in here up North.


But I do think the time is very right for the band; we've gained momentum in Canada and we're doing the U.S. tour with Juno "Best New Band" winners Said The Whale so it feels perfect. But better to have expectations and then be pleasantly surprised by them, right?

Q - How hard is it to play with a T-shirt tied around your face? Will you be playing that way during your U.S. shows?

Actually, the "High School" album spawned from sort of an experiment, a band with myself  and Cayne with our faces concealed playing music that we didn't over-think and locals shows that we hoped no one would recognize us at. 

That was the only time that the masks were used. We'd go out to the van, change into completely different clothing, and put these doilies over our faces and make a lot of mistakes onstage. 

Every time I was actually relieved that no one knew it was us. So I think we'll leave the masked playing to bands more talented than us. Daft Punk. Slipknot.

Q - Describe the concept for "High School." How much of the album is a reflection of your actual experiences in high school? Are you hoping that current high school students will relate to the album? Were you at all influenced by Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" in making the EP?

We wrote the songs under the band name High School when we were playing those fun and embarrassing shows, and in a lot of ways the EP is a concept album: feelings that we revisited but wouldn't want to relive, memories that aren't necessarily positive or redeeming but sometimes constructive to go back to.

We also made a video series for "High School" which strung together six music videos - one for each song - together into a 26-minute video that's available online, www.wearethecity.ca/highschool.

The masks work on a few different levels. For us, it was just about concealing our identity but I've had some people tell me that they were able to put their own face, their own experiences onto the anonymous blank canvas, which is an interesting way to look at it I think. 

I like to keep people wondering and hopefully they'll eventually make up an answer. I like it when that happens. 

I suppose in some ways there are some similarities to "The Suburbs," but to be completely honest I haven't been the most avid Arcade Fire listener and I think the first time I heard the album front to back was after we were finished recording "High School." I feel like you can't even have those two albums together on the same shelf, in the same room even. 

But for those that do, I am extremely humbled. I'm happy when anyone relates to the music, high school students or otherwise.

Q - What were your goals in sitting down to make "High School?" What do you think Tom Dobrzanski brought to the table?

This may sound like a cliché thing, but Tom brought the album to life. Before we set out to record it, we came to him with ideas on how we wanted it to sound sonically.

We wanted the drums to be huge, there to be minimal instrumentation but still fill the spectrum, to record as much as possible live off the floor, and we wanted to put a lot of time, discussion and language into making it sound like something we were all one hundred percent happy with. I can't properly explain it, but Tom did a perfect job in my mind.

Q - Your sound has been described as progressive pop. Do you think that is an accurate description? How do you think the band's sound has changed since it formed?

Oh boy, genre is such a hard thing to coin! Progressive pop sure sounds nice doesn't it? I think that description could work on some of our music, but then I also feel like we've got a lot of music that doesn't necessarily fit into the 'pop' limitations, but then maybe that's where the progressive part of that pairing allows the music to go further?


I'll get back to you when we've decided what we want the music to sound like, because we're always on the move with it and that's not necessarily a good thing, but it's not necessarily a bad thing either. I can say for sure that we're always very happy to create something that's never been heard before. Maybe that's where the progressive part comes in!

Q - Speaking of the band's formation, how did the band come together?

The band started in high school when we were about 16 years old. Just three friends playing music, loving Coldplay, walking to McDonalds, and without a shred of an idea of how to be a proper band. We've got a lot of people to thank.

Q - The band is set to release a full-length album next year. What should people expect from the album? How do you think the band's sound will change in the future?
That's a hot topic for discussion with us. There's a lot of talk about where we'd like to go. Louder than anything we've ever done and quieter too, intricate, simple, standing as its own piece of work and reworking the songs into something different for the live show so that they are almost two different artistic entities. 

There's a lot of extremes in there and a lot of agreements and disagreements, but it feels really great so far. If there's one thing I can tell you, it's that we're not really interested in repeating ourselves. Or anyone else for that matter.

Q - There seems to be a lot of interest in the U.S. these days in Canadian bands. Do you think the success of Arcade Fire fueled that interest? Is the band's mission to get better known in the U.S.?

Definitely. I would definitely love to become better known in the United States, that would be nice.

It's real encouraging to hear that there's a lot of interest in Canadian bands, there's a lot of us, not as many as there are of you but we're doing our best.

Personally, as a person who enjoys Arcade Fire, I was surprised when I heard that they sold out Madison Square Garden last year, it totally snuck up on me because at that point I was under the impression that they were a "maybe you've heard the name, maybe you haven't" kind of band within Canada and presumably anywhere else but I guess that shows how little I know, right?

I wish I also knew more about how to take to an American audience or what not to do — it all seems like a mystery to me — but I guess we'll find out soon. We'll keep making it up as we go.