Bowie, falling in love & 'hopeful music' is What Fuels The Fast Romantics

Indie | Wednesday 19th April 2017 | Rachel

Breathing life and imitating 21st century love, Fast Romantics are taking on their rendition of falling head over heels by touring and realeasing their latest album American Love.  

The Toronto indie-rocker 6 piece are known to for their hankering stories of modern cinematic love stories, with an added touch of political realism. 

Political anxiety at the time of the album's recording scratched and scraped its way into several records, as lead singer Matthew Angus described the atmosphere at the time as inescapable. With the two infectious hits 'Julia' and 'Why We Fight' from American Love already acquiring awards for their pop heated easy listening vibes, it’s exciting to predict the future of this heart-warming outfit. 

Hey, how’s it going?

Hi! Things are really great lately. We’re in that mode where you’ve finished a record and you get to start touring it and playing it for people, and even giving it to people to take home and listen to in their record players. We love recording but it’s been a long process so we’re happy to be back out in the world.

Tell us about your latest album American Love.

It’s something we’re all very proud of. It’s really the first record that the six of us have played on together and so it really represents a starting gun for this newly reformed version of Fast Romantics, in a way, it feels like the first thing we’ve ever done.

How did its creation came about?

Well, it started when we recorded the track ‘Julia’ after reforming. We didn’t want to do a whole record at the time, and we got connected with these amazing producers Gus Van Go and Werner F, so we decided to record that tune and one other ('Kids Without a Country') with them.

They turned out so great that we decided to release 'Julia' really early while we went forward with making the rest of the record with them. But since we were all pretty new to each other, we opted to tour around North America for a couple years and make the record slowly, which was really important, the songs took a long time to evolve, and I think it has resulted in an album that really represents us as a group.

We know that politics and love played a big part in American Love, was this done intentionally?

Not intentional in the beginning, no. Originally I just wanted to write an album of simple love songs, I was falling in love myself at the time.

The first batch were pretty pure in that way. But as we started touring the songs around, especially in the USA, it became really hard to ignore what was going on.

We’d meet people after shows and suddenly be thrust into political conversations. I mean, even if you weren’t in the states, the election was all anyone was talking about. So over time, the songs got rewritten and rewritten again, and slowly I found myself shaping them from simple love songs into something more like ‘love stories’.

They’re still about relationships at their core, but just like in real life, they’re love stories against the backdrop of what’s going on. Love in the context of the real world. It’s imperfect, it’s messy, it’s confusing. In most of the songs, I think I was trying to capture what it feels like to chase the simple human things like love and happiness when the outside world goes more and more insane.  

So is there a certain message you would like to get across in your music?

Honestly, I think it’s hopeful music. The world might seem really fucked up right now, but most of these songs tell stories of love winning out despite the madness in the world.

We’ve always had a very celebratory sound, and while sometimes it gets dark, every single song on the record works to shine a light on those dark things and offer up some hope that the darkness will pass.

Including you guys, Toronto is famous for the talent pouring out of it at the minute. Who has been your favourite artist to come out of your home City so far?

There’s a long list of Toronto artists we adore. But right now, July Talk has got to be the most exciting and creative band to come out of Toronto – to come out of anywhere, really – in quite some time.

They’ve managed to create something that feels and behaves like pop but is entirely raw, visceral, high energy, unique, and challenging. On top of all that, they’re at their best when performing live, and I think that’s a rare and important thing. They’re just one of dozens of bands to come out of Toronto right now, I could go on and on about how proud we are of the city’s musical output.

What songs would you say have changed your life?

That’s a heavy question. When I was super young for about a period of a year my dad almost exclusively played Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1 in the car, and I think 'Handle With Care' might be my first memory of a badass pop song.

But I have one for every era of my life and I’m sure everyone else in the band would have different ones. Bowie’s 'Changes' and Radiohead’s 'Karma Police'. Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’.

Springsteen’s 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' and pretty much all of Arcade Fire’s Funeral. Beck’s 'Paper Tiger' and really all of 'Sea Change' blew my mind when it came out.

More recently, when I heard 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' from the National I think it was a turning point for me. Same with 'Red Eyes' from War on Drugs. I like pop songs whereas if you asked other members of the band, you’d probably get a more interesting list of bands you’ve never heard of, that would probably change your life. But I don’t know, these lists are hard to make short.

So you are going on tour soon, how are you feeling?

It’s the finest feeling. We’re actually already on tour. Like I said earlier, being in the process of making a record for so long, getting out on the road and actually having a record in hand is a massive feeling of accomplishment.

We also know that you are going on tour with Said The Whale on your next Canadian tour. How did that collab come about?

It was actually one of those strange rare things in Canadian music where our bands had never crossed paths before, I’d only met one of them casually once. It was just a lucky thing where the timing worked and our teams put us together.

But we’ve played seven shows together so far and I feel like I’ve known them for far longer, they’re all such beautiful human beings and their set is an absolute joy to watch. I can’t wait to keep going with them, they’re all already becoming such good pals and the shows have really been brilliant, end to end.

If you could gig anywhere in the world - where would you like to play?

If I could gig anywhere in the world I would gig everywhere in the world.

Can you name some of your favourite tour moments?

We have a tradition of excessively long drives in this band. There was this one drive that we had planned from a show inVancouver (west coast of Canada) all the way to perform at a radio station in Milwaukee in the USA. It’s around a 35 hour drive, and we’d been planning to do it in a couple really long days, but we played our show in Vancouver and realized we’d counted the days wrong, and the only way to get to the station on time was to literally drive straight right after our show.

So we got in the van at like 2am that night and just went for it. We had Apple maps on a phone the whole time and it was giving us this readout of what time we’d arrive, and it was bouncing between 20 minutes early to 20 minutes late for 35 hours straight.

It’s a miracle of science that the phone’s ETA stayed within that window the whole town. High five Steve Jobs!

We ended up getting to Milwaukee with about ten minutes to spare, hit up a McDonalds bathroom to brush our teeth, arrived at the station, played them some tunes, and we were so full of adrenaline afterwards that we found this amazing Karaoke bar in that city and had what might be one of the finer Karaoke nights of our lives, until closing time.

Jeffy nailed a version of “I believe in a thing called love” that would bring anyone to tears. There are a million other stories but that 48 hours of madness was the first one that came to mind this time ‘round.

What is your writing process like?

Cobwebby and confusing. Sometimes a nearly fully developed song comes out in 15 minutes ('Julia' happened like that) but then other times I spend a good two years rewriting a lyric over and over again.

I think the process is simple to describe: a song isn’t done until every single second of it feels true. That sounds simple but it can be agonizing at times. And part of the process is always showing the song to Kirty and the rest of the band fairly early on, I like to get them to poke holes in it and challenge the song before we even get in the room to try to arrange it live.

It can be a tough period and there’s always a lot of self-doubt involved, but it’s also really quite rewarding, because when a song is actually complete, you can feel it, and until you have that feeling, you know it isn’t complete.

What’s been Fast Romantics proudest moment so far?

I think when we first got to listen back to this record after all of the travelling around and studio sessions that seemed like they’d never end, we were all beaming pretty hard. That’s a feeling of satisfaction that’s hard to beat. It’s like you’ve had a baby and after nine months of walking funny and throwing up, you’re just looking at the thing for the first time and saying “I made you” and you get all teary knowing it’s all been worth it.

A close runner up would be winning the Socan songwriting prize. I never really got too hung up on chasing awards, but when we won that it felt like a validation, like we were doing something right, just because the winner was selected through a combination of music industry people and fans. That felt like a moment.  

Fast Romantics  has achieved so much already, what are the next goals?

I think for now we have a much simpler goal than when we were making the record. We just want to play the best show we can to more and more people.

We’re all really proud of these tunes and the only goal now is to find new ways to share the songs with as many souls around the world as we can. It’ll be nice to just be thinking simple like that for a year or two.