Having recently signed to labels in both the US and Germany, Vancouver’s We Are The City have taken their ambitions to another level on their upcoming album, Violent.
The album shares its title with the feature film of the same name, which is garnering critical attention at film festivals around the world.
The Antidote, Trent Radio’s source for Chrisian music that doesn’t suck, recently interviewed band member David Menzel to discuss the album, the film, and the band’s role in both.
How about filling us in about the band members of We Are The City and how you came together?
Okay, so there’s three of us: Cayne, myself, and Andrew. Cayne plays keyboards and sings, I play guitar, and Andy plays drums.
It’s just a tight-knit bunch of guys. We didn’t do any music until we hit grade eight or nine. Then we auditioned Andy, as lame as that sounds. He was just the only option, really. It was a good thing that we got him: he’s the best part of the band; he has all the energy.
So we started doing music when we were fifteen and we’re all twenty-five now. So, ten years I guess.
You’re sort of indie rock, sort of pop, sort of experimental. I’ve even heard you described as prog rock. But how do you define the sound of We Are The City?
Really, we have a hard time with this question. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but we try to make music that we haven’t really heard. It’s hard to classify it.
I usually say progressive indie rock, because most people are like, “Okay, indie rock. Like, Arcade Fire is indie rock. Progressive, so it’s not so commercial.” It’s a good place to start, but hopefully we make music that we can’t define.
The goal is for us to make something new, that people can grab hold of and enjoy.
Violent is the new album from We Are The City, which releases March 24. It does carry some dark undertones. But seriously isn’t the title a bit of a misnomer? It makes the album sound like it’s rough and dangerous.
Yeah… that one was a tough one for me when we were throwing around the idea of calling it Violent. I was like, “Guys, we’re not a metal band.” (laughs) It just suits something really heavy. Then we were looking deeper at the word, and Andy and Cayne sold me on it.
We were trying to make hard parts and softer parts on the same song. Trying to make it aggressive and peaceful at the same time.
You can make that kind of contrast by calling something “violently beautiful”. You can make that kind of contrast, so we went there.
Why choose that dark tone for Violent? Was that just where you were at that moment or was it an intentional choice?
It really was. I didn’t, lyrically, have my hands on the whole album. I think that Violent was at an appropriate place in our lives. There had been a lot of change and growing in our lives. Violent matched the scenery, ambience, and atmosphere of how we wrote it.
Violent has also become a feature film. It was directed by your drummer Andrew. Violent has gone on to be voted Best Canadian Film and Best BC Film at the Vancouver Film Festival, it was an official selection at several international film festivals, won awards in France, and it was also chosen for Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival at Toronto’s TIFF Lightbox. That’s quite a thing.
Yeah, it’s unbelievable. Andy did a great job directing it. When we moved from Kelowna to Vancouver we all lived with Andy’s cousin and his brother, who have a production company called Amazing Factory.
They’ve done all of of our music videos. So, we’ve really grown together loving film, loving music. Every night we would be talking film or music, or filming something. Film has been something really dear to all of us, but especially to Andy.
That fact that the film Violent has won so many awards… it’s crazy and overwhelming.
Is the film Violent a representation of your album?
They were written at the same time and have very similar themes. When we started to work on this, the idea was an insanely long music video, but it progressed from there to being a feature length.
It went from Violent having our songs in it to just having a score. You know, some of the same stems, but having a completely different score. They’re standalone pieces, but they’re connected. They’re siblings.
How different was it to score a film versus recording an album?
Well, like I said there was stems that we used, but it was a whole lot of work.
Cayne deserves almost all the credit. He spent a lot of time in the studio crafting it, making it more atmospherical, making parts last longer. You know, it became something totally different. He’s an amazing composer.
For us it’s not really the same to just sit down and watch a scene and write a song to it. It’s almost like you’re writing a mood.
You don’t think about where the music will take you because you already have the images and storyline right there. It’s a whole different beast.
To carry on with that; is there a correlation between music and film? Does one transcend the other?
It’s an interesting conversation because music and film both tell stories. They’re both art and they both come from a place where the only way to describe these feelings is to put them into a film or album.
What’s funny is that you almost can’t have one without the other. You know, music is consumed through Spotify and these streaming services, but a lot of times you just have people going to YouTube and watching music videos.
It’s almost like people need images to help them listen to music. It’s hard for people to listen to music without doing anything else: driving, cooking dinner, whatever. Film is different because it takes up your time, unless you’re watching something like Mall Cop. (laughs)
They’re similar, but film definitely grabs people. You can sit down and watch a film and give it the respect it deserves. That doesn’t happen with music much anymore. But for me, nothing can communicate as well as music.
The thing that I’m most curious about the film Violent is that you didn’t shoot it in Canada. You went to Norway and filmed it in Norwegian. Why not take the easy route and film it here in Canada?
I don’t know. (laughs) To be honest, I did stay home; I took the easy way out. The whole thing started when we were jamming one day.
We were trying to figure out how we could outdo what we did for the last EP, which was High School. We did a video for each song for that. So we were writing, jamming for Violent, the record, and we wondered what could we do.
We threw out the idea of doing a huge music video and then, hey what if we do a feature length film? What if we shot it in a different country? What if we did it as a foreign film? (laughs)
We threw out so many ideas that we couldn’t come back from them. It’s not like you have these amazing ideas and then say well we will just settle and shoot it in Canada and have it be easy.
The Antidote’s complete interview with David of We Are The City will be broadcast along with music from Violent on Wednesday March 25, at 9pm on Trent Radio.