Viet Cong: Relay, Reply, React and Respond
Viet Cong is a junkyard tank, welded from four distinct voices out of Calgary, Alberta.
Featuring former members of the much-loved, but sadly defunct, band Women, and members of Chad VanGaalen’s backing band, Viet Cong siphons out a brooding mix of sharp-angled rhythms, euphoric garage melodies and smokey post-punk atmosphere.
This open-ended framework is balanced with a penchant for drone-y, VU-styled downer moments, altogether spinning what is surely one of the most interesting acts to come out of Canada recently.
On the heels of their 2014 EP, Cassette, the band released their excellent self-titled full-length last month.
Of their standout single, “Continental Shelf”, Pitchfork wrote,
Dark and unwieldy, with stormy dissonance, gloom-drunk melodies, ghostly cheerleader coos…Viet Cong still sound like a band being tugged in opposing directions, but here they control the discordance with confidence, transforming “Continental Shelf” into something disquietingly divine.
On stage, Viet Cong is hugely engaging, delivering pessimistic pop and instrumental acrobatics, delighting in the navigation of these catchy, intricate songs.
We caught up with guitarist and co-writer, Scott “Monty” Munro.
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We were really blown away by your debut. How did it come together?
It came together over quite awhile. We’d recorded demos for most of the tracks around the same time as working on the material for Cassette then after our first tour we talked about whether we should release the demos that we had or if we should re-record a bunch of it in a proper studio. We eventually decided to re-record it, and we were in the studio with Graham Walsh only a couple weeks after that.
What’s your creative process? How do write and compose such intense, layered music? Is it more simple than it sounds?
Our process is pretty drawn out actually. Usually me or Matt will have a riff or something and we’ll just start playing around with it in my studio and trying to find some sounds.
Usually we work on that kind of thing for a couple days or so, and then we bring it to practice and start working on it with the other guys. After jamming for a bit we’ll usually take it back to the studio and try to record a proper demo. Then we just play the song live a bunch. Sometimes we’ll just jump right into the jamming portion of that depending on the riff or idea for the song.
Your new self-titled is technically your debut album, even though it’s only 7 minutes longer than ‘Cassette’. What’s the difference between the EP and the LP, or perhaps those two formats in general? Is the album a more definitive statement?
Yeah, I’d say so. Cassette was just me and Matt messing around with the idea of starting a band, while the LP is the four of us working on music together. Once we all started jamming together, our sound came together pretty quick and I think that the LP reflects that change. The fact that they’re both seven tracks is just a coincidence really. We just put together the songs that we thought worked the best together and called it at that.
Half of Viet Cong used to belong to the band Women. How did you reconcile that heritage to make a new project? Was there conversation about how it would be different or similar?
There wasn’t really a conversation. We definitely didn’t set out for it to be similar but obviously we have a couple common members and we all listen to a bunch of the same music so of course there will be similarities. Whenever you get different people in the mix it’ll always be a different thing though.
Your music has been described as post-punk and compared to bands like Jesus and Mary Chain, Gang of Four, Joy Division, Sonic Youth. Do you identify with any of these labels?
I like all those bands, and to me post-punk is pretty easy too because it’s such a wide genre. I’d say we fit in there just fine, for now.
You’re based in Calgary. What’s the music scene like? What Calgary acts should we know about?
The scene in Calgary is pretty small and everyone is friends and plays in each other’s bands. I think because the scene is so small it means that everyone has to stick together to get anything going. Everyone in Viet Cong has played in multiple bands over the years here, although in the last year we had to quit everything else we were doing to focus on this protect.
Everyone should check out the record label Bug Incision; they release some great free improvisation and noise recordings as well as putting on fantastic shows of the same kind. For bands I’d say for people to check out Sleep Kit, Burnt Shrines and Lab Coast, to name a few.
Viet Cong is something of a provocative name for a band. How did you settle on that title?
It just came to us at a time when we needed a name for real. We had finally booked our first show and Mike just said something about the Viet Cong and we all got really stoked about it! In retrospect it’s probably not the most sensitive name, and we’ve received quite few angry emails about it, but we’re kind of stuck with it now.
(Photo: Colin Way)
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