By Jarrett Edmund, October 6 2015 —
Montreal post-punk four-piece Ought understand that school is important, even when you’re a successful rock band fresh off the release of your second full-length album and riding the tailwinds of critical praise. After meeting at Montreal’s McGill University and completing their degrees, Ought began crafting meticulous post-punk replete with apathetic social commentary and dry humour.
But Ought are not your typical social burnouts — their music is driven by undeniable passion and optimism. Between the intricate arrangements, a critical intellectual consciousness glues their sound together.
Although more polished than their first record, keyboardist Matt May says their sophomore album, Sun Coming Down, originates from a similar mindset. The latest album was conceived during a three month creative explosion following their first major tour. Unlike many bands, Ought never found themselves writing on the road.
“The funny thing with us is that we’re not great at writing songs on tour,” May says. “I don’t think it was a road record. We spent so much time not using the parts of our brain that write songs, so once we got home and had the chance to write we got really excited.”
That excitement is palpable, and Sun Coming Down blasts along at a frenetic pace from start to finish. Although written and recorded in Montreal, the album is pure road-trip fuel, undoubtedly the perfect soundtrack for a band headed across the continent in a 15-seat passenger van.
Political discourse has always been a pervasive aspect of the post-punk music scene, with bands like Gang of Four and The Fall making a name for themselves with their derisive lyrics. Ought splits most of their time between the U.S. and Canada and, as a result, find themselves exposed to two elections. But touring doesn’t leave a lot of time for critical reflection.
“It’s hard to process information [on the road] and contextualize it,” May says. “Is Harper going to get re-elected? What does that mean for social services?”
Politics south of the border are equally compelling. On the subject of much maligned Presidential candidate Donald Trump, May identifies the twisted logic behind his poll numbers.
“In a perverted way, this is the logical extension of what a sham politics are in America,” May says.
Though they display some ideological similarities with post-punk music, May says Ought is reluctant to accept the labels that have been assigned to their music.
“We actually talk about that a lot. The term ‘post-punk’ is so incomplete. We are not interested in trying to make music that sounds like that,” he says. “If anything, we’re just interested in getting weirder and pushing ourselves musically.”
May jokes the band’s next album will “probably just be a cover of Cage’s 4’33” over 45 minutes,” alluding to the infamous performance by experimental American composer John Cage who would sit in front of his instruments for four and a half minutes in complete silence.
Ought plans on making noise for the foreseeable future. For many bands, the promise of commercial success is enough to forego an education, but May says he and his bandmates never felt rushed.
“If you’re finished school and you decide you want to tour or take [art] seriously, then that’s the perfect time to do it,” May says.
Ought plays at the Palomino on Oct. 12 at 9:00 p.m. Tickets are avaliable on bigtickets.ca and at the door for $12.