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Violent - We Are The City
Buy Violent

RELEASE INFO

LABEL: Hidden Pony Records
RELEASE DATE: 06.04.13
FORMATS: CD, Vinyl, Digital

Band Members

Cayne McKenzie: Vocals, Keyboards
Andrew Huculiak: Drums
David Menzel: Guitar

BIOGRAPHY

For the members of We Are The City, the four years since 2009′s In a Quiet World have been filled with radical change, both personal and musical. They’ve undergone lineup alterations, relocated from Kelowna to Victoria to Vancouver, reached their 20s, built up a fan base across the country and painstakingly honed their sound. All of this experience, both good and bad, went into making their sophomore album, Violent, out June 4 through Hidden Pony Records.

High school friends Cayne McKenzie (vocals/keyboards) Andrew Huculiak (drums) and David Menzel (guitar) began plotting this album almost as soon as the first one was done. Their future looked bright, as they won $150,000 in January of 2010 by placing first in 102.7 The Peak’s prestigious PEAK Performance Project contest.

Things got put on hold, however, after Menzel left the band in the summer of 2010. The new songs were abandoned, and We Are the City — which by then included interim guitarist Blake Enemark — released their stopgap High School EP in 2011. Although not the album they originally envisioned, High School earned rave reviews and helped to expand their following, with The Vancouver Sun giving it five stars and declaring it a “mini masterwork.”

Along the way, the band continued to perfect their live chops, touring across Canada four times, playing shows throughout the U.S. with Said the Whale, and opening for the likes of Mother Mother, Sam Roberts, Tokyo Police Club, Braids and more.

We Are the City continued to gain momentum when Menzel returned, and the guys resumed work on the follow-up they had previously set aside. They wrote the rhythm parts in a pool house in White Rock, BC, later fleshing out these tunes in a teardown home known as Magic House, which was demolished soon after the writing session. These productive sessions were documented with an online video series, aptly called Magic House. During the process, they scrapped much of their old material and crafted a new batch of songs that reflected the life-altering changes and musical maturation of the past few years.

“This is the album that we’ve wanted to make for a long time — for four years or even longer,” observes Huculiak. “We’ve been in this purgatory, where I knew what I wanted to create with Cayne and David, but how did we get there? Now we’ve finally gotten there.”

Produced once again by Tom Dobrzanski (Said The Whale, the Zolas, Hey Ocean!) at his newly constructed Monarch Studios,Violent is an album of soaring highs and hushed comedowns, with dense syncopations going toe-to-toe with noise-soaked crescendos and delicate pop melodies. “King David” moves from aggressive distortion to gentle acoustic plucking to swirling ambience, while “Bottom of the Lake” places marimba tinkles atop a gritty guitar backdrop, and the cerebral “Baptism” builds towards the album’s most thunderous climax.

Huculiak explains, “What we’re interested in is contrast. Musically contrasting hooky, poppy things with very experimental ideas.” McKenzie adds, “Ups and downs, louds and quiets. Negative and positive themes.”

It’s this sonic roller coaster that inspired Violent‘s multi-faceted title. The title’s implications are both positive and negative, straddling the line between the beautiful and the abrasive and encompassing the full scope of We Are the City’s musical maximalism. Menzel observes, “If we’re choosing synonyms for ‘violent,’ it would probably be ‘intense.’”

Violent will be followed by a feature-length film — as-yet-untitled — written by We Are the City and filmed by Vancouver’s Amazing Factory Productions in Norway. With a script penned entirely in Norwegian — despite the fact that the band members don’t speak the language — this subtitled film is a companion piece to the record; the score utilizes melodic motifs from the songs, while the story shares themes with the lyrics. “The film goes as a companion to the record, but it’s not a must-have,” McKenzie notes. “They both stand alone.”

We Are the City’s restless sense of artistry has led the musicians through years of self-discovery as they have continued to strive for the next creative peak. Now that they’ve finally arrived with Violent and its accompanying film, there’s no question that the journey has been worthwhile.

Reviews

Posted on June 4th, 2013 (8:00 am) by Sid Sibley
Posted on June 4th, 2013 (8.00am) by Laura Stanley for GrayOwlPoint.com

Along with a few others here at the blog, I’m going through some big life changes. After finishing my undergraduate degree this spring, I (we) look now to the uncertain future and all that it brings. Violent, the new record from the Kelowna three piece band We Are The City comes at the perfect moment for these life changes. Tackling issues of change, the maturation of self, our place in life, and the dreaded need to then adjust, all in a new and confident sound, Violent hits hard.

Fleshed out in a condemned house dubbed the “Magic House,” check out some videos of the band working their in magic in the house, Violent’s sound is a force. Although my calling their sound a “force,” paired with the title of the album, may seem like We Are The City has branched off into the heavy-metal genre or something, their sound combines varying styles and elements further than they have every done before, for ten very intricate, experimental-rock/prog-rock-like tracks.

The swirling background sounds of “Bottom of the Lake” paired with what feels like a new found strength of Cayne McKenzie’s voice immediately catches your ear to begin the record. Effortlessly transitioning to the percussion heavy “Legs Give Out” – thirty-nine seconds of Andy Huculiak’s stellar drumming in “Passing of the Peace” also shows off his skills – and then into the guitar heavy “King David,” Violent marked a return for guitarist David Menzel who briefly left the band during their High School EP (Blake Enemark stepped in during that period). With this, barely the first half of the record, you are thrown into an intensity that is both instrumentally and lyrically felt.

Both “Bottom of the Lake” and “Legs Give Out” touch on familiar feelings of what feels like being beaten by life while McKenzie then asks one of the record’s most powerful questions in the following track, “King David,” asking, “David, am I going to hell?” When feeling lost in whatever the case my be, in a recent interview with CBC Huculiak said that the album is primarily about the band finding their spiritual bearings, asking for guidance and validity from your friends is a personal part of the process which is perfectly captured in this desperate question.

Speaking of friends in relation to the quest in self-reliance and peace, the instrumentally minimal, “Friends Hurt” is lyrically one of the strongest We Are The City songs to date. A simple synth beat guides the song, only briefly interrupted by a more distorted keyboard part, while the repetitive chorus of, “it hurts when friends are hurting, and my friends are hurting,” is a beautifully reflective and simple turn of phrase. Similarly, “Everything Changes,” again, deals with the introspective, diving deeper into the band’s feelings as McKenzie sings, “everything is changed, and I don’t want to change.”

Finally, “Punch My Face” closes the record with an emotional punch. A softly performed piano song centered around McKenzie, it’s in the sprawling final minutes of the record where heavy guitar distortion overwhelms for a perfect representation of how emotionally overwhelming the record truly is.

June 5th, 2013. NewCanadianMusic.com

We Are the City’s sophomore album Violent is a progressive rock opus disguised as indie rock. Since the early days, the Kelowna BC trio always strived to bridge the gap between experimental alt-rock and pop, and with this new collection of materia, they confidently forge a sound that is even bolder and more confident sounding than '09s impressive In A Quiet World. The creative energy could in part be due to the return of original guitarist David Menzel, inspired writing sessions in a condemned house, or it could be the time spent focusing on the music after winning the $150,000 Peak Performance grand prize in 2010.  The album opens with the frantic percussive punch of “Bottom of the Lake” and ends with the expansive feedback-laden ballad “Punch My Face”. It's an album you want to have on repeat play.

May 30th, 2013. by John Lucas (3.00am) for Straight.com

Violent marks something of a return for We Are the City. The band never broke up, but guitarist David Menzel quit in the summer of 2010. He has since rejoined and this new album, which comes out on Tuesday (June 4) is the trio’s first recording to feature him since its 2009 debut, In a Quiet World. (Interim replacement Blake Enemark played on the 2011 High School EP.)

This is a remarkably assured effort. Its crystal-clear sound owes much to the Zolas’ Tom Dobrzanski, whose CV includes equally impressive records by his own band and Said the Whale. Mind you, if those acts traffic in relatively straightforward indie pop—relatively being the key word—We Are the City does something else entirely. The band, which also includes singer-keyboardist Cayne McKenzie and drummer Andrew Huculiak, has always balanced pop songcraft and unabashed prog-rock leanings. It’s clear right off the top that, in making Violent, We Are the City’s intention was to push itself as far as possible in both directions at once. “Bottom of the Lake” kicks things off with hammering math-rock drums topped with a spiralling marimba figure and later joined by a layer of grinding shoegaze guitar. McKenzie’s vocal melody, however, provides the song with a focal point that is immediately accessible, softening the song’s rougher edges.

We Are the City never really sounded like any other local act in the past, and that’s even more true with this latest batch of compositions. In fact, the band sounds downright Scandinavian. The rising-tide keyboard crescendoes of “Legs Give Out” could have been lifted from an A-side by Swedish dreamtronica duo I Break Horses, while the jagged riff with which “King David” announces its arrival sounds like something Danish prog-poppers Mew might have written. Elsewhere, “Baptism” builds up into something approaching the cathedral-in-the-clouds grandeur of Sigur Rós.

In fairness, We Are the City doesn’t actually sound like any of them, either, but it’s a safe bet that if you have anything by the above-named artists in your collection, Violent is going to make you very, very happy.

Excuse a little reductionism, but one of the (many) strange things about experimental rock is that weird is so hard to do well. Contrary to the long-running American narrative, time and events show that individuals are not so individual - influence and alliance are our air and water, and singularities are more often akin to sins than solemnities. Experimental rock, at the most superficial level, is weird, or is often and easily labeled as such by The Great Mainstream. There is, however, a gaping divide between truly weird and trying weird. Frequently, music that sounds weird is merely miming; the class clown who dons Groucho glasses but doesn’t offer any real jokes. In these situations we laugh at the clown or cringe at the music instinctively, but we don’t feel the mirth or wonder at the oddity. It’s shallow to the point of annoyance. Obviously, hardcore (experi)mental-heads would argue against (while simultaneously trumpeting) the simplistic weird classification, and would replace the term with the (sometimes) more fitting descriptor challenging. In this context it is easy to understand why being weird is so difficult. To really challenge an audience, or challenge yourself as a musician, you have to be smart, experienced, or legitimately weird (or some combination of the three)... smart or experienced enough to know the reason why one piece of music is demanding and another is plain dumb, or weird enough not to care.

Which brings us to the interesting case of We Are The City, and their new album, Violent. We Are The City are billed as an experimental and/or progressive rock band, a fact which, after considering the above criteria, should spell unmitigated disaster. For one thing, there is nothing about the band which lends itself to suggest that they possess a particularly high sense of intelligence. Their musicianship is solid, though far from virtuosic, and lyrically they are, at best, generally not inane (though the persistent repetition of the words dad, god, and lake is peculiar and irksome). Their depth of experience is questionable, since all members are in their mid-ish-twenties and the sum of their output includes one full-length and one EP. And finally, they don’t seem genuinely strange (though they are Canadian). Three strikes, and they should be out... but something about Violent lingers pleasantly.

Maybe it’s the sometimes high and whiny, sometimes tender falsetto of singer/keyboardist Cayne McKenzie. It’s a voice that vaguely recalls Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue or Josh Malerman of The High Strung, but at the same time sweeter than both of them, more innocent. It’s the kind of voice that can sing a line like, “I don’t want to change” (from “Everything Changes”) and make it sound plaintive, not close-minded.

Or maybe it’s Andrew Huculiak’s explosive drumming, the same kind of driving blitzkrieg created by Steven Drozd on recent Flaming Lips releases. There is a mania to Huculiak’s drumming that summons a claustrophobic tension to songs like “Bottom of the Lake,” “King David,” and “Everything Changes,” without which would run the risk of sounding fretful and pedantic.

Then again, it might have a lot to do with band’s ability to write layered, beautiful, varied melodies that are occasionally sprinkled with pop hooks. They are melodies that don’t always get support from their lyrical counterparts (though, to be fair, there are some bright moments, like this knife in the back from “Baptism” (“Forgive me all my twists and turns / In you I realize my worst”) or the offhand existentialism in this line from “Friends Hurt” (“Look below the surface, / do you see the spawning salmon / unaware or well-aware they’re living and dying?”) but for the most part they don’t need it. “Legs Give Out” turns staccato hand-claps and tambourine into slinky goodness, “Friends Hurt” is quiet and precious, and the atmosphere gets dense and scuzzy on the album’s final three tracks, bringing a little weight to some of the less grounded early tracks.

Perhaps the most darling attributes about the band and their new album are the very things that should be counted as strikes against them: they are young, they are kind of dumb, and they are trying so very sincerely to be complex, to be challenging, to be weird. They might well be called the kid brothers of Bear in Heaven, certainly less broody and gloomy in temperament, musically less knotty, less cutting, less intelligent, but oh-so-earnestly trying to impress, to live up to the scepter of their older musical sibling. In this way, kid brothers are underdogs, scrappy and doe-eyed, with a spirit that’s too irresistible to deny.

- See more at: http://inyourspeakers.com/content/review/218-we-are-city-violent-06042013#sthash.VfcEht2d.dpuf

Excuse a little reductionism, but one of the (many) strange things about experimental rock is that weird is so hard to do well. Contrary to the long-running American narrative, time and events show that individuals are not so individual - influence and alliance are our air and water, and singularities are more often akin to sins than solemnities. Experimental rock, at the most superficial level, is weird, or is often and easily labeled as such by The Great Mainstream. There is, however, a gaping divide between truly weird and trying weird. Frequently, music that sounds weird is merely miming; the class clown who dons Groucho glasses but doesn’t offer any real jokes. In these situations we laugh at the clown or cringe at the music instinctively, but we don’t feel the mirth or wonder at the oddity. It’s shallow to the point of annoyance. Obviously, hardcore (experi)mental-heads would argue against (while simultaneously trumpeting) the simplistic weird classification, and would replace the term with the (sometimes) more fitting descriptor challenging. In this context it is easy to understand why being weird is so difficult. To really challenge an audience, or challenge yourself as a musician, you have to be smart, experienced, or legitimately weird (or some combination of the three)... smart or experienced enough to know the reason why one piece of music is demanding and another is plain dumb, or weird enough not to care.

Which brings us to the interesting case of We Are The City, and their new album, Violent. We Are The City are billed as an experimental and/or progressive rock band, a fact which, after considering the above criteria, should spell unmitigated disaster. For one thing, there is nothing about the band which lends itself to suggest that they possess a particularly high sense of intelligence. Their musicianship is solid, though far from virtuosic, and lyrically they are, at best, generally not inane (though the persistent repetition of the words dad, god, and lake is peculiar and irksome). Their depth of experience is questionable, since all members are in their mid-ish-twenties and the sum of their output includes one full-length and one EP. And finally, they don’t seem genuinely strange (though they are Canadian). Three strikes, and they should be out... but something about Violent lingers pleasantly.

Maybe it’s the sometimes high and whiny, sometimes tender falsetto of singer/keyboardist Cayne McKenzie. It’s a voice that vaguely recalls Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue or Josh Malerman of The High Strung, but at the same time sweeter than both of them, more innocent. It’s the kind of voice that can sing a line like, “I don’t want to change” (from “Everything Changes”) and make it sound plaintive, not close-minded.

Or maybe it’s Andrew Huculiak’s explosive drumming, the same kind of driving blitzkrieg created by Steven Drozd on recent Flaming Lips releases. There is a mania to Huculiak’s drumming that summons a claustrophobic tension to songs like “Bottom of the Lake,” “King David,” and “Everything Changes,” without which would run the risk of sounding fretful and pedantic.

Then again, it might have a lot to do with band’s ability to write layered, beautiful, varied melodies that are occasionally sprinkled with pop hooks. They are melodies that don’t always get support from their lyrical counterparts (though, to be fair, there are some bright moments, like this knife in the back from “Baptism” (“Forgive me all my twists and turns / In you I realize my worst”) or the offhand existentialism in this line from “Friends Hurt” (“Look below the surface, / do you see the spawning salmon / unaware or well-aware they’re living and dying?”) but for the most part they don’t need it. “Legs Give Out” turns staccato hand-claps and tambourine into slinky goodness, “Friends Hurt” is quiet and precious, and the atmosphere gets dense and scuzzy on the album’s final three tracks, bringing a little weight to some of the less grounded early tracks.

Perhaps the most darling attributes about the band and their new album are the very things that should be counted as strikes against them: they are young, they are kind of dumb, and they are trying so very sincerely to be complex, to be challenging, to be weird. They might well be called the kid brothers of Bear in Heaven, certainly less broody and gloomy in temperament, musically less knotty, less cutting, less intelligent, but oh-so-earnestly trying to impress, to live up to the scepter of their older musical sibling. In this way, kid brothers are underdogs, scrappy and doe-eyed, with a spirit that’s too irresistible to deny.

- See more at: http://inyourspeakers.com/content/review/218-we-are-city-violent-06042013#sthash.VfcEht2d.dpu



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