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Viet Cong bring celebrated debut album home

By Jason Herring, February 12 2015 —

As remembered by Viet Cong’s frontman Matt Flegel, the group’s first tour was low budget without much in the way of comfort.

“I totalled the car we toured with on the last one. That car doesn’t exist anymore,” laughs Flegel.

After the wide-spread success of the Calgary post-punk band’s debut last month, Flegel and company should have nothing to worry about on their latest tour. The record has received widespread acclaim from publications such as FFWD, Pitchfork, and NME, and the band has already sold out shows in Los Angeles and Toronto, among other cities.

Viet Cong has been a fixture in Calgary’s music scene since early 2012. Flegel, a member of the defunct band Women, and guitarist Scott Munro formed Viet Cong in the wake of tragedies that marked the end of Women, including the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer.

Flegel and Munro were later joined by ex-Women drummer Matt Wallace, as well as their friend and guitarist Daniel Christiansen.

Their self-titled debut album has been a work in progress for as long as the band has been together, Flegel says.

“There are [songs] probably spanning a couple of years now. A few songs, the first track and “March of Progress,” have been around for a pretty long time,” he says. “They were a couple of the first tracks that me and Scott worked on.”

While most tracks on the album evolved through extensive touring, some were created more spontaneously.

“Some of the other ones we hadn’t played live at all, we just kind of figured them out in the studio last minute,” Flegel says.

Despite the patchwork nature of the album’s assembly, the coherence of Viet Cong reflects the band’s experience and talent. Every track feels impeccably crafted and fully realized, culminating in the 11-minute epic “Death,” which Flegel notes as one of the band’s most-toured songs.

“We played [“Death”] every night on a 60-day tour. It was originally two songs, and we just started blending them together live where it became this sprawling thing where one song turned into another song,” he says. “It was definitely a result of us playing it live over and over.”

Throughout the album, Viet Cong creates a sound reminiscent of post-punk staples such as Swans, Gang of Four and This Heat, while still
maintaining a unique sound. Discussing the song “March of Progress,” Flegel notes an interesting source of inspiration.

“The middle section with the weird harmonies and the plinky sounding guitars was This Heat influenced, and I feel like the rest of that song was almost classical music in a weird way, just the way movements and structures go,” Flegel says. “I think around that time I was listening to a lot of classical music, so that probably has something to do with it too.”

Lyrically, Flegel says his vocals focus more on creating an atmosphere rather than “telling a story with characters.”

“A lot of them are autobiographical, but I don’t know if anyone would know that unless you knew me,” Flegel says. “I like it like that. I like it being vague, something you can take in a few different ways.”

Viet Cong’s tour comes to Calgary on Feb. 26. This marks the band’s first trip home since the release of their debut album. 

The show should be a triumphant homecoming for the group, with old friends and new fans excited for the sold-out show. Flegel, however, is still just thinking about living day-to-day on the road.

“Hopefully people will come to our shows, and the odd night we’ll be able to afford a hotel with a shower, so we can take care of ourselves,” Flegel laughs. 

Viet Cong play Commonwealth Bar & Stage on Feb. 26 at 9:00 p.m. with guests Fist City and Burnt Shrine.

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