Memory is perhaps the most important moment on the new self-titled Preoccupations album. At just over 11 minutes long, it’s been described as the album’s keystone, with an intimate narrative and a truly timeless post-punk centre. Like many classic songs in history, Memory is carved into distinct sections — both emotional and transcendent.
Speaking of the track, Monty of Preoccupations notes the song “was the second one that we started working on for ‘Preoccupations’ after Anxiety. It was unique to the sessions of the record in that we worked on it in every studio that we were in. The idea we had for its arc made it necessary to put more work into it than any of the other tracks. The finished result was worked on in six different studios over almost two years. Getting Dan in to record the vocals was the final piece of the puzzle and was Matt’s idea. We were tracking in Montreal and cold-called him to see if he wanted to sing a duet of sorts, but his vocal was so perfect for it that we didn’t use Matt’s for most of it.”
‘Preoccupations’ is set for release September 16th via Flemish Eye in Canada and Jagjaguwar everywhere else. Earlier this summer the band released videos for Anxiety (watch here) and Degraded (watch here).
‘Preoccupations’ track listing
September 16th, 2016 (LP/CD/Cassette/Digital)
When the four members of Preoccupations wrote and recorded their new record, they were in a state of near total instability. Years-long relationships ended; they left homes behind. Frontman Matt Flegel, guitarist Danny Christiansen, multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro and drummer Mike Wallace all moved to different cities. They had resolved to change their band name, but hadn’t settled on a new one. And their road-tested, honed approach to songwriting was basically thrown out the window. This time they walked into producer’s Graham Walsh’s studio with the gas gauge near empty, buoyed by one another while the rest of their lives were virtually unrecognizable and rootless. There was no central theme or idea to guide the band’s collective cliff jump. As a result, Preoccupations bears the visceral, personal sound of holding onto some steadiness in the midst of changing everything.
Flegel is quick to point out how little mystery is in the titles of these songs: Anxiety, Monotony, Degraded, Stimulation, Fever. “Monotony is a dead end job; Anxiety is changing as a band,” he says. “Memory is watching someone lose their mind; Fever is comforting someone. It’s all drawing from very specific things.” These things — bigger ones like breakups, smaller ones like simply trying to calm someone down — are ultimately the things that explode our brains, that keep us up at night. And so where their previous album was built in some ways on the abstract cycles of creation and destruction, ‘Preoccupations’ explores how that sometimes-suffocating, sometimes-revelatory trap affects our lives. “We discarded a lot, reworking songs pretty ruthlessly,” Munro explains. “We ripped songs down to the studs, taking one piece we liked and building something new around it. It was pretty cannibalistic, I guess. Existing songs were killed and used to make new ones.” Sonically, it’s still blistering. But it’s a different kind of blister, less the the scorched earth of the band’s previous LP, more like a blood blister on a fingertip: something immediate and physical that you push and stare at. It’s yours.
Opener Anxiety articulates that tension: clattering sounds drift into focus, bouncing and echoing off one another until one bone-shattering moment when the full band strikes at once, moving from something untouchable to get to something deeply felt. Monotony moves at a narcoleptic pace by Preoccupations’ standards, but snaps to attention to make its point, that “this repetition’s killing you // it’s killing everyone.” Stimulation opens with a snarl and hurls itself forward at what feels like a million bpm, pausing for one mortal moment of relief before barreling onward. Degraded surprises, with something like a traditional structure and an almost pop-leaning melody to its chorus, twisting the bigness of Preoccupations’ music to sideswipe the clear, finite smallness of its subjects and events. And the 11-minute-long Memory is the album’s keystone, with an intimate narrative and a truly timeless post-punk center. There’s love piercing through the iciness here, fighting its way forward in each of the song’s distinct sections.
As always, there is something crystalline to what they’ve made, a blast of cold air in a burning hot place. All this adds up to ‘Preoccupations’: a singular, bracing collection that proves what’s punishing can also be soothing, everything can change without disrupting your compass. Your best year can be your worst year at the same time. Whatever sends you flying can also help you land.
Preoccupations have just finished up their tour with Explosions in the Sky, which included a stop in LA for FYF where a huge crowd turned out to see the band absolutely destroy, playing songs from their new album and favourites from their previous LP. The non-stop touring continues into the fall with more tour dates added including extensive touring of North America with support from Australia’s next big thing Methyl Ethel. All dates are listed below.
Preoccupations is undertaking an extensive world tour in support of the Preoccupations album release. Dates have been announced and include a US leg with Explosions In The Sky, Canadian dates in Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, and two packed months in the US and Europe. Full dates appear below.
09.28.16 – The Rickshaw Theatre – Vancouver, BC
10.01.16 – Mac Hall Ballroom – Calgary, AB ^
10.03.16 – WECC – Winnepeg, MB ^
10.04.16 – Fine Line Music Cafe – Minneapolis, Mn ^
10.05.16 – Thalia Hall – Chicago, Il ^
10.07.16 – Crofoot Ballroom – Pontiac, Mi ^
10.08.16 – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, ON ^
10.11.16 – Theatre Fairmount – Montreal, QC ^
10.12.16 – The Sinclair – Cambridge, Ma ^
10.14.16 – Warsaw – Brooklyn NY ^
10.15.16 – First Unitarian Church – Philadelphia, Pa ^
10.16.16 – Rock & Roll Hotel – Washington DC ^
10.18.16 – Masquerade – Atlanta, Ga ^
10.19.16 – Gasa Gasa – New Orleans, La ^
10.21.16 – The Mohawk – Austin, TX ^
10.22.16 – Club Dada – Dallas, TX
10.25.16 – Valley Bar – Phoenix, Az ^
10.26.16 – The Irenic – San Diego, CA ^
10.28.16 – The Roxy – Los Angeles, CA ^
10.29.16 – The Independent – San Francisco, CA ^
10.30.16 – The Independent – San Francisco, CA ^
11.1.6 – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR ^
11.02.16 – Neumos – Seattle, Wa ^
11.05.15 – Brudenell Social Club – Leeds, UK
11.06.16 – Gorilla – Manchester, UK
11.07.16 – Oval Space – London, UK
11.08.16 – Exchange – Bristol, UK
11.09.16 – Haunt – Brighton, UK
11.10.16 – Le Guess Who Festival – Utrecht, NL
11.12.16 – Botanique – Brussels, BE
11.14.16 – Pumpehuset – Copenhagen, DK
11.15.16 – Molotow – Hamburg, DE
11.16.16 Bi Nuu – Berlin, DE
11.18.16 – Musiques Volantes Festival – Metz, FR
11.19.16 – New Noise Festival – Paris, FR
11.21.16 – La Laiterie – Strasbourg, CH
11.22.16 – Klaus – Zurich, CH
11.23.16 – Magnolia – Milan, IT
11.24.16 – Quirinetta – Rome, IT
11.25.16 – Locomotiv – Bologna, IT
11.26.16 – Suprette Festival – Neuchatel, CH
11.28.16 – Luxor – Cologne, DE
11.29.16 – Paradiso Noord – Amsterdam, NL
^ w/ Methyl Ethel