The New Cities Biography
If you’re of the incurably-chronic latecomer variety, you can be late off the mark, late to the game, or simply late for late’s sake. But if you’ve got a studio date with Los Angeles-based production powerhouse The Matrix – who have notched the likes of Avril Lavigne, Korn and Christina Aguilera on their extensive bedpost of credits – word on the street is that you don’t want to be late. Ever.
“The day before we went into studio with The Matrix in L.A., we were stressing out,” says The New Cities frontman David Brown, “because we didn’t want to be late at all ’cause sometimes we’re, well, a little bit late…”
“And then we ended up being a lot late,” chimes in bassist/vocalist Julien Martre.
“Yeah, we got lost in the hills outside of L.A. and we thought we blew it!” laughs Brown.
Fortunately, the fear of tarnishing their first impression with The Matrix was quickly eased. “They were so chill and just the nicest people to work with,” says Martre.
Though The New Cities might suffer from the occasional unintentional tardiness, they are the farthest thing from Johnny-come-latelies. In the six years since their formation, the young, Montreal-based six-piece – rounded out by guitarist Christian Bergeron, synth players Nicolas Denis and Philippe Lachance, and drummer Francis Fugere – has racked up an inspirational array of accolades, including but not limited to a JUNO Award nomination (New Group of the Year), an ADISQ nod (Anglophone Album of the Year) and two Canadian Radio Music Award noms for Best New Group (in the AC and CHR categories).
And working with internationally-courted and -acclaimed production team The Matrix – on music from their soon-to-be-released sophomore album, Kill the Lights (due out September 27) – is only the latest feather in an already brimming cap. Kill the Lights follows on the success of their 2006, self-titled EP and their 2009 album debut, Lost in City Lights, recorded and produced by much-in-demand former Treble Charger frontman Greig Nori (whose production credits include Sum 41 and Hedley). Additionally, renowned electro-rock producer Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Marilyn Manson, Tool, David Bowie) contributed the mixing on the final product. The same generosity in the creative process has also been extended to their newest collection of music.
“Though The Matrix is probably the best well-known, we worked with a lot of new people on Kill the Lights,” says Brown. “And that helped a lot, just getting our writing skills to the next level.” Produced by Blake Healy and Co-Produced by The New Cities, Kill the Lights was again mixed by veteran Dave Ogilvie, along with Joe Zook (Katy Perry, P!nk, Weezer).
The New Cities demonstrate an impressive absence of insecurity when it comes to talking about what it is they do exactly. To hear them describe themselves, they’re an as-the-mood-strikes mélange – and with six in the mix, that can make for many a mood – of electro, rock and pop that on most days could be best characterized as either synth-pop-rock or simply pop-rock. “But we need to keep the word ‘rock’ in there,” jokes Brown, “because otherwise we’d just be ‘pop-pop!’”
“I think we’re a rock band, that’s basically what we are,” throws in Martre. “In addition to the two synth players, we’re a drummer, bass and guitars – and that’s the foundation of the band, and we don’t want to get rid of that.”
Says Brown with finality: “It’s a real electro band, and it’s a real rock band.”
And there you have it. At a time in our cultural evolution when the words “real” and “reality” couldn’t be more different in terms of their meaning, here comes a band with its feet firmly on the ground, its head on straight, and its gaze focused solely forward. They’ve come to work and they’ve come to rock, and to do both with commensurate intensity.
Following Lost in City Lights – which yielded ridiculously infectious hit single Dead End Countdown (which picked up the 2010 SOCAN Pop/Rock Music Award) – the band retreated to the studio, writing for eight months straight, eventually weaning 12 tunes from the 35 that came spilling out. And chief among these is first single Heatwave, a slow-building, fast-burning dance-floor bouncer that is the ideal representation of what it means to be “tripping on the feeling,” as the chorus goes, of a perfect experience.
“It’s a fun, summer song – we never intended to do a summer track, but it just came out sounding like that,” says Nicolas Denis. “It’s really fun and that was kind of the whole point of the song.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve done on the new album,” he continues. “The second album is always difficult – it can put you on your path, or put you off the playing field. And you want to think about the fans of the first album, but at the same time be true to yourself and where you’re at right now. And you don’t want to do the same thing. So for us, I think it’s a step up and in the right direction.”
“Some songs on the album are, like, full-on guitars and it’s really heavy, and we’re proud of these songs as well as the dancey tracks,” says Brown. “It’s all balanced out and it meets up in the middle.”
With a well-earned reputation for a fiery, bordering on explosive, live show – honed on the road with the likes of The Black Eyed Peas, Simple Plan, Hedley, Metric and Katy Perry, to name but a few – it was absolutely essential that Kill the Lights, paradoxically, carry the torch when it comes to lighting up the stage.
“We’ve always been a crazy band onstage – to us, being tired is not an option,” says Brown emphatically. “And on the new record, it’s going to be the same. We’ve got some way dancier tracks on the album, more electro, and some dirtier sounds as well. We’re also jamming a bit more in the bridge parts of the songs, dropping it down, getting people to dance and simply creating a good vibe.”
“And I think the new songs are great for that,” adds Denis. “Some songs are more down tempo, and others bring the party, so to translate that to the live show is going to be super fun, and it’s going to be easier to make the whole show a big party.”
And as it turns out, there were some, let’s say, practical considerations as well… “The songs were definitely faster on the first record, which was great,” chuckles Brown, “but sometimes we just needed a break.”
“It was like high-intensity cardio, good for losing a lot of weight fast,” jokes Martre. “But now it’s more like a run in the park – but still very, very danceable!”
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