True to their name, Pang Attack’s shimmering, melodic, glam-meets-cabaret tunes will make your heart beat with melancholy and wonder. The Montreal bred foursome released their sophomore album, North Country Psychic Girls, last Friday, Sept. 9.
Frontman Alex Hackett recently told us about why this new LP is a major leap forward from the band, before detailing how Pang Attack bonded in the most unlikely circumstances, and much more.
Kyle Mullin: According the Pang Attack bio, you and your bandmates are childhood friends who have “made it a labour of love to make entrancing music that captures their influences.” How did the three of you bond over music over the years?
Alex Hackett: Well (drummer) Yann (Geoffroy) and I are old friends, but weirdly we didn’t bond over music until our 20s, because Yann was a jazz kid and didn’t listen to anything else for a long time. When that shifted, yeah, we bonded by going to shows, partying, listening to stuff in the car and all that. Off the top of my head we’ve had bonding moments over LCD Soundsystem, Deerhunter, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Kurt Vile … recently we caught Yonatan Gat live and he blew our minds. Crazy show.
KM: What have been the benefits and downsides of making a go of it with your band within the Montreal music scene?
AH: It’s a complicated city, but it’s our city so we’re not going anywhere. We love it in all its fucked-upness. The quality of the musicians and the bands is off the charts — great university music programs and tons of eclectic venues contribute to that. There’s an at times frustrating idealism here. People listen to a different canon here and have a real respect for artistry and pure quality. But Montreal could do a better job of promoting its own. So many amazing local bands somehow fall through the cracks.
KM: What was it like to record this new album at Breakglass Studios? What did that space offer you?
AH: Breakglass is just super chill and stocked full of amazing analogue gear. If you’re going for that real warm, somewhat old-school sound quality, it’s the place to go. And Jace (Lasek, one of the studio’s resident producers) is a great hang, as they say.
KM: Speaking of which, you enlisted a number of talented people to collaborate with on this new album: Jace Lasek (who has produced Wolf Parade, Patrick Watson, Stars and more), Joe Yarmush of Suuns and Mike Felber (Socalled, etc). What was it like to work with them, and what do you admire about them as artists?
AH: They’re just legit pros. They bring the goods, and make the atmosphere really fun. Joe is another old friend, he came in and went next level with this cheesy digital Roland multi-effects unit and laid down a brain-melting guitar solo that sounds like a psychotic keyboard on “Mr. Mandible.” Felber is a really calm presence who kind of elevates the level of all the musicians he plays with. And they’re basically all stand-up comedians, so we were howling with laughter the whole time.
KM: Why are you proud of North Country Psychic Girls, and how it is an evolution from your last album Sleepy Fell Down?
AH: This is the most complex album we’ve ever done. We did some string arrangements with the Kate Maloney Quartet, out of McGill and brought in trumpets and sax and coordinated all the guest musicians on a limited budget and timeline. It was intense. We allowed ourselves to delve into different influences — Motown, crooner music — and that’s something we’d never done before. It’s a departure for us, stylistically — not just melodic indie-rock. I think it’s a really beautiful album, and we’re really proud of it.
KM: How did you come up with the name Pang Attack, and why does this moniker suit your band well?
AH: It’s a riff on “panic attack.” But that would be a terrible band name. A pang attack is like, whimsically basking in all sorts of conflicting emotions at the same time.
KM: I heard that you’ve worked as a Morrissey impersonator. What’s your favourite song of his to perform?
AH: Oh wow, that’s a hard one. It’s a toss-up between “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” “Nowhere Fast” and “Still Ill.” Just insane lyrical content. ■