An Interview With Ought
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An Interview With Ought

Ought is a Montreal-based quartet (except they’re not Canadians, but from everywhere else) that delivers an exuberant and solid post-punk. Seriously, if you haven’t listen to their debut record More Than Any Other Day, you should. Don’t believe me? Pitchfork gave this guys 8.4 in their review of Ought’s LP. You ought to trust me on this one, dude. Below you you can check our interview with these guys.

PUNCHLAND: Let’s  do a little introduction. If this was filmed I’d say let’s do a little dance, but we can save that for later. Who are Ought?

OUGHT: Ought is four friends who’ve been playing music together since early 2012. Feat. the devilishly handsome Matt May (keys), the effervescent Ben Stidworthy (bass), world-class salad maker Tim Beeler (vocals/guitar), and Tim Keen (drums/violin), who has no noteworthy features.

PUNCHLAND: Where do you come from?

OUGHT: Tim B’s from New Hampshire, Ben grew up in Portland, Oregon, but he would like to add that he was born in England, Matt’s from New Jersey, and I (Tim K) am from Melbourne, Australia.

PUNCHLAND: How do you feel about the dreamy/dance music scene in Montreal? Are you guys connected to that scene at all?

OUGHT: Is there really a “dreamy” scene? I guess, at least from my perspective, scenes are more divided by groups of friends than by genres. I really am most interested in my friend’s bands–Lungbutter, Harsh Reality, Fakes, White Cube, Drom For Du Dor, etc, etc–and I guess none of them are (sonically) dreamy ( ;) ).

I don’t know, I mean, I’m kind of dangerously obsessed with Mozart’s Sister, I guess she could be considered dreamy, but when people use that language it kind of implies a certain detached, emotionless ethereal-ness that for me has nothing to do with her music, which is empowered and cool and punk as all hell. But I don’t know her personally. I don’t go to loft parties or listen to dance music, but that’s mostly to do with me being a curmudgeon.

Ought_Jamspace_A

PUNCHLAND: Tell us about your involvement with Constellation Records.

OUGHT: Tim B had had some contact with Don Wilkie through an interview he did for CKUT, the community radio station here (and one of the best community stations anywhere), but it all really started when Graham, who does PR at Constellation, dragged the others along to a show we were playing. They’ve been a dream to work with, honestly, we couldn’t ask for anything more. They’re always about 9 steps ahead of us on everything, and have been nothing but supportive.

 

PUNCHLAND: What’s the music/art community like in Montreal?

OUGHT: Well, I can only really speak for my little corner of the scene. But it’s very serious and very hard-working; most of the people who are in it have stuck around here specifically for music. People are excited by weirdness or avant-ness, and are generally stoked to see their friends push their boundaries onstage. People are determined to make things outside of institutional structures, with pretty incredible results–the best events in the city are generally volunteer-run, small-scale, and feature a lot of people who seem to be deeply engaged and interested in what others are up to.

 

PUNCHLAND: You get compared a lot with Wire and Gang of Four, but I say you sound more like the Raincoats and Yo La Tengo. What say you? What do you sound like?

OUGHT: That’s very nice of you, I tend to agree. It’s weird–there are definitely members of the band who, to my knowledge, haven’t heard Wire, Gang of Four, whatever. And while I definitely know and love those bands, they’re not really my go-to reference points when I’m thinking about making music. YLT and the Raincoats definitely are, though, so I guess you’ve caught us on that one! But again, what does that even mean? YLT are so versatile and every record sounds so different; “sounding like” them must mean something a little more nebulous than just having similar sonic characteristics.

I owe a lot of my musical upbringing to listening to Dirty Three records on repeat, and I think that seeps through on occasion. I’m listening to Matana Roberts right now, I haven’t been able to turn her records off since I got them. Speedy Ortiz came into my life as we were working on the record and their drum sound definitely had an influence on me. But again, it’s not so much what these bands actually sound like as much as what they feel like, the ways in which they make me excited or sad or nervous or contemplative. I guess, at least personally, I tend to take that feeling away, and then come to band practice with that kind of affective inspiration. I don’t think we have a very good blueprint for what we want to actually sound similar to, when it comes down to it. That’s probably why it takes us so long to write songs.

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PUNCHLAND: More Than Any Other Day. Great record. Tell us about the creation process.

OUGHT: Thanks! These are songs we’ve been stewing on for between six months and a year, playing them live in various iterations. We recorded five of them as an EP around this time last year, and then re-recorded them with a few extra ones at Hotel2Tango.

 

PUNCHLAND: What are the record’s themes?

OUGHT: I guess rather than themes I can tell you what we were thinking about, in general, at the time we were working on it. We were kind of coping with

the general disjunct between the high-mindedness of university and the mundane world, rethinking basic things that we do every day, wondering how our politics could possibly fit into our regular lives, and trying to take our bubbling discontent and rage and confusion and wonder and do something constructive, or at least feel ok.

PUNCHLAND: I feel that there’s an aura of post-postmodernism in the record. As if it’s beyond that ironic bullshit that was very much the center theme for most records in the 2000s. Would you say that is true?

OUGHT: Yeah, sure, I think that’s fair to say. But I don’t think it’s anything special or a put-on; we are all just kind of earnest people, I

think/hope. It feels a lot easier to make or do things when you’re not trying to work through that shield of knowing irony. Plus we were

working on these songs during a period of real heart-on-sleeve social unrest, which we all found galvanising and eye-opening. I personally

feel, especially coming from a country where the dominant mode of discourse is couched in this “well, that’s just the way it is” feeling,

that being as honest as possible can be really effective in getting other people to be honest, too, which hopefully allows you to make and

change things together. It was personally refreshing to see that in my bandmates and friends when I first came here.

 

PUNCHLAND: How long did it take to complete the record?

OUGHT: It took a long time to write and a very, very short time to record. We did the whole thing in three days, plus some quick overdubs in the early morning, before the other sessions in the studio started for the day. We had three days to mix, too. I think we finished the last track, “Gemini”, at 4am or something, and then came back to the studio at 9am to finish off “Waiting”, a non-album track.

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PUNCHLAND: What’s the place you are most excited to play?

OUGHT: Oh, man, I don’t know. I haven’t been to most of these places before, so it’s all exciting. I’m really excited to go to the South and the

Midwest, whole swathes of the US I haven’t seen. Playing ATP (in London) and Sappyfest (in Sackville, NB) ticks two dreams off the bucket list

in one fell swoop.

 

PUNCHLAND: What’s your favorite Ought song?

OUGHT: “Just What I Needed” by The Cars

 

PUNCHLAND: Tell us what New Yorkers should expect from your visit?

OUGHT: “Just What I Needed” by The Cars

Ought will be playing Rough Trade on June 20th at 8 PM with The Yum Dee Days, Savants and Tiger Dare.

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm
Rough Trade NYC
Brooklyn, NY
$10

Tickets here.

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Written by Tag Brum

Tag Brum lives in Brooklyn and writes things from a computer whenever wi-fi is available.
You can follow him on Twitter @tagbrum.

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