Ought (Credit: Jenna Ledger)
Tim Darcy on the gestation of their new album...

Clash meets Canadian post-punks Ought at a curious crossroads in their career. Following 2014’s ‘More Than Any Other Day’ and 2015’s ‘Sun Coming Down’, two of the most acclaimed guitar records in recent years, they look to radically change their sound with the release of last month’s ‘Room Inside The World’.

The album sees the quartet swapping angular guitar scratches and vocal motifs that stick out like a sore thumb for a more refined, aqueous sound whilst still feeling as profoundly affecting as their early work.

Vocalist and guitarist Tim Darcy has been extremely busy since the release of ‘Sun Coming Down’, releasing a collaborative effort with AJ Cornell in 2016 and a maiden solo venture in 2017. ‘Room Inside The World’ captures the frontman at his most tender and most meditative.

Here, we discuss the album at hand, as well as the old sock factory in which it was conceived.

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‘Room Inside The World’ just came out. How are you feeling about it?

Really great, the response has been very positive so far and we’ve had a nice run of release shows, so we’re all really thrilled!

It’s been just under three years since ‘Sun Coming Down’ came out. How’ve you kept yourself busy?

I think people like to say it’s been three years, but it really hasn’t been. The record came out in the Fall of 2015, then we toured it for another year straight.

In late 2016 we started writing and recording this record, and finished it early 2017. We had the first half of 2017 to work on other stuff, that’s when I put out a solo record, Tim Kean did some studio work and Ben did stuff with his other band Brooch. So we had maybe six months of downtime, then we did some tours to work out the material, and now we’re here.

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I actually found the exact painting and was immediately called to it.

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For me there’s a huge transition between ‘Sun Coming Down’ and ‘Room Inside The World’. Could you tell me a bit about the artwork?

It’s a painter, Erin Lawlor, and I actually found the exact painting and was immediately called to it. We reached out and talked about collaborating in some way. She was very open and excited about the idea. But ultimately, the initial piece I saw was the one. We feel it really suits the tone and palette of the record.

Yeah, I agree. On first few listens my favourite track was ‘Dissaffectation’. Could you tell me a little about that one?

Sure, that’s one of my favourites as well. We hope it’ll be like a sleeper hit, cos it wasn’t a single, but a lot of people mention that one. It’s about looking to senses and external stimuli that have a numbing effect, you know like self-medicating habits that we fall into in a mechanised industrial society. Like isolated living, or whatever.

The crux of the song is also seeking out the same kind of comfort in communion with another person, and finding solace in something that isn’t a destructive habit. The genuine escape of getting out the grind a little bit.

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Seeking out the same kind of comfort in communion with another person...

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What about ‘Pieces Wasted’?

There’s a lot more going into that one, it employs a favourite wordplay of mine. Like ‘Peace Is Wasted’ and ‘Pieces Wasted’. I think it’s a meditation that comes up a couple of times on the record, like on ‘Brief Shield’ as well. Beauty or peace or prosperity being squandered by greed, disrespect for the planet and dehumanisation.

There’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote that comes to mind - I can’t remember it exactly - but it’s like “the world is a beautiful place if people just took a second to not destroy it”, basically.

The album’s press material states the band’s influence from The Mekons 1985 album ‘Fear And Whiskey’. What is it about that record?

That one came from Ben, our bassist. We did a kind of extended moodboard that fits around lots of individual moments and some whole records, which weighed into our conscience before we started writing. I remember Ben sharing that record, and it wasn’t one that I was familiar with, but he was saying that the guitar playing reminded him of my guitar playing, and looking back at it I think it’s a cool association to make.

Can you tell me a bit about where the album was conceived? In “an old sock factory”, seeningly?

When we go into writing mode, we’re very 9-5 about it. We go in every single day and write together. So we were looking for a place we could make noise 24 hours a day and take over and make a mess. We found this place that was perfect for all this. It was a high rise in downtown Montreal, overlooking the highway. The view was incredible, you could see a good part of the city from up there.

I don’t know if this industrial setting particularly had any influence on the sound, but I feel like Montreal has always been in our music. The tone of that city, and the way that the city’s laid out, it’s so… irregular. It’s an incredible place because it has that bleakness in Winter, and The Fall if I’m being honest, but it’s so fertile so there’s such an incredible juxtaposition between that an incredibly lush Spring.

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I feel like Montreal has always been in our music...

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It sounds like your palette is a lot more varied than before. Is this variation going to mean you revamp your older material?

There’s room for us as a band to experiment in the live shows, adding and jamming out sections to the end of the song. Those are things we’ve always built into our songs. The nature of the new songs changes that a little bit, there’s a lot more going on instrumentally, and it demands more attention to the composition.

I don’t think that, however, changes the live energy that much. It depends on the track, but there’s some that it wouldn’t be right to change sonically (in light of the sound of the new record). You play a song for five years, or however much, and you see areas where you can change it up, even if it’s adding a texture or something like that.

What are your plans for the rest of 2018?

We do about two and a half months of touring, we do North America and Europe, that’s April and May. After then, we might go to Mexico, which we’re very excited about because we’ve never been, and we’re planning some Fall touring dates. There’s some places we’re hitting, not on our April/May tour, so we’d like to come back in Fall.

Lastly, could I ask you what your favourite track from the record is and why?

It changes for me, quite often. At the moment I’m really fond of ‘Brief Shield’, because it’s this tender little nugget in the middle of the record that people will probably be really surprised by. Also, it’s quite fun to play, with its outro, so that’d be my current favourite.

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Words: Cal Cashin

Catch Ought at the following shows:

20 Bristol The Exchange*
21 Leeds Brudenell Social Club*
22 Glasgow Stereo*
23 Birmingham Hare & Hounds*
24 London Garage*

* with Drahla

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