Analogue Music | Fast Romantics

Fast Romantics

By Matt Conner

Pick your preferred storm.

Matthew Angus describes the process of bringing the latest record from Fast Romantics to the marketplace as both a hurricane or a tornado. While he makes the disclaimer at several points about most of us being "tired of talking about the pandemic," Angus also cannot deny the centrality of sheltering-in-place as part of the band's story—and that it nearly ripped everything apart.

Fortunately, Fast Romantics somehow held things together to make it to the other side and the results are heard in the beautiful and emotional pop/rock bliss of Happiness + Euphoria. We recently sat down with Angus to hear more about the road between albums, the changes in the band, and the drive to keep making music through it all.

Analogue: The band’s press mentions this sort of long and arduous road taken to release the new album, Happiness + Euphoria, and I’d love to start there. Can you describe that a bit more and detail what was going on?

Matthew Angus: That kind of quote makes it sound like Chinese Democracy. [Laughs] It was the pandemic. I know we’re all sick of talking about it, but we started working on it and some of these songs go back to 2018. Around the time all that shit went down, we had probably 20 songs—some half-recorded already—and we thought we’d have a record by 2020.

So when it all happened, we ended up making the last record, Pick It Up,if you want to call it that, to be our little pandemic record. It was the songs from those sessions that felt closest to completion, but they also had a mood. They were weirdos, songs you’d listen to if you were trapped in your house. We knew we wouldn’t tour it.

That made it easier to understand what was happening. So we started five years ago, but in the middle of the pandemic, we started working on the rest of these. So it’s more this fractured mega-session that we had that yielded two separate records. But this record was the one we thought we were making when we started. The one we put out in 2020 was this strange little collection of songs we liked but didn’t know if they’d have a place on this one.

"I just want to be really proud of what I have made after it’s made."

Analogue: So what did this cutting room floor look like?

Matthew: Disgusting chaos. [Laughs] It’s not just quarter-finished songs and the usual bad melodies, but it’s also pain and tons of weird emotions and even band members are on the cutting room floor, y’know? That’s not by our choice, but we lost so many band members through that mess. The whole thing was a reshaping of the band.

So it was definitely a hurricane happening over the last few years except I didn’t even realize it was happening. I thought we’d put out a record when all of this was over, but it was like a huge tornado went through our band and a lot of what was left wasn’t even our band afterward. We had to think about rebuilding it.

Analogue: You’re describing all of these extremes and yet not bringing up the idea of maybe laying Fast Romantics aside for good. Was that not on the table?

Matthew: Every record I make I wonder if it’s going to be the last one. [Laughs] Because we’ve been going so long—longer than we usually tell people in an interview. Sometimes I’ll change members for a record and we’ll think we have to reinvent ourselves, so then we’ll say, ‘Well, we actually started on this date.’ Or we’ll say the band started in Toronto when actually I kinda formed it in Calgary when I was a little kid with Jeff, who is the only surviving member of what has become 24 members—believe it or not.

Analogue: Wait, why shift that story?

Matthew: I don’t know. Maybe insecurity? I don’t know. Once you start to get a little bit of radio success, you get all of these suits around you who tell you about perception and the way you’re supposed to be perceived and you kind of buy into it to a degree. A lot of them were like, ‘Change your band name.’ I’d ask why and they’d say, ‘Because the world only wants a band that’s been around for two years.’ So I think that probably played into it.

I also thought I needed it to feel fresh in a lot of ways. To me it was true. Every time it was a new record made it feel like a new band with new members around me and pretty new sounds. So there was truth to it but there was also this weird perception game I was playing or a reality distortion where it’s like, ‘Was it the same band? Was it not the same band? I don’t know.’

Analogue: I’m fascinated by this intersection of the insecurity you admitted and described earlier and yet you were also confident enough to question the advice to do things like change your band name. What’s that intersection like for you then and now?

Matthew: I think that completely describes how confusing it is to be in an indie rock band in 2023. It’s the most non-sensical career choice. Even if you’re as passionate about it as I’ve been my whole life, you still can’t make sense of it. You’ll have a million people around you telling you to do different things—all things you think are stupid. But I think security comes when time passes by and you realize that all the people whispering in your ear knew shit about what to do. So you get some courage and confidence that you had the right ideas all along.

Analogue: Have you gotten better at that? To say no to that advice?

Matthew: Yeah, definitely. I think it came from two separate places. Well, I think it initially came from ego and lack of confidence. But now it comes from certainty in what I’m doing and also maybe a bit of trust in not knowing what’s going to happen or being okay with whatever happens. I used to be very outcome driven, like a lot of artists are, like who is going to show up at my show or how many records will I sell. That’s an ugly way to live.

Analogue: What’s the drive today, then?

Matthew: Good question. [Pause] I just want to be really proud of what I have made after it’s made. Not that I’m not proud of everything we’ve made to a certain degree, but I want it to feel unpolluted by all of the things we’ve talked about. And this record is the best version of that so far. The music we’re making in this era has all of the cards stacked against us. It’s not that you get super-huge off of making this kind of music. I make it because I love it.

I’m pretty sure Kirty feels the same way. I don’t speak for her, but I think that’s how we’ve ended up feeling the best about this process. It was purely ours and we didn’t give in to the outcome-based stuff we used to care about.

Analogue: We’d talked so much about the pandemic, so how was it when starting to play back out again?

Matthew: We’re in a weird spot, because we got lucky in the middle of the thing at the end of 2021. We weren’t sure it was going to happen, and in Canada, they lifted the restriction at just that moment. We were able to play for the two-week stretch that everyone could play without masks. Those were our tour dates. It was kind of surreal and everybody was just eating life up. There was not a bad feeling in the place. It was a really cool tour. And to this day, that’s the last touring we did. We had a tour booked for now through the fall and the whole thing had to be cancelled for a myriad of frustrating reasons. So it’s weird in that we’re backwards. Our last touring experience was actually back then and it was wonderful. [Laughs]

VISIT: Fast Romantics