Ought go deeper than they've ever gone before...
There comes a point for every band to broaden their horizons and make a step up to the next level. For Canadian post-punk mavericks Ought, that time is now. Of course, when you’re in the middle of things that 'step up' might not seem quite so apparent, but frontman Tim Darcy is aware that this time on their third album ‘Room Inside The World’, is a little bit different.
“We’ve been sitting on this one for a minute, longer than any other record we’ve made. We’ve put the most time into it,” he begins. “There’s more of a change between the second and the third record than between the first and the second. If you want to look at it in broad strokes, then this is a big shift. I feel like it’s in conversation with the other records, though. As much as we invested time in pre-planning and sharing a lot of ideas, there are also moments on the record where we’re trying to build upon things we were getting at on the other two records, but trying to do them more deeply and say them in new, updated ways.”
Ought’s frenetic punk assault has always been considered and questioning. This time though, the themes are even bigger and more universal, something that’s become more and more apparent to the singer as he has grown to live with the songs. “I write very in the moment, and then the overarching themes become evident to me as I look back with a little time and space from the record,” he explains. “There are definitely themes of human connection. Also, creating space is a big part of the record. Finding room for creation that is positive as opposed to reactionary responses to the ailments of the world. I’m trying to think about ways to be a positive force.”
Positivity in the face of overwhelming turmoil is something to be cherished. Ought consider the human condition and our responses to adversity more than most, but this time the expansion in their sonic and emotional palette has brought about new responses and new ways of thinking. ‘Room Inside The World’ excels at being both softer and more considered while still retaining a dark and sinister underbelly. It’s a thrilling and compelling mix. For Tim Darcy though, it’s a record of universal truths. “There are themes of romantic love and figuring your shit out, just human stuff,” proclaims the singer.
When times are tough, it might sound trite to say you can find salvation in music, but Ought’s third album strives to at least provide comfort, reason and hope. “That was part of what this album became for me and everybody in the band,” reveals Tim. “We were going through a lot of changes and experiencing a lot of difficult political formations across the world. Because of social media and the internet, in this moment we’re learning how to deal with all of this influx of information. We’re just staring at chaos. For empathetic people, it can be overwhelming. There’s a good deal of that in the record. How to stabilise without turning away.”
Befitting the band’s deeper thinking, the album straddles an intoxicating tenderness and spikiness that work with and against each other. Especially on tracks like the gospel choir infused centrepiece ‘Desire.’ These are Ought’s own warped love songs that take on a singular meaning. “'It’s Like Otis Redding', where there’s this incredible tenderness and devotion and so much strength in his persona that it doesn’t feel like someones melting away just because they’re being soft,” says Tim. Always fighting against pre-conceived societal norms Ought are looking to forge their own path forward: “The pull towards hardness for young men is very complicated, and we’re socialised to do that as an ideal. I’ve found a lot of happiness and freedom from being able to break that down while not being self-effacing or not feeling like you have to be less of an entity.”
Perhaps the biggest change this time around was the blooming of Tim Darcy’s voice. His vocals and nervous energy have always been Ought’s hook, but now they’re imbued with a new found confidence and melodic sensibility. “I have progressed a lot as a vocalist. That’s the result of a lot of work. I took a lot of vocal lessons. I was much more of a melodic singer when I was younger, but I was making a lot of bedroom recordings and signing very softly. Moving into Ought, from a performance and artistic level to then try and merge that with singing melodically I had some work to do.,” says Tim.
“It was exciting to have that as something to play with on this album. Everyone was really on board with writing music that was built around that rather than on the second record for example.”
Perhaps the main catalyst for the band’s assured progression has been their strong inter-band relationship, forged from their punk ideals.” Communication is the biggest single element,” explains Tim. “We played together so much that we gelled this sound.”
“There was no real map at the beginning. It’s been an interesting way for a band to evolve. Coming into the third record, we were able to be really upfront about what people could bring to the song. We write everything together, and we share writing credits”.
There’s certainly no lack of personality and character here as they have progressed vastly from the band who started out askew playing none of the instruments that they’re used to. Ought are a band now approaching the peak of their powers, but there’s still much to do. “I feel like even since we finished making the record, I’ve got better at writing songs,” explains Tim confidently. “To stay alive both artistically can physically you need to always be growing. That doesn't mean you’re seeking further commercialism or something like that. It means constantly pushing your boundaries and your comfort zone. To continue making work that is meaningful you have to continue growing.”
Ought's album 'Room Inside the World' is out 23rd February. Taken from the March issue of Dork - order your copy below.