FFWD REW

Somewhat straightforward

Sunset Rubdown embrace pop — sort of — on third LP

The sounds pounding from the telephone are unmistakable. The crash of cymbals the thump of amplifiers and the occasional oath hover in the background as Sunset Rubdown juggles a rushed sound check with an interview. The band is currently in Victoria as part of a western leg of their tour to promote its new album Dragonslayer .

“It’s totally different” says Rubdown keyboardist Camilla Wynne Ingr of the new album. Released last week on Jagjaguwar Dragonslayer the third album from the band highlights a new approach to songwriting. It even features a new member bass player Marc Nicol making the band a quintet. A departure from the band’s second record Random Spirit Lover Dragonslayer was built outside of the studio with songs written on the road.

“It’s a different way of writing” Ingr continues. “You’re more conscious. It’s super fun in the studio [to just write and record] where you don’t have to make it work right away.” She’s quick to point out that touring the songs first is “a chance to capture us as a real solid full-fledged live band. We wanted the immediacy of our live show captured on record the energy of playing live. That’s what most represents our band.”

The move to a more straightforward sound on Dragonslayer is also a playful exercise in style says chief songwriter vocalist and founder Spencer Krug. The album is an attempt by the band at writing real pop music.

“We’re trying to be more straightforward less proggy” he says acknowledging his reputation for genre-bending arrangements and penchant for wiry metaphors and imaginative narratives. “With pop music we’re kind of fighting our own personalities — not that we can’t physically play it but just that it’s a different approach [to making music].”

The straightforwardness also includes the addition Nicol on bass an element that Ingr argues has been missing from the band. “It really fills out the sound now” she says happily pointing out the effort to widen the instrumentation on the record. “We always tried to hide it before but it didn’t really work.”

New for the group as well she says is the “controlled chaos” of electronic instruments on the record especially the wider presence of synthesizers. According to Ingr these mostly come courtesy of drummer Joshua Robson-Cramer a wizard at creating unusual tones on the synthesizers. She cites Dragonslayer track “Black Swan” as suitably representative of the inspiration electronics have had on the band’s songwriting.

Still while electronics in rock music have always suggested experimentation Krug is quick to dismiss the claim that Sunset Rubdown is a forum for his more experimental side. “They’re just instruments we want to hear” he says.

Ingr backs up Krug on that point arguing that what happens on the stage is “really natural” unlike what a label like ‘experimental’ might suggest. “We’re just interested in playing music” she says. “We’re so many personalities styles and influences it’s impossible to fit into [one] genre.”

For whatever accessibility is gained through the new writing approach and instruments the record didn’t come together so easily she admits.

“We struggled a lot with ‘Paper Lace’” she says which is why the band included a short sample of a studio conversation at the end of the song stating “That’s as good as it’ll get.”

“I’m not sure of the wisdom of including that” she says wistfully but she believes it has a place as an inside joke. It also serves as a self-conscious reminder of the effort to get that track made right.

“We can’t take ourselves all that seriously” she says with a laugh.

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