Post-punk in the corner pocket

Viet Cong (ex-Women) and Freak Heat Waves return home from lengthy North American tour

There’s no subtle way to get around this so let’s just get it out of the way first: Viet Cong is the newest project from half of Women; namely the rhythm section of bassist Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace. While it’s not entirely fair to label the band as Women 2.0 similarities are definitely present — the duelling guitars of Danny Christiansen (of Feel Alright and formerly Sharp Ends) and Scott Munro (of too many bands to list) should more than whet the ears of anyone looking for the storied fret-play of Women. However where Women played with dissonance and oft-stoic detachment Viet Cong opens up a bit more tending more toward the immediate — more Television and hints of ’60s psych-pop less This Heat and no wave if you will.

At least that’s what much of the band’s self-released tour cassette sounds like.

“We have most of an album recorded” guitarist Munro tells me. “We ended up cannibalizing two songs off the album to put on the tape. I guess the weaker ones or not weaker but… the album was taking a certain shape and the tape is all the songs that didn’t quite fit into that shape. The songs on the album are a little darker and a few of the songs on the tape just didn’t quite fit into that zone so we bumped ’em over.”

Munro and Flegel started Viet Cong roughly two years ago after deciding while on tour with Chad VanGaalen to start a band of their own once returning to Calgary.

“Women had just ended — this was before Chris Reimer passed away but Women had ended and we were touring with VanGaalen and part way through the tour we were like ‘Hey we should start a band when we get back.’ When we finished the tour we got together and started recording whatever we both had for songs.”

“I feel like once Danny and Mike joined — especially now on this tour — it’s taken on a different life” Munro continues. “It makes a difference to have a ‘proper’ band; when it was just me and Flegel recording stuff it was one thing — recording one of Matt’s songs one of my songs one of Matt’s songs. Once we were jamming as a band it turned into a different thing.”

Viet Cong has been touring across North America for the past seven weeks alongside Victoria B.C.’s minimalist rock trio Freak Heat Waves — a pairing which makes a lot of sense given the kinship and rhythmic post-punk sounds of both bands. As one might expect the interest in what ex-Women members are up to ensured many of the shows were packed although Munro is quick to dissipate any images of grandeur.

“We’ve been touring in a Toyota Echo so all of Viet Cong has done almost seven weeks in a compact Toyota” he says. “We had a bunch of nights where Matt slept in the reclined front seat Danny slept in the back seat and then me and Wallace slept in our sleeping bags outside on the ground. Not in a tent or anything just fully outside. All through the southern states those were the sleeping arrangements.”

Viet Cong and Freak Heat Waves will be performing at Olympic Billiards (weird right?) this Saturday October 19. Viet Cong’s debut LP won’t be out for a little while yet (“We’re aiming for sometime in the spring maybe as early as March April or May” Munro says) but the band has already garnered a heap of attention with a few 7-inch offers to consider. Both bands will be in tour-hardened form so why not give them a warm welcome?