Calgary’s Preoccupations continue to move forward while revisiting their past

With a new album in the works and the reissue of their original release under the Viet Cong name, quartet is hoping to keep the momentum going.

When tracked down on this particular day, Scott “Monty” Munro is in Montreal.

The only remaining Calgary-based member of Canadian cold-wave geniuses Preoccupations has fled east, like his mates — frontman Matt Flegel in that city, the other two, Daniel Christiansen and Mike Wallace, in and around T.O.

But he’s non-local only temporarily. And with a purpose.

He’s there with Flegel working on material for what will be the quartet’s sophomore record under their current moniker, the third including their album as Viet Cong.

The sessions are part of an ongoing process to make an album that will, possibly, yield a single this fall, perhaps something more substantial before the end of the year.

You can tack these current songwriting hours in the QC spaces of a member of Arcade Fire and that of fellow Calgary expats and Juno-winning Flemish Eye labelmates Braids onto another list of sessions that includes a month as a full unit in a cabin in Montana as well as another space they often use in Ymir, B.C.

As to how it’s going, Munro is feeling fairly positive.

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Calgary-birthed band Preoccupations are in the middle of recording the sophomore effort under this name.

“It’s getting to a point where we’ve got a few tracks that are pretty close to done and some that are in various states of disrepair,” he says.

Musically, he says, the band is heading down a fairly similar path as that last full-length outing, 2016’s superlative, newly self-titled release.

“It’s not that different from the other one,” he says noting that among the tracks that are taking shape are a couple of rock tunes, a “droney, weird one” and another built on drum loops.

“I think it’s going in a good direction. I don’t know how to describe it beyond that.”

He says that helping is the fact that they’ve gone into the process basically starting from scratch, with that last record actually having been begun between the completion of 2015’s eponymous Viet Cong effort and that record’s release.

And he admits that with the clean slate, they’re coming at it from a good space.

Actually, Munro is feeling pretty universally positive about where Preoccupations are at in this point of their life-span, pleased with what that original, post-name-change album has accomplished in the year and many miles of touring the globe since it dropped.


“I think so actually,” he says. “I feel like from a hype perspective it did a lot better in Europe than our first record did, and I feel like in did about the same in the States that our first record did. So, I don’t know, I was happy with what it did.”

Part of the reason for the status quo on this side of the pond, he thinks, is because so much time, energy and attention was spent initially upon the album’s release basically relaunching the band — or at the very least explaining the new name, talking about the old one.

As to whether or not he thinks there’s still some residual ill-will towards them over that, especially at home, Munro doesn’t pause.

“Oh, definitely,” he says. “We can’t get any shows in Halifax any more — nobody in Halifax will book us.”

And as for this year’s Polaris Music Prize, the band was conspicuously absent from even the 2017 longlist, despite making it to the shortlist for that Viet Cong record, appearing at a ceremony where they were publicly ostracized and attacked by other members of the Canadian music scene, despite, at that point, having already announced they were changing the name.

Munro declines to speculate as to whether or not that played a role in the snub.

“I feel like we did what we could do,” he says of that 2015 awards show, noting they’d already engaged in constructive conversations with members of the Vietnamese community who were initially offended over the name before it became a greater cause. “There’s nothing we could do about it at that point, But, it is what it is.”

They’ll continue to expunge that past while moving forward with the Aug. 4 vinyl reissue of the first thing they recorded under that name, 2013’s appropriately titled Cassette.

It remains an in-demand item, one that did have a brief run from a label in 12-inch form, but that’s getting wider-release now via hometown label Flemish Eye and down-south indie big boys Jagjaguwar.

“It will be good to have some copies of those guys again,” Munro says. “I listened through that record when we were talking abut reissuing it and it’s OK. Some of the recording’s pretty funny on it, there are definitely some four-track recordings on there — I notice it more now.

“But I don’t know, I still stand behind it. Again, it is what it is. it represents the time that we made it.”

A time long ago, when all of the members lived in the same Stampede city.

Which brings up the obvious question: Why on Earth would the band return for a Wednesday, July 12 headlining show at the Commonwealth during all of this madness?

“There’s not a lot of opportunities for us to play Calgary,” Munro says simply, noting that the last time they did was for an October Mac Hall date when their debut had just dropped.

“And we’re a better band than we were during the Preoccupations tour … we’re trying to step it up.

“Plus it will be fun to play the Commonwealth again — I’ve always like that venue.”

Preoccupations perform Wednesday, July 12 at the Commonwealth. For tickets please click here.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at