When your band is splashed on the cover of the hottest alt-weekly magazine, you don’t really need campus newspapers to like you anymore. That much was evident when I spoke to vocalist and frontwoman Becky Ninkovic of You say Party! We Say Die! on Monday.
Ninkovic seemed above the most essential of open-ended questions and peppered the phone call with a cold monosyllablism. But despite Ninkovic’s unaccodomodating attitude, I still fawn—if grudgingly—over their latest album. You Say Party! We Say Die! released their third album, XXXX, a catchy new-wave effort, on Sept. 29 to a flurry of hype and interviews that have clearly taken their toll.
You Say Party! We Say Die!, formed in 2004 and have had an eventful few years. Starting as a dance-punk outfit with political persuasions, they reformed with more of a love-thy-neighbour new wave vibe after a much publicized dramatic episode in 2007 that resulted in thematic and musical deviation from previous style.
When I ask how the new album differs from previous ones, I’m met with a tired tone. Ninkovic can’t be moved to explain it again and requests no questions about the albums themes or the upcoming U.S. tour. With monotone snark I’m basically told to back off, and am left wondering if their band member Stephen O’Shea’s ban from the U.S. has been officially lifted, or if the U.S. tour is still speculative.
“We’ve answered these questions a lot. It’s getting really repetitive. You can find it in Exclaim, Now, Chart Attack, The Montreal Mirror … ,” Ninkovic said.
And so I do, mentally noting the premature descent into Dylanesque media contempt. Exclaim’s October cover shouts “Fights! Drama! Ego!” and I can understand why the frontwoman might be a little bit reluctant to go into this all again. Either the claims are true and it actually is the ego talking—after all, why should a band signed to Paper Bag Records condescend to give promotional quotations to a mere parasitic campus journalist?—or Ninkovic is just sick of drama exaggerated by over-eager journalists looking for a controversial hook.
Despite my reluctance to feed the hand that bit me, it would be a disservice to neglect the most interesting points of You Say Party! We Say Die!’s recent story. Their latest release’s new tone is supposedly thanks to a traumatic episode in Berlin, where a physical confrontation broke out at the famous bar “Rock and Roll Herberge.” The story goes that two large German punk rockers threw Ninkovic out into the street. This wasn’t an ideal situation for a burnt-out band on a 16-week tour, and listlessness and a need for new inspiration ensued. Their advertorial claims they found this new inspiration on a tour though Asia, where their relationship with each other flourished on the other side of the International Date Line. This spawned a new emphasis on love and healthy lifestyles, which blossomed upon their returned to Vancouver where they performed a plethora of altruistic acts, inspiring warmth in the hardest of dance-punk hearts. You Say Party! We Say Die!’s newfound passion for charity lead to a new band mantra of “the loving is everything,” reflected in the more optimistic tone of XXXX, if not Ninkovic’s phone manner.
With a solid reputation for combining lefty rallying cries with ass-shaking beats, I asked Ninkovic if she considered their music political. She responded with a vocally raised eyebrow.
“Do you think it’s political?” she asked.
Before I could answer with awkward cliché about our postmodern subjective interpretation, she provided it for me.
“I think that it’s different to everybody and everybody gets something different out of it. There are issues that I care about more than other people care about and vice versa,” she said. “Sometimes they are way into what I’m singing about and sometimes they’re coming from totally different places.” After this pretty standard assessment of positionality, I thought it best to not ask how they traversed the tricky terrain of providing catchy choruses for the lefty crowd without descending into holier-than-thou bleeding heart cliché.
Suffice it to say, this has been a common criticism of the band. It’s difficult to have searching manifestos to synthesized danceable beats, and You Say Party! We Say Die! should be forgiven for occasionally dipping into the socialist sound-bite pool. Ass-shaking takes priority over converting the other half sometimes and rightfully so.
When asked about the advantages of merging politics and dance, Ninkovic was somewhat more enthused.
“I think it’s great when you get to express yourself and have other people join in on that. The Gap also goes crazy live, everyone’s still chanting along. It’s just great when you get to connect with people on a social issues and go off about it and do it in a way that’s super fun.” “The Gap (Between the Rich and Poor),” a hit from the band’s break-out record Hit The Floor! drills a catchy anti-capitalist rallying cry into audiences beer-stained brains.
A fry cry from indie Canadiana’s usual twee penchant for pacifist politics, You Say Party! We Say Die!’s old hits are refreshing motivators. XXXX, with its emphasis on the “the loving is everything” deviates from this tested formula. The album is more relaxed, going to the darker places accessible in synth pop, and tracks like “Laura Palmer’s Prom” silkily confess pinings for romance. The yearning but biting vocals and smooth new wave harmonics indicate a new diversity of range for You Say Party! setting the stage for an evening of varied tunes.
That’s not to say You Say Party!’s current incarnation lacks passion. You Say Party! We Say Die!’s blog mentioned Ninkovic cut her feet a few days ago in Montreal.
“I tend to knock over peoples’ beer bottles and a few got knocked down into the dance pit—I landed on some of broken glass. I didn’t have my shoes on. I usually take my shoes off at some point. I had a pair of ballet slippers that I always wear but I lost them in Halifax,” she told me. I anticipate a show with a lot more sass rather than hipster head-bobbing.
You Say Party! We Say Die! play tonight at The Grad Club with Think About Life. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are available at Destinations, The Grad Club and ticketscene.ca.
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