Uncut convert to Modern Currencies

Paper Bag band returns to The Grad Club with undeniably louder sound

Drummer Jon Drew (far right) helmed Uncut’s self-recording process.
Drummer Jon Drew (far right) helmed Uncut’s self-recording process.
Jeff Harris

While many bands take the opportunity to hone new material on the road, it’s far less common for a short tour to define an album so fundamentally.

Uncut hit the road in the fall of last year to open a handful of dates for Bob Mould (ex-Hüsker Dü). Brief as the shared tour was, the experience was “pretty illuminating,” according to Ian Worang, one of Uncut’s two singer/guitarists, who spoke to the Journal by phone from his day job in Toronto.

“I think it was as much attitude and just being around a guy who kind of has this legacy. He played at this incredible volume, and could still blow us off the stage every single night with just a shrug, really.”

The tour’s influence can be heard throughout Uncut’s sophomore album, , which was released this past Tuesday on Toronto’s hip Paper Bag Records label. The album is unquestionably louder than its predecessor, 2004’s , and eschews many of the latter’s post-Joy Division arrangements in favour of a quasi-shoegaze sheen. It is, as Worang tells it, the product of a very different approach to writing and recording.

Those Who Were Hung Hang Here has its roots in Worang’s collaborations with Jake Fairley, who has since left for Europe to pursue a DJ career. This time around, the band’s songwriting has changed—not least because they now work and write as a four-piece (Worang is joined by co-singer/guitarist Sam Goldberg, bassist Derek Tokar, and drummer Jon Drew). Additionally, Modern Currencies was self-recorded, produced and engineered, led by the band’s drummer, Drew, who has also done production work for Magneta Lane and blog darlings du jour, Tokyo Police Club.

“In a lot of ways the first record was like piecing something together from a lot of ideas that were already there, coming up with some new ones,” he said. “[The first album] just happened in a much shorter period of time. As a band, we’d only really played together maybe 20 times instead of 150.

“There’s one song [on Currencies], “Chain Fight,” [that] was almost on the last record, but we didn’t have the ending for it. [Another] one, “Hideaway,” we’ve been playing probably since a few weeks after the [first] record came out, so you know, there’s been a lot of time for us to write stuff this time around.”

A by-product of their leisurely pace in the studio was that they weren’t rushing to come up with enough material. “We ended up recording 14 songs and putting out 12, so it’s nice to have a couple things left over at the end. And,” Worang laughs, “there’s something about the difference between 12 and 14 songs that turns it from like, record to opus. We didn’t want to do the opus yet.”

Understandably, the chance to test new material in front of crowds across the continent has only helped the finished product. “Just playing stuff live, you know, makes the band a lot tighter, and you get to work out all of your ideas beforehand, and kind of figure out what works in front of people and what doesn’t,” he said. “Sometimes if you’re just working on songs on your own, as a band, you come up with stuff that you think is great, and all of a sudden you play it in front of people and they look at you like you’re an idiot.”

So far, though, Uncut’s tour schedule has kept them mainly above the 49th parallel. The reason for this is straightforward: “We’re poor,” Worang notes wryly. “We’re poor people, so [as for] going to America ... our record is available for sale [there], or the last one was; we don’t actually have an American label putting out the album and doing that kind of work. There isn’t a lot of point going to out to Akron, Ohio just unannounced.”

The lack of states-side support hasn’t stopped the band from grabbing whatever American dates they can, though. Worang cites friends in big cities—Chicago, Detroit, New York—who have helped them with shows, and Uncut has played South by Southwest, the famed annual showcase in Texas, not once but twice.

Though their first trip to Austin was “kind of crap,” (“We were only there for a total of 20 hours ... we didn’t really get to do much or see much”), their trip this year’s event went much better for the band. “We actually got to hang out a bit more, and see some other bands, and played a show that was pretty awesome.”

Despite the general lack of attention south of the border, Worang puts their tour habits into perspective: “It’s our scale. There are also bands in Toronto who never play in the States, who never play outside of Toronto. So to them, we’ve toured like crazy.” It’s this crazy touring back and forth across the country that allows Uncut to compensate for a lack of commercial radio attention. When asked about plans to release a single, Worang said that the band is “talking about making a video now, but you know, I don’t think we’re bribing mainstream radio yet. No fruit baskets and whatnot.”

Uncut play The Grad Club tonight with The Diableros and Sylvie. Doors open at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10.

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