Montreal quintet, USA Out Of Vietnam create a cosmic voyage across heaviness and psychedelic bliss on their debut album, Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes. The album, which is available via New Damage Records (Ken Mode, Biblical) is a trip in the true sense of the word. Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes uses over 15 guest musicians (including Montreal singer/songwriter Patrick Watson who contributes treated vocal loops on two songs here). Appearances by vrass sections, string sections, piano, spoken word, vocoder, vintage synths, sampled noises and more contribute to the whole of this album.
Ghettoblaster recently spoke with USA Out of Vietnam’s guitarist/singer Son of Fogman about the record and this is what he told us.
When did you begin writing the material for this album?
The last song on the record “Tonight, The Dead Walk” was written when I was still in my old band. I realized that my old band mates were not into setting sail in uncharted territory so this was the song that actually broke up my previous band. USA never went looking for a sound but remained patient and let the sound find us.
After recording a series of noise oriented songs as well as black metal influenced and more technically oriented songs we finally found our footing with combining a love of drone with our mutual love of pop music. The song “Asphodel I/1322” was originally more similar to nineties noise rock or Shellac or something more frenetic and we put it on the back burner. After a couple of months and some heavy editing we just let the emotion of the song dictate where it wanted to go – and if it wanted to be minimal and 13 minutes long then so be it. This was one of those “eureka” moments and songs started coming at quick succession after that and tended to remain unique to each other while still possessing a signature sound.
The last song written for the record “Leg of Lamb” was actually finally arranged and written a week before going into the studio. Outside of “Crashing…” cover artist Andrew Dickson’s masterful synth work it’s the only song that was recorded exclusively at Hotel 2 Tango. The music was originally written by Fogman and was left over from a punk band he was in. I quickly arranged, wrote the lyrics and the “psych/prog” middle eight and the next thing we knew we were tracking it. The middle eight was recorded separately as it was a different tempo and inserted in post production. The vocals on the song were the first time Fogman had ever sang the lyrics and the first time he had ever sang lead vocals. I absolutely love his vocals here as the emotional urgency he brought to the song could never be replicated and is what makes the song for me. The song has now transformed quite a bit vocally since the recording and it is only now that the stodgy Fogman is willing to admit it’s the best song on the record.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
They all are fairly troublesome because the recordings take months as we are usually working on a limited budget yet look to epic seventies block busters like Dark Side of the Moon or the uber amazing, Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock for production inspiration. We start by recording the beds in a very lo fi manner and leave giant sections blank where we imagine string sections, brass sections, vintage synth noise etc. It’s not until months go by that these sections are finally filled. After we have all of the tracking we go into a world-class studio, in this case Hotel 2 Tango and erase the original beds and re – record them in a huge room.
Which of the songs on the album is most different from your original concept for the song?
Hmm, the concept is usually the first thing to come up and then we just fill it from there. Having said that though having guest musicians really surprise us in a good way and lead the song in directions we could never fathom. Most of the guest’s material was pre written but vocalists Patrick Watson and Molly Sweeney were given free reign as to make them do something specific would be ridiculous with these creative people. Molly Sweeney’s two operatic vocal solos on “Tonight, The Dead Walk” still give me goose bumps. Check out her debut record if you are into dark psych folk. Also synth/noise people like aforementioned Andrew Dickson and Kevin Bartczak were given free reign with glorious psyched out results.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
We had fifteen guests in all and thier contributions are what really make this record unique to me. Pretty much everybody on the record was invited because we were just such big fans of what they do. Everybody from members of Ensorcelor, The Great Sabatini, Tricky Woo, Bent By Elephants as well as truly gifted solo artists. Fun fact: We really wanted to get Mary Margaret O’Hara to sing on the record as I am a huge fan but she didn’t return my email. Next time!
Who produced the album? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
We self-produced the record with input from our former keyboardist Kevin Bartczak. I think what really changed the face of the record was we had originally mixed the record with Howard Bilerman but unfortunately just ended up making it sound like our demo and tried utilizing the hundreds of tracks we had toiled over. This commonly known as “demoitis”. Howard trashed four of the five mixes, got rid of the superfluous tracks, rolled up his sleeves and just did it himself. We were astonished to say the least when we finally heard what he was able to create without our meddling in the way.
Is there an overarching concept behind the music that ties the songs together?
The songs were all born out of dark times and the general mood, musically and lyrically is about redemption and finding slivers of light in the shrouding darkness or hope in despair. The jubilant feel on “You Are a Comet, You Are On Fire” and triumphant crescendo on “Leg of Lamb” was really needed to counter the darkness that threatened to sweep up the record
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Songs have transformed quite a bit in the live setting and we are really excited to create a divide between the record and the rawer live setting. Our record has only been out about a week so our main introduction to people has been live so we are getting really excited how people are digging what we are able to create in the studio. What we are finding really exciting is playing the new songs that will appear on the next record “Smoking Hash All Summer” which we will hopefully begin the long, arduous recording process at the end of the year.
(Listen to “Tonight, The Dead Walk” via The Needle Drop: Here
Watch live video for “Asphodel I/1322” (Live at Sala Rosa): Here
Watch official video for “Leg Of Lamb” (directed by Amy Torok): Here
More info: https://www.facebook.com/usaoutofvietnam)