Interview: Fast Romantics trade Alberta for Toronto on American Love

Fast Romantics

Fast Romantics combine strings, horns and indie rock, although you wouldn’t get that impression by talking to lead songwriter Matthew Angus.

Angus doesn’t think in terms of genres or terminology, but in terms of what sound he’s looking for. Fast Romantics have an alternative rock core, but add various chamber instrumentation for a fuller composition.

Lead single “Everybody’s Trying to Steal Your Heart” is the first song from the band’s new album, American Love, released today. It was also the last to be written and recorded.

“The producer went back home and we flew him back over here just so he can finish this song,” Angus said. “It was an anecdotal feeling. I like records that start off as super subtle, but other times I like really punching someone in the mouth in the beginning of the record. This song is kinda both. It’s a really dynamic song and has peaks and valleys. It felt like a great way to introduce the band. We’re a big band and we often have a big sound. It was a great way to say this is who we are.”

There are six musicians in Fast Romantics, including  Jeffrey Lewis, Kevin Black, Nick McKinlay, Lisa Lorenz and Kirsten Scholte, a Toronto singer-songwriter with a solo career as Kirty. This allows the band to fit so much instrumentation in each song. If Arcade Fire lived in an alternative universe where songs were generally more upbeat and punchy, they’d sound like this Alberta-born, Toronto-based band.

“I remember a series of weeks when we were only a five-piece, which is already pretty big,” Angus said. “Arrangements in our band have always been really lush, which is a conscious choice. It’s just something I personally love. The sixth member of the band was Lisa, who plays a lot of string and horn parts. She fills out the orchestral parts really nicely.”

The song “Alberta,” where the band is from, details Fast Romantics’ origins. Angus and bassist Lewis are the only original members still in the band, and American Love is truly the debut album for the current incarnation.

“Me and the [Lewis] started another band also called Fast Romantics, and we played out there for a while,” he said. “But then we moved to Toronto because that’s where everyone moves when they’re a band. This song is about leaving Alberta, which is a very beautiful place; … a goodbye song, really.”

Similar to “Alberta,” the rest of the songs on American Love were began with the lyrics rather than going off of a guitar riff or a cool beat. Lyrics are very important, if not the most important aspect, to Angus. Their songwriting usually stems from the chorus, or at least one lyrical line. From there, the instrumentation grows organically around the lyrical concepts to best articulate a message.

“[American Love] is more of a lyrics record than anything,” he said. “Oftentimes, the song would start with two lines and the sounds just kind of followed. And then you get this thesis statement. Sometimes it takes forever. In fact, it’s rarely quick. I’ll have a lyric that sticks around for a year and then I’ll finally find a melody that works. In this record in particular, I just really had to focus on saying something.”

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