FRIDAY MARCH 24, 2017
 
Blog INTERVIEWS
YOUNG GALAXY
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Young Galaxy’s breakthrough third album, Shapeshifting, was an ecstatic mix of electronic dance music and the kind of grandiose, way-far-out wordplay more commonly found in progressive rock or the poetry journals of astronomy majors.

Two years later, they’ve returned with Ultramarine, a more grounded but no less exciting album than Shapeshifting. The inclusion of some new souls to the Young Galaxy fold may have inspired its more pragmatic songwriting and lyrics (the album's interim frontwoman Catherine McCandless and co-founder Stephen Ramsay had a child, while the band itself welcomed new permanent members). With more individual futures at stake, Ultramarine is kin to Shapeshifting but offers more approachable imagery than say, “energy (rolling) out to us on golden horns of light.

We recently spoke with McCandless about the album’s infectious first single, “Pretty Boy,” touring while pregnant, and her gradual ascension to the role of lead singer.

When I first heard “Pretty Boy” [stream below] I thought it was a love song, then after a few listens thought perhaps it was sung from the perspective of a mother speaking to her child. How close am I?

It was actually written after I’d read the autobiography of Patti Smith. It was inspired by her (platonic) relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and the challenge they underwent to make a creative life for themselves. They really felt alone in the world, but against the odds together, so that was a basis.

Ultramarine is a very uplifting album, but not overly sentimental — a tricky balance. Were you and the band in a good place during the writing and recording?

Things do feel like they’re in a good place. We’ve found five key members for the band we want to stick with, Stephen and I have a two-year-old son. So we feel very positive, but as you say you can’t just pump those feelings into a song. You have to place it in the right context, make it a little more bittersweet.

What music have you been keeping on standby to boost your spirits?

In our home we’re a bit ruled by the tastes of a two-year-old, so we’ve found ourselves returning to a lot of artists we heard in our own homes as children. Paul Simon’s Graceland got put on the other day, and it definitely made both of us and our son very happy.

Do you ever listen to your own music for enjoyment?

Only in the context of working. We spend so many hours getting the live show down that we don’t return to the original recordings much, intentionally at least. It’s always nice to be surprised (hearing the songs) somewhere other than our parents’ houses.



Do your friends or family throw on Young Galaxy albums during parties, if you’re in attendance?

My friends are pretty sensitive to that. I’m not even sure of them have the music [laughs]. But no, I’ve never had that experience. I did go shopping once and I heard our music playing. That was a bit strange, to hear my voice on the radio in public.

You’ve evolved into the band’s lead singer, gradually replacing Stephen. How easy was that changeover, for you?

In the beginning I would make Steve leave the room if he wanted me to record back-up harmony. It felt so personal to me. If I was going to sing the way I really wanted to I couldn’t hide anything. It’s funny — it even makes me stutter a bit to talk about it now.

Singing live was a little different. I’d been singing backup with our first lineup, and I’d gotten more comfortable with that. I was a bit buried in the music, and that was fine. But over the course of a few albums I’ve gotten much more comfortable with it. I love to do it, and Steve has no strong feeling about it either way. He’s more interested in production and arrangement, anyway.

Did you perform with your son in your belly, and did that change your style of performance?

Yeah, up to being about eight months pregnant. It didn’t change anything noticeably, but he was a big baby so it limited my breath a bit. And I was more physically restrained, not shaking it so much on stage.

That must have been an interesting sight for the audience.

A comical one. I don’t read our reviews, but I did read one of our show that was very funny. He basically said, “I can’t get over the fact that this singer could give birth any minute.”

Like if you held a note long enough it would induce labour?

I think that’s what he was afraid of!

Ultramarine is available this week via Paper Bag Records.

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