‘Today Canada, tomorrow the world’ pretty much sums up The New Cities’ ethos.
The six dance-rockers from Montreal certainly have the backing to make a decent go of it. Their recently released disc Lost In City Lights is one of the latest in a tsunami of dance-rock acts currently out there — keyboards and guitars form the one-two punch over the dancehall rhythms.
But this group in particular attracted some credible help such as producer Greig Nori (Treble Charger, Sum 41) and Dave Ogilvie (David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails), who both added a big-label polish to a sound that belies the grit and elbow grease of their first independent EP.
“At first we had a hard time trying to find the right balance between both because guitars and synths aren’t easy to mix together,” says keyboardist Nicolas Denis, adding Lost In City Lights had been in production since 2006. “The EP we released was a lot more indie — kind of like a first draft of what we wanted to do with the band. They (Nori and Ogilvie) brought this pop sensibility that we didn’t have.”
It’s an ambitious agenda for the young sextet compared to their humble beginnings some three years ago, playing to Trois-Rivieres high-schoolers as four-man ska-punk outfit the Gamblers. The band was a kind of prototype for the future electro-pop vehicle. Exit the Specials, enter the Faint and Death From Above 1979 as sonic svengalis.
“It was kind of a school for us,” says Denis. “Our first everything — tour, gigs, and van were through that band. We wanted to keep it dancey but do something different, the kind of stuff we were into.”
Denis admits the band had some misgivings about performing outside their native Quebec, saying that in the past, acts that would be a top draw there would hit an odd sort of Peter Principle in other provinces. Different days, now that Quebec acts gain international attention — and he’ll be the first to acknowledge it.
“The mentality is really starting to change,” Denis said. “When you start to play music in Quebec, especially if you sing in English, it just seems more like a dream than a possibility. But you have these role models, you see the people who make it and you begin to believe you can do that too.”
New Cities live
• Toronto: The Mod Club on May 30.