The ever-evolving and growing Montreal-based band “USA Out Of Vietnam” present listeners a challenge: are they a doom & gloom prog band, or is there a little glitter underneath the maelstrom? Punishing sludge rock morphs into joyous, sky-reaching orchestrations. Frustration becomes adulation. It’s the sound of survival and hope in a world where planes crash and diseases go uncured. Lola Who took these conundrums to singer/guitarist Son of Fogman who revealed some of the methods behind the madness.

Lola Who: The identity of this record seems very secure in the band’s mind, but it seems anyone writing about it can’t get past trying to examine the wealth of influences; do you find that tedious?
Son of Fogman: Not really, that was kind of the design of the record. We had a lot of false starts in the beginning as our influences are very wide ranging and we were somewhat rudderless. When the band started, we had songs that ranged from garden variety noise rock, technical metal and (gulp) goth rock. I pray to God that they never see the light of day. We recorded an aborted EP with the aforementioned songs and artist Andrew Dickson contributed with the artwork which now adorns our album “Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes” and we were blown away. The artwork made us step up our game a bit and inspired us to create music that could not be easily defined. This happened when we started our demo process for “Crashing…” and made us clean house by getting rid of our more derivative material. I suppose I am also a contrarian so that might’ve played a role as well. I have also been playing in bands for over 30 years, so I bring a lot of my varied influences to the table.

Lola Who: It seems like there’s a focus on taking the listener on a journey to find an authentic emotional experience, one with low points and high points. What do you want people to take away from this record?
Son of Fogman: I think the one thing that resonates from the record for me is a sense of hope and salvation. I hope that’s what people will get out of it, instead of just bombast and cacophony.Without light there is no darkness, and we like the music to exist in the shadows. Combining moods within the same song is also an aim, and that can be really rewarding as a songwriter.

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Lola Who: The spoken word sample on “You Are A Comet” seems to espouse a secular spiritual call for “carpe diem,” are you hoping to inspire people? Is this an optimistic record?
Son of Fogman: The record is definitely optimistic. In that song in particular, the optimism can be found in the jubilant brass section that happens after the spoken word section. Ohhh, now I get the godspeed thing, I forgot about that… The spoken word was an interview I did with artist Ron Jamieson in our rehearsal space and was later edited to fit our needs. Originally we had a hotline set up and invited readers of a local weekly paper to leave a message describing their happiest moment. It garnered no calls at all, so we called up Mr. Jamieson and interviewed him about his happiest moment. Specifics were edited out.

Lola Who: One thing that stands out about this record is how Montreal-y it is. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Constellation Records, and it could be seen a part of a tradition of Godspeed You! Black Emperor epic-ness and artistic discipline. Would this record have happened in any other place?
Son of Fogman: Wow, I take the record sounding “Montreal-y” as a huge compliment. Only two of us are originally from Montreal, but I get where you are going with this. Funny you should mention Constellation as they are friends, and Fogman occasionally works for them. We have been compared to Godspeed but I personally don’t see it. I guess it’s because our songs are long and we recorded in their studio with Howard Bilerman, whom also has worked with Godspeed. The record could not have happened anywhere else as all of the guests (over 15) were from Montreal bands. Artists Amy Torok and Andrew Dickson (who now have a website up by the way!) are from here, and Howard’s amazing studio is one block from my house. Perhaps the sense of adventure and the insular feeling is a Montreal thing?

Lola Who: Your current line up includes Martha Rockhard and Sheenah Ko (resident player in The Besnard Lakes). How have they influenced the way you play the songs? Does anything happen live that you want to bring into the next album?
Son of Fogman: We are now a four harmony band with each member now knowing what octave real estate they can cover. Sheenah has a rock solid work ethic which has really inspired us, as well as a huge musical talent which keeps all of us on our toes. Martha has a voice that can reduce the most callous to tears and at the same time is easily the most hard rocking of us all – she probably enjoys the performance aspect more than anybody in the band. Both Sheenah and Martha will be featured far more on the next record. This was obvious as we started the last European tour.

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Lola Who: Your latest features a host of guest musicians. Are they invited to come in and solve musical problems, or are you like a director, casting them to play a part you have in mind? Is improvising part of the recording process?

Son of Fogman: Sometimes I had specific lines already written and sometimes I just let musician’s improv as I was already a fan and knew that they could excel at improv moments. I often write parts on guitar but hear other instruments doing it, so I start hunting down people who play those specific instruments.

Lola Who: What has been your impression of 2015 as far as music goes; has anything disappointed or surprised you? What’s the weirdest thing you heard this year?
Son of Fogman: I don’t really consider any music really weird but I really loved Locrian’s last record. Sooooo good! I also loved this demo tape from a Montreal band called Spectral Wound as well as the new Big/Brave record.

Lola Who: How is touring different now what technology has made connectivity and documentation easier?
Son of Fogman:  I only took one photo on the whole tour, and it was a picture of Sheenah next to a gigantic piece of fried fish in Milton Keynes, U.K. When my friends ask me how was the tour? I just flash that picture at them.


By Adam Wilson