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Morality and closure: We Are the City look to an unforeseen future with “RIP”

We Are the City - Kristen Huculiak

By Liam Faucher

It may seem that We Are the City, Vancouver’s niche experimental-pop trio, has delivered a career’s worth of material. The band’s creative and thematic maturity—which has developed from album to album—lends a sense of culmination to the new release, RIP, which has an unmissable air of finality to it. The truth is that the band is only a decade into its career, but any suspicion that We Are the City is putting something to rest may be justified. Andrew Huculiak, the band’s drummer, recently shed light on why that may be the case: RIP is, in more ways than one, an album about closure. 

Huculiak spoke about the conclusive elements of the album, and how the band has come to terms with transitions.

 “When we talk about RIP we’re definitely talking about closing this chapter of the band’s sort of artistic statements about these things and this type of music,” he says. “We definitely, I feel, made a comprehensive album that encompasses a lot of ideas that we’ve been exploring through the last five albums.”

The ideas the band members have explored have often been centered around mortality; We Are the City has never been shy of the existential. But given Huculiak’s perspective on the band’s sense of artistic closure, the lyrical ruminations on RIP are more resonant this time around. The title track, a tragic mourning song for a friend lost too soon, is a heartbreaking but appropriate endnote. 

RIP album art by, Eliseo H. Zubiri

Beyond mortality, Huculiak recognizes that the band is coming to terms with its own identity and place within its artistic sphere. After a decade, We Are the City has become a staple of Western Canadian indie-pop, but is frequently deemed inaccessible to the larger music market. The band celebrates that tension on RIP’s opening track, “Killer B-Side Music,” an eerie yet abrasive pop song that’s borderline anthemic. You won’t hear it at the club, but that’s the point.

“Lyrically, [“Killer B-Side Music”] is what we’ve kind of come to terms within the band,” Huculiak says. “There’s this idea of—why can’t we be at peace with the fact that we’re never going to play stadiums? Let’s just have peace with the fact that we make music that some people really like.”

That dynamic is challenged by the following track, Song In My Head,” an effective, evocative banger that negates the idea that this isn’t a band for the masses. The single, arguably the band’s most radio-friendly song to date, is not a far cry from the earlier efforts of, say, Kiss Me Honey, but there’s a polished element that will make sure listeners are aware of the immediate tensions on the album. 

Beyond that, RIP is full of material that feels familiar but nonetheless progressive for the band. It is undoubtedly a We Are the City album, but not one that the band has made before. The members appear conscious of their own style, but in no way hindered by it. The challenge before them is to be unconventional even by the standards set by their previous work. 

As for the thematic and lyrical decisions, Huculiak notes that they were collaborative.

 “It was a lot of exploring different memories and anxieties about our futures, and mortality. We’re really still chewing on the same things that we’ve been chewing on, but at a different point in our lives,” Huculiak says. 

That’s an important distinction because while the spiritual, moral, and mortal concerns of the band have been present on every record, the explorations feel experienced and lived in more than they have previously. 

Perhaps that sheds light on the conclusive yet transitory nature of RIP; the band is aging out of one era and into another. Huculiak admits that whatever closing this chapter of the band means is something they’re still trying to understand, but there is an air of optimism and renewal to the way he speaks about We Are the City and RIP, and the future looks bright whatever it may hold.  

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