- Riley Smith
Roommates are usually known for a few things: passive-aggressive notes about the dishes, passive-aggressive reminders to get toilet paper, passive-aggressive encounters about keeping the TV down because someone's got to work in the morning—but sometimes roommates transcend that nonsense and end up creating a really rad band together. At least that's the case with Unreal Thought.
With humble beginnings, the new band has transformed greatly in its short time together. Guitarist Dylan Chew "basically said to me, 'I have this riff that sounds something like The Cure's 'Disintegration.'' And I said I wanted to hear it," says bassist Cody Googoo. "He put fake drums to it, I recorded a bass line, we thought of a name, took a picture and put it on Bandcamp within three hours in an afternoon.
"Our first recordings were done in Dylan's bedroom, which is two feet from my bedroom, then eventually we went to the basement and recorded everything there."
Before that move, the pair enlisted drummer Ben Radford, whose live drumming brought the band out of the bedroom and into the world last summer.
But this is far from the members' first band, although musically it's uncharted ground. Googoo, Radford and Chew are all in multiple other bands, most leaning towards punk and hardcore. Unreal Thought, though not without some faster, harder parts, skews goth and dark post-punk. "It's different from anything else I've ever done," says Googoo.
Influenced by new wave and post-punk bands like Institute, Belgrado, Joy Division and The Cure, Unreal Thought's live sound is more organic—no synths, no drum machine, but the icy coolness of new wave informs the noise. "It's like when all the hardcore bands from the '80s turned into either rock bands or new wave bands," says Googoo. "We turned into a new wave band."
The stripped-down sound has the band navigating new waters, with magical results. "It's nice to be able to be part of a project like this because the lyrics can be more poetic, you can write about your feelings in a more indirect way," says Radford, who does double duty on vocals while drumming. The group is tightly knit, which helps coax a more vulnerable delivery out of the band. "With our first tape [Isolate The Mind], Cody had a vision of exactly what everyone was going to sing and where, if we were singing individually or together, and adding these breaths here or there," says Radford. "It was a pretty unique first time experience for me, in my other bands there's usually just one person in room by themselves screaming their guts out. There's no growling, I was self-conscious."
"It's not just smashing and bashing," says Googoo.
"I remember driving around in my car before recording and thinking about how I could do it, how could I sing that way," says Radford.
With several recordings under their belts and an upcoming slot at Newfoundland's Shed Island festival, there's another tape quickly on the way. Sad punks rejoice—it'll be just as melancholy and grey as their current recordings, if not more so. "We're constantly evolving and changing the sound all the time," says Chew. "The next tape will be more melodic and slower even."
And when it clicks, it clicks. "Sometimes when we all come in together, the way Dylan's guitar sounds, we're all like 'Yeah.'" says Radford. "If we were to listen to that on a record we'd be stoked."