Published Sep 16, 2019After a 13-year hiatus, Fly Pan Am have reformed — or, as they would put it, drifted back together. Speaking with Exclaim! ahead of the release of their new album, C'est ça, guitarist Jonathan Parant describes how the current members gravitated back towards each other: "We were seeing each other around Montreal, at least once a month, and I was feeling some strange vibes that we might see each other again."
On September 20, the quartet (including drummer Félix Morel) will release C'est ça — an album borne of mutual appreciation of each other's work by all four members — through Constellation Records.
"It took a lot of conversations. Like, really talking about each other's music and entertaining the idea of what we could do if we could put all that together," says multi-instrumentalist Roger Tellier-Craig.
"What kept us from doing this before was that we didn't just want to get back together and just play the hits — we were interested in something we had to feel," adds bassist Jean-Sébastien Truchy.
Part of the band's caution stemmed from their candid recounting of why they even broke up in the first place. "In relation to us not playing together for 13 years, we didn't split up because we had friendship problems, we were just out of ideas for a while and we were honest about it. Now it seems that we have ideas again," says Parant.
And plenty of them. The group's fourth full-length finds the former instrumental post-rock band picking up where their 2004 genre-bending LP, N'écoutez pas, left off: combining punk-y angular guitars, motorik rhythms, fuzzy shoegaze undertones, wobbly electronic overtones and guttural black metal vocals. Yes, black metal vocals.
"This is what we were hinting at with the last record," explains Tellier-Craig. "For a while we were an instrumental band, and then it kind of got boring. We wanted to get things exciting again; that's why we started including screamo vocals over a '60s organ riff or a pulsating metronomic drum. We were already going there, but we weren't as sophisticated on how to do it. We've just acquired so much more experience."
The experience Tellier-Craig's alluding to lies in the kind of musically diverse projects he and his band mates engaged in during their time apart. Among other ventures, he formed askew French pop throwbacks Pas Chic Chic, Jean-Sébastien Truchy explored analog electronic noise, Morel drummed for psychedelic rock band Panopticon Eyelids, while Parant helped score music for a dance troupe.
"It was natural, but still demanded a lot of work, because most of us have been more involved in electronic music over the last ten years, so we needed to kind of like, 'Tune in again'", says Tellier-Craig. "There were a lot of rehearsals that didn't go anywhere; it was at least a year until we started really getting a direction established."
"It was a big challenge to relearn how to play our rock instruments together," Truchy chimes in. "That was somewhat almost alien to us at the time."
But what makes their latest LP come off as more than just a reunion album comes from Fly Pan Am's staunch refusal to repeat themselves and their general resistance to nostalgia.
"Sometimes I feel like the future is a bit of a case of delirium in the past," says Parant. "Nostalgia is like a common error that we make, it's based on melancholia. It's something that I revisit just to figure out what's coming next."
But as C'est ça proves, Fly Pan Am are just as interested in challenging the listener and challenging one another.
"Sometimes I'll disagree with an idea, but often I'll be like, 'Oh fuck, this is weird, I don't know how I feel about it,'" says Tellier-Craig. "But this is kind of nice… I like not knowing how I feel about it."