Walking past the Blenz at the corner of Granville and Broadway, you would never guess that the unassuming 29-year-old politely sipping his tea inside has the game of hide-and-seek down to a science. But as the story goes—at least according to the elaborate tales woven on Hide and Seek Champion, the 2007 debut by Way to Go, Einstein—Andrew Carter, the local quintet's mild-mannered frontman, is indeed a regular David Copperfield.
“We wanted to have a funny story [attached to the first album] so people wouldn't take it all so seriously,” says Carter of his band's plan to offset its rather somber repertoire with a wacky narrative. “This time, though, we decided maybe not. We don't want people to think it's all a joke.”
If you've heard the majestic harmonies on the group's latest record, Pseudonym, you'll know that the chances of that are pretty slim. With vocal inflections that bring to mind alt-rock genius Thom Yorke, Carter leads his bandmates through epic soundscapes heavy with hypnotic guitars and quivering synths. Building on the musical archetype perfected by Brit-rock icons Coldplay and Muse, Way to Go, Einstein imparts its own vision of modern rock with slow burners like “Shiver in the Sun” and “Insensate”.
The intensity of the sophomore release is further heightened by the contemplative nature of Carter's lyrics, which, the Ottawa native reveals, come across as far gloomier than he had originally intended. On sullen tracks like “The Flood”, “Will This Last” and “Everywhere You Turn”, Carter traces dreary themes such as hopelessness and the impending apocalypse.
“I didn't realize it at the time [of writing the songs], but this record has a lot to do with impending disaster,” he muses.
It's a far cry from the quirky stories of Carter dazzling the nation as a professional hide-and-seeker, but Way to Go, Einstein's ringleader is confident that the new material holds up—even without a goofy back tale.
And from the sounds of things, he had plenty of time to come to that decision.
As chief songwriter for the outfit, Carter spent close to two years hunched over a piano, tapping out chords before he felt prepared to head into the studio with his bandmates. “We ended up writing stuff that might not hit people right off the bat, but it makes sense for how we wrote it—it was over a long time,” he explains, clearly unaware of how utterly captivating the disc actually is, even upon the very first spin.
While most of Pseudonym was recorded at the band's New Westminster rehearsal space, it was a pair of eight-hour sessions at the Hive Creative Labs with recording engineer Colin Stewart that really shaped the new record's lush atmospheric style.
“Our drummer, Michael Munro, and Colin ended up getting a really, really good drum sound,” Carter exclaims. “It really helped us when we were recording other stuff, because we were listening to that drum sound and it really inspired us to get, like, the best guitar sound, you know.”
With a second release now under its belt, the talented group is finally starting to find its legs.
“We've really grown,” says Carter. “Originally, the guys were like, ”˜Andrew, it's your project—what do you want me to do for this?' But it's started to grow into ”˜Oh, you play this and I'll play that.' It really feels like a band now.”
It appears Carter is also adjusting to another part of being in a band: the democratic process. Although the reserved singer prefers to perform original material at the group's gigs, against his better judgment he has bowed to popular opinion within the outfit and agreed to perform a cover song at Pseudonym's official release party this week. “Our guitarist Kevin really likes Tears for Fears, so we're going to do a cover. I don't like Tears for Fears, but it should be fun, I guess,” Carter says, trying his best to be a good sport about the whole thing.
Way To Go, Einstein plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Friday (May 29).