When the Straight reaches Stephen Ramsey on the road in Toronto, the sound of an infant crying in the background punctuates the conversation with the Young Galaxy singer-guitarist. The baby in question is Fergus, Ramsey’s son with his wife (and Young Galaxy vocalist-keyboardist) Catherine McCandless, and, yes, he is on tour with his folks.
“He’s starting to lose it a little bit,” Ramsey says of the boy, who is not yet four months old. “He’s been in the van now for six hours. He’s strapped into this mega-seat that we bought. We bought this really intense, top-of-the-line baby seat for him that looks a bit like a jet-fighter-pilot seat, and he’s strapped in there.”
This is Fergus’s first day on the road, but it won’t be his last. Young Galaxy has a couple of legs of touring in support of its third album, Shapeshifting, scheduled before the end of the year. “We expect that it will be very intense, but this is our life,” Ramsey says. “We decided before he arrived that he would be brought into our life and incorporated in a way that hopefully wouldn’t change much in terms of how we operated. Because this is what we do, and we want him to be a part of that rather than change direction just because we’ve had a baby. I think a lot of people have trouble understanding it, but this is what we know.”
Taking a diaper dumper across North America and then around Europe seems like a bit of a risk, but Young Galaxy has already shown itself to be an act unafraid of doing things in an unorthodox way. Consider the way it made Shapeshifting. Ramsey, McCandless, and bassist Stephen Kamp recorded the disc’s 10 songs in their home base of Montreal, and then sent them to Swedish producer and remixer Dan Lissvik, giving him a free hand to reshape the material as he saw fit. The result is an airily atmospheric blend of electronic beats and synthesizer swirls that morphs Young Galaxy’s epic dream-pop leanings into something akin to Blonde Redhead’s decidedly down-tempo Penny Sparkle. (That 2010 album was, coincidentally, made in a long-distance collaboration between Blonde Redhead and a pair of Swedish electronica producers.)
Young Galaxy’s challenge, then, was to reconfigure the overhauled music into something that a band could play on-stage. “The recording process is often vastly different from the live one,” Ramsey notes. “It slows down the whole process of recording if you’re thinking, ‘Hmm, okay, well, before we make this decision, how are we going to do this live?’ The beauty of the electronic world is its flexibility, and you can go so deep into the reaches of strange sound, and manipulating sound, that you just kind of forget that you’ve got to eventually interpret it all again live. And then you just do the best you can. You hope that the material is strong enough that no matter what you do to it—whether you’re faithful to it or you interpret it wildly—that people will respond to it.”
Mind you, that’s not the only hurdle Ramsey and McCandless are facing. There’s also the matter of caring for young Fergus while somehow finding the time to play shows. But they have that all figured out, right? “Talk to me in a month,” Ramsey jokes. “I may be, like, ‘Ah, I need an accounting job or something.’ ”
Young Galaxy opens for Junior Boys at the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday (September 17).