T.O.’s Uncut digs deep for six-string heroics

Ian Worang might be an indie rocker, but he’s no slacker. The Toronto musician is a member of what he describes as three-and-a-half bands: Uncut, the Diableros, the Two Koreas, and a jokey, covers-only outfit called the Black Rabbit. All that, plus a 9-to-5 job at a not-for-profit agency; the guy’s busy.

Not so busy, though, that he doesn’t have time to talk to the Georgia Straight during his workday. “They’re good here about letting me take time off,” he says, chatting over the phone during a smoke break. “I’ve been here for a long time. It works out kind of okay in that way. I think one day I’ll kind of end up pushing too hard and being told that I probably shouldn’t come back or something, but so far so good.”

Of all Worang’s extracurricular endeavours, Uncut is the one mostly likely to get him in trouble at the office. That particular band, he admits, is his priority. After all, he plays bass in the other bands, but in Uncut he sings, plays guitar, and is one of the primary songwriters, along with guitarist-vocalist Sam Goldberg and bassist-singer Derek Tokar.

Worang’s bosses had better keep a close watch on their employee. Uncut’s just-released second album, Modern Currencies, will almost certainly win the T.O. quartet a wider following. Produced by the band’s drummer, Jon Drew, the disc’s churning rockers bristle with teenage-riot guitar riffs straight out of the trans ­atlantic underground of the early ’90s. Worang isn’t afraid to admit that the psychocandy buzz-pop of “Kiss Me” and the rave-down six-string heroics of “Dark Horse” owe a debt to alt-rock forerunners such as Swervedriver, Dinosaur Jr, and Sonic Youth.

It seems a natural evolution for the band that made its full-length debut in 2004 with Those Who Were Hung Hang Here. That was a fine disc in its own right, but its angular, post-punk–inflected approach seemed restrained in comparison to the explosive Modern Currencies. Uncut’s first album also suffered somewhat from the fact that its vocals were occasionally mixed down to the point of inaudibility.

“This time, we mixed it with a guy named John O’Mahony, and one of his comments was ”˜This is the lowest I’ve ever mixed vocals,’” Worang says. “I think we were even fighting his inclination to put them up.” Fortunately, they didn’t fight too hard, and the result is a well-balanced sound that should strike a chord with those who remember when the term alternative rock still meant something other than a nation of floppy-haired emo clones.

Mind you, the album seems to be winning over more than just those who still have their tattered Lollapalooza ’92 ticket stubs. Uncut has shared stages with acts ranging from Death From Above 1979 to Bob Mould, but surviving a few opening slots for K-OS was what showed the band how broad its appeal truly is.

“We thought, ”˜Oh God, we’re gonna get destroyed. No one’ll like it,’” Worang recalls. “Compared to our records, we have a pretty raucous live show. It’s pretty screamy and loud and fast, with the occasional stuff getting toppled over.”¦It went pretty poorly in Halifax, but I think that was just as much us as it was anything else. It wasn’t our best day. But the Toronto show was when we were really freaked out, but it was one of our better shows. And people got right into it and headbanged and stuff, and threw up the rock fists. It was a pretty great experience.”

Uncut plays the Media Club on Wednesday (November 22).