If there’s one thing Nü Sensae has always done well, it’s playing with a level of intensity verging on the terrifying. On its forthcoming second LP, Sundowning, the Vancouver band offers proof that it has added some serious depth to its aural assault. For that, you can give partial credit to the fact that Nü Sensae’s founding duo, singer-bassist Andrea Lukic and drummer Daniel Pitout, have a couple of years—not to mention a ton of touring—under their belts since putting out their first full-length in 2010.
Another major factor is Brody McKnight. The former Mutators guitarist joined Nü Sensae last year, and his contributions to Sundowning include the teenage-riot squall of “Swim” and a dose of pounding-waves surf rock on “Whispering Rule”, which finds Pitout stepping up his already impressive game with a thunderous volley of rolling toms.
Interviewed along with his bandmates on a glorious summer evening at Crab Park, the drummer notes that adding a third member had been in the cards for some time. “Andrea and I first talked about it maybe, like, a year before Brody joined,” Pitout says. “After we did TV, Death and the Devil—which was our last album—as a two-piece, we were just saying that we felt like we had done everything we could with just bass and drums, and it was becoming hard to write songs, and also…”
“Boring,” chips in Lukic, who seems to have a habit of finishing her bandmate’s sentences.
“Yeah, boring,” Pitout agrees. “It wasn’t a challenge anymore. It was just limiting, I think. We were a two-piece out of, like…”
“Circumstance.” (Lukic again.)
“Yeah,” Pitout continues. “It was never like we wanted to be a bass-and-drum duo for any reason. We just did it because Andrea and I had known each other for a long time and we just wanted to be in a band or whatever. The whole time we were in Nü Sensae I feel like we were trying to make Andrea’s playing like a guitar, and that’s what was kind of interesting about our sound before. But then it just got to the point where we knew we wanted to expand it a bit and do more with it. We knew we wanted to add a guitarist, and…”
“We knew we wanted to add Brody,” Lukic chimes in once more. “It wasn’t even like we wanted to add a guitarist. We just wanted to add Brody, to be honest.”
McKnight, who also plays in Eating Out with Pitout and in Heavy Chains with Lukic, says the trio recorded Sundowning’s instrumental tracks live in the studio, which accounts for the record’s raw but tight sound, blending elements of punk, noise rock, and grunge into a pulse-accelerating whole. What you hear on the album is what you’ll get in concert, barring a few extra layers of guitar.
“I just did basically the rhythm guitar over again as a separate track after,” McKnight says. “We did everything together without vocals, and then I went in and just did a day of doing overdubs over everything. I didn’t really play anything that was too different—just to thicken up the guitar sound. But, yeah, it wasn’t really a lot of extra parts that I’d written specifically just for an overdub. It’s all stuff that we could still play live. Sometimes, when you think too much, you start writing things that are too complicated, and you can’t re-create it live.”
The most astounding thing about Nü Sensae, however, is that Lukic is able to do what she does night after night when the band is on the road. She is capable of singing melodically, even subtly, but she spends most of sonic gut-punches like “Spit Gifting” and “Eat Your Mind” howling like a woman possessed by unspeakable inner demons.
“I think one day maybe I’ll just wake up and not be able to talk,” she admits. “I know that I don’t sing from my stomach or anything, from my gut. You’re supposed to sing from your gut, right? I sing from my throat, I know that for sure.”
Lukic has yet to lose her voice on the road, a fact she attributes to slippery elm, plenty of water, and a whole lot of luck. “It’s definitely a fluke, for sure. Because every time we go on tour I get scared of that. So far it’s been great.”
Here’s hoping her pipes hold up, because Nü Sensae has a monthlong road trip ahead of it. As for Sundowning, Seattle’s Suicide Squeeze Records will put it out on August 7. The album should raise the band’s profile considerably; it has already made a minor celebrity of its cover star, a weathered but undeniably handsome older gentleman, photographed in a black Stetson, with a fringed leather jacket draped over one shoulder. That’s a fellow known only as John, who makes money collecting empties and is well-known to the staff of the burrito shop where Pitout works.
Says the drummer: “It’s funny, because he came into the store the other day, and he was telling me that he’s getting recognized, like, ‘Aren’t you the guy from the Nü Sensae cover?’ He says that we have to take him on tour because he’s getting famous. I think we want to put him in a music video soon for the record.”
Nü Sensae plays the Khatsahlano! Music + Art Festival on West 4th Avenue on Saturday afternoon (July 21), and opens for King Tuff at the Biltmore Cabaret that night. The band will play an album-release show at Antisocial Skateboard Shop on August 3.
Nü Sensae sits down with the Georgia Straight. Magic ensues.