The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Indie rockers Fast Romantics humbled by fans’ support for top English song ‘Julia’

Thumb3Fast Romantics, an indie group based in Toronto but formed in Calgary’s music community, won the SOCAN Songwriting Prize on July 11, securing their place in the history of Canadian songwriters.

From June 9 to 23, Canadian music fans voted for their favourite from 10 songs nominated for the prize.

The votes were tallied and Fast Romantics’ "Julia" was declared the best English song. Laurence Nerbonne’s "Rêves d'été” (“Summer Dreams”) claimed the Prix de la Chanson SOCAN prize.

Nearly 30,000 votes were cast for competitions in both languages, shattering 2015's record total by almost 33 per cent.

“Once we got over the surprise of it, now it just feels really good knowing that we won with the support of our fans,” said Matthew Angus, founding member of the band and author of the song.

"Really, everybody on the list deserved this prize. Big thanks to our fans for voting, to the folks on the panel for selecting us, and to SOCAN for continuing to do stuff like this to help inspire, promote, and protect Canadian music creators,” said Angus in an interview with The Calgary Journal on July 13.

The song has an unmistakably positive vibe, with subtle piano notes ringing out over lightly distorted guitar and an upbeat, quick tempo drum line. Bells chime along as the chorus enters the scene, making the vibe feel almost like a celebration, something Angus says comes from the writing process of “Julia”.

Body4The Fast Romantics began in Calgary with founding members Matthew Angus (sitting centre) and Jeff Lewis (right), who had previously played in a band called The Mood. Now located in Toronto, the group has added (from left) Nick McKinlay on drums, Kevin Black on guitar, and Kirty who helps with songwriting, acoustic guitar and keyboards. Despite roster changes, things are clearly beginning to stabilize for the group as they refine their sound and bask in the glow of being named SOCAN’s best songwriters of 2016. Photo courtesy of The Fast Romantics“It was the start of a new relationship for me, so I was in a really good place. Fast Romantics songs maybe haven’t always been known for having the happiest lyrics, but it was sort of written in a moment of celebration,” he said. “It was a good learning experience for me, just to realize that there’s a lot more that you can write about. And I think the speed at which it came out made me realize that you don’t always have to be a grump about things.”

Oddly enough, the song isn’t even about a girl named Julia.

“Julia was the name of several people I dated and knew throughout the years. It just sort of came out as a name that made sense for the song at the time,” Angus said. “It came out in a big burst of happiness which is rare for me, so maybe that’s why I decided to just stick with it.”

Fast Romantics were formed in 2008 by Calgarians Angus and Jeffrey Lewis. After achieving local success with the independent release of their self-titled LP, the group relocated to Toronto in an effort to expose themselves to a new creative environment.

“Moving from Calgary sucked, but I think we all knew we needed to get out of our comfort zone. It wasn’t that we didn’t feel at home there, but almost like we felt too at home,” Angus said. “We were going through some shifts, musically, and we wanted to challenge ourselves. But in the end it is so bittersweet — Calgary will always be home to me.’”

The other 9 songs nominated in the english category included:

"Black Body" – written by Benjamin Addy, Renee Wisdom; performed by Spek Won, featuring Shi Wisdom.

"Dead or Alive" – written by Jahmarie Adams, Michael Lantz; performed by Jazz Cartier.

"Desire" – written by Kathleen Monks, Benjamin Reinhartz, James Rowlinson, Elizabeth Ball; performed by Dilly Dally.

"How Could You Babe" – written by Tobias Jesso Jr.; performed by Tobias Jesso Jr.; published by Universal Music Publishing.

"No Hurry" – written by Terra Lightfoot; performed by Terra Lightfoot; published by CCS Rights Management Corp.

"Paradise" – written by Ashton Simmonds, Matthew Burnett, Jordan Evans, Alexander Sowinski, Matthew Tavares, Leland Whitty,Chester Hansen, Keaven Yazdani; performed by Daniel Ceasar, featuring BADBADNOTGOOD, Sean Leon; published by Reclusive Music Inc., Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd. Canada, Robinson Heart Publishing, Third Side Music

"Pen to Paper" – written by Sean Graham, Thomas "Tawgs" Salter; performed by Modern Space; published by Sony/ATV.

"Spirits" – written by Simon Ward, Jeremy Drury, Jonathan Hembrey, Darryl G.J. James, Brian Leigh Pickett, David Ritter,Joanne Setterington, Isabel Cunningham Ritchie; performed by The Strumbellas; published by Domino Double Nine.

"Wendell Walker" – written by Andy Shauf; performed by Andy Shauf; published by Peer International Ltd. (Canada), Music of the Mothership.

Toronto provided great opportunities for the group. They recorded a self-titled EP in 2009 with renowned Canadian producer Howard Redekopp, who has worked with huge indie acts such as Tegan & Sara andThe New Pornographers.

Working on their first fully produced album, the group grew into a distinct sound, refined their songwriting technique and learned from new influences in the studio environment with Redekopp’s help.

After the 2010 release of the album “Kidcutter”, Fast Romantics quickly saw their music being played in various television series such as Vampire Diaries and One Tree Hil. Their song “Cool Kids” was nominated in the pop/rock category for the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards.

Their third full length release, the 2013 album “Afterlife Blues”, again produced by Redekopp, led to Fast Romantics winning the Pop Group of the Year award at the Sirius XM Indies in May 2014. The group then began work on their latest album, yet to be released, which features their SOCAN prize-winning single “Julia”.

For winning the competition, Fast Romantics receive $10,000 from SOCAN, a choice between a Seagull Artist Studio CW guitar and a Godin 5th Avenue Jazz guitar, as well as a Yamaha PSR-S970 keyboard and a $500 gift card from Long & McQuade.

However, the group is more focused on the recognition they received for their songwriting talents.

“When money comes in and you’re in a Canadian band you immediately start thinking of all the bills you need to pay, and not much else,” Angus said. “The first thing that went through our minds though was how cool and surprising it was. In a lot of ways we weren’t expecting this at all, we were just thrilled to be on the list.”

The group is humble about their SOCAN tribute, thrilled to have been voted the winners out of a talent pool that included amazing Canadian artists such as The Strumbellas and Terra Lightfoot.

“Each and every song on that list deserves it as much as we do,” Angus said. “We don’t win a lot of awards, this is all pretty new to us. I don’t think we ever knew if it would happen, that we would get to this point, but we all owe a huge giant thank you to everyone who supports us and voted for our song.”

Thumbnail image courtesy of Fast Romantics

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