Young Manics released their sophomore effort this month, Challenger, as a follow up to their 2013 debut which earned them 3 Music NL nominations (Alternative Album, Rising Star, and Music Video of the Year) as well as some national media attention. Below, Aaron Hickey answers some questions on Challenger.
If I made you pick a favourite song off the album, which would you pick? Any reason why?
The hardest question you will ever ask a songwriter. Which one of your children do you love the most? Oh Boy. I will try to taper the rhetoric and answer however. “In Time” which is the album opener, is special one for me. We are a band that tends to write songs individually or in duos, and then later arrange them as a group. That particular song on the other hand, was a truly collaborative effort from the start; each person having made a significant contribution which vastly improved it along the way. This was also the song which in the end, best represented the sound we had set out to achieve when we began writing the album
And if I let you pick another favourite?
“Challenger Deep,” which is the pseudo title track of the album. From a purely selfish perspective, as the lyricist, I have always felt that I have a tendency to write rather cynical lyrics, not necessarily by choice but perhaps just because one’s personality tends to flow into these sort of things. This song was different, full of wonder and adventure. From the beginning, I imagined that it would be a song that sounded as vast as the Canadian wilderness. If that makes any sense. I feel that in the end we did capture that feeling.
Is there a song on here that’s a little different for you, or that you questioned including?
“Requiem for Wasted Youth.” Aside from its rather pretentious title, the song was about personal things. The kind personal of things you do not normally reveal in such a public forum. The title seemed appropriate however and I could not part with it, the song being about a sort of personal death and rebirth. So I stuck with it. Musically I struggled a bit to make it fit with the rest of the songs on the album, as originally it was an acoustic ballad. I added some synth parts, and our guitarist James Greene added some brilliant guitar work, which eventually transformed it. In the end, I was pleased that we put in the effort, because the song ended up being a favorite of ours, as well as most people who hear the album.
Which one of these songs came out the hardest, or was the longest in the crafting? Why?
“In Time.” We wrote the chorus and felt we had raised the bar so damn high it seemed impossible to write a verse that was in any way complimentary. We eventually got there, largely in part to our bassist Pete Collins who has tremendous bass groove on that one. We felt like it was a special song and it deserved whatever effort was necessary. There were many hours put into that one. The lyrics on the other hand flowed like after work drinks.
Share a random fact about one of your songs on this album, or the album itself.
“Challenger Deep” begins with sounds actually recorded by a titanium encased hydrophone at the bottom of the actual challenger deep, which is the deepest portion of the Mariana Trench, which of course is the deepest part of the world’s oceans, approximately 11KM below the surface. As cool as it would be to pretend that we recorded these sounds in some sort of badass effort to piss off a record label with a purely self-indulgent waste of their money, the truth is that a group of particularly well-funded and tech savvy scientist did this of their own accord and we sampled those noises.
What’s a new album you’ve been loving lately?
Well this is not a terribly new album but War on Drugs 2014 album Lost in the Dream was highly influential as we were writing this album.
Also a friend lent me a virtually unknown yet amazing album by an early 90’s Toronto based group named Pretty Green (which he bought at a garage sale) which captured a sound that instantly made us think of all things “Canadian” and that set us on a quest to find this fountain of Canadiana for ourselves.
In terms of what I’m listening to at this very moment “Why are you Okay” by Band of Horses and it is “Best Kind” as they say. I am sure if you asked the same question next week I would have a different answer though.
How about a local band?
Cabbages and Kings and London Above have both released slick records released this year which are very good in their respective genres.
And if I lit your album collection on fire, what’s one album you’d think to save first?
Okay so we can eliminate all things digital, because they can easily be reclaimed. So we are talking actual petroleum based exceptionally flammable vinyl records. Tough tough tough….. ahh American Beauty by the Grateful Dead maybe. It’s already scratched to shit though….damn maybe I should have protected something else. Also if you lit my album collection on fire I would refuse to answer this question as we would not be on speaking terms.
There are many ways to evaluate a song. But for you, what’s one trait that makes a great song a great song? Name a song you love that fits that bill.
Impossible to answer this question without breaking out a horrible cliché from every music interview ever. Good songs make you feel something. For me good songs from the past make me feel nostalgic. Good songs in the present have some hypnotic quality that makes me unable to focus on anything else when I hear them. These songs make me feel like ADHD.
Other than music, name something else you love.
Are you SURE you want to open that can of worms? Ahhhhh……my mother. I love my mother.