THE CUT LOSSES – Review of debut single “It's All Inside My Head” and interview.
The only thing better than good music is good music that originates close to home. For that reason, it was a huge surprise for us to discover Langley, British Columbia-based psych-pop band the Cut Losses earlier this year. The Cut Losses is the musical project of multi-instrumentalist Patrick McWilliams. With the help of a few close friends and various Vancouver musicians, McWilliams will release the Cut Losses debut E.P. “Lightning Dolphin” in late 2016. Holy Smokes had the opportunity to review the first single “It's All Inside My Head” and talk details with McWilliams.
The debut single successfully captures all the elements of the psych-pop sound that is becoming so popular, partially due to the incredible success of bands like Tame Impala and Real Estate. “It's All Inside My Head” highlights McWilliams talent as both a multi-instrumentalist and a songwriter by tastefully combining a retro-pop vibe, church-hall piano and organs, and driving rhythm into an unconventional song structure that burrows the leading vocal hook,“I think it’s all inside my head” (a reference to the isolation and anxiety he felt while writing the record) deep into your subconscious. The song is further defined with smooth, acid-washed chord changes, new-wave inspired guitar and a saxophone solo that blends so naturally you'll have to pull your mind out of the ‘80s trip you fell into. McWilliams creatively blends a lazy, psychedelic mood with tight upbeat drums, and high-energy verse vocals to create a sound that is a fine blend of psych-pop energy.
Although the song is off the Cut Losses’ debut album, McWilliams has proven himself to be a talented song writer with a knack for creating pop-inspired hooks and dreamy soundscapes with tasteful layers of instruments. We're eagerly anticipating the album and hope the Cut Losses continue to evolve over the coming years.
Matt: How long have you been making music as The Cut Losses?
Patrick: I started the Cut Losses in high school around 2012 as a two-piece and was drumming at the time. It was more of a fun weekend thing and we didn’t really take ourselves too seriously. After things fell apart, I tried to restart it as a trio and this time I was singing and playing guitar. I took some turns playing bass as well which was cool because I got to see how all the parts in my songs fit together. The songs and line-up kept changing, so I guess it’s only the name that's been around for a while, but for me it's mostly just about the sentiment and how it represents my music. Last year I nearly stopped Cut Losses all together and really didn’t like what I was playing. Up until this year it had never been something I was counting on continuing, so the current songs and “band” have only been around since January of this year (2016).
Matt: Are the Cut Losses a full band, or is it a solo project? Who does the writing?
Patrick: I’ve always been the writer for the Cut Losses. I could never rely on people sticking around, so it was really hard to pass the torch to anyone knowing they’d be gone in a week and I would have to re-write the part or erase the song. Plus, it seems like everyone around here kind of fits into one of three genres based on their demographic location around Vancouver, except I don’t and people look at me like I’m some kind of alien. The songs on my latest album are 100% written by me, but this time I had production help from Felix Fung. I think a lot of people are afraid of writing songs themselves because they don’t want to come across as narcissistic, but in my opinion it rounds you out as a musician. When you’re in my position you don’t have any other option.
Matt: Is this a studio project, or do you play live shows?
Patrick: In high school, the main focus was just playing shows because you want to be in front of an audience and show all of your friends that you have a band. I think I carried that mentality over for far too long and it really affected my songwriting even into adulthood. I was putting no effort into my songs because I wanted to be playing shows and being seen. With the new album, it was exactly the opposite. I have some songs that have layers and layers of parts, so playing them live would be tough without an Arcade-Fire-sized band. I haven’t even thought about performing yet; I just wanted to put out an album that sounded amazing to hear through headphones. There’s no band behind me either and nothing’s booked, but who knows, right?
Matt: Can you talk about the songwriting process? How does a typical Cut Losses song come to be?
Patrick: I know a lot of people have songs that naturally come to them, and I envy that greatly. I have probably only written 12 songs or so in the entire time I’ve been a musician. For my album, the songs all came into existence over the span of 12 days downtown at Felix’s studio Little Red Sounds. I had a lot of self-reflecting going on at the time, as well as horrible anxiety and the fear that I was going to die. I just started suffering from panic attacks over the past year, and most of the lyrics were genuine questions I was asking myself and keeping notes of. A really forward theme on the album is definitely isolation and uncertainty. Once I had a few sentences together, I would usually just repeat them over some chords and see how they flowed together. Since I started off as a drummer, finding the rhythm of a song comes really easy and I build the rest from there.
Matt: How do you produce/record your music? What recording programs do you use?
Patrick: In my bedroom, where I do most of my writing/recording, I use Garageband and Logic Pro Studio. I have a really small room, it’s probably like 8 feet by 12 feet, and fitting drums or amps in here is really tricky. After I quit music last year, I got a macbook which came with Garageband. It’s really useful and straightforward and there is a ton of sounds to work with. I found it really inspiring, so in part I would say that program is to thank for this record.
Matt: What other musicians played on the record?
Patrick: I had my best friend Duncan Lee drum and play guitar on a few of the tracks. We’ve been wanting to do something together now for about 8 years, but we’ve always been in different bands. Our styles are really similar and I look up to him so much as an artist, so it was cool to see what he brought to the table for my songs. On two of the songs I had back-up vocals by Jovana Golubovicfrom the band Les Chausettes. I also went to a bunch of their shows while I was down here recording and it felt good to be around other musicians and not locked in my room for once. Matty Reed from the Pretty’s also played some saxophone on a few songs, which added a whole new niche to my songwriting that I never thought I would get to fulfil.
Matt: What are the Cut Losses plans for 2016/2017?
Patrick: Right now I’m pretty focused on putting out this album and just letting it soak in and have it’s own time to breathe. I hurt my back pretty bad last week so i’ve been in bed on painkillers and had an X-Ray done today so hopefully I’ll be back to normal soon. I’m really scared of dying, so if that’s the case then I’ll be trying to write as much music as I can. There are a few videos in the works currently to accompany the album. It’s a waiting game for a lot of things at this point, but I am really ambitious so I’m sure there will be a few things happening with me and the Cut Losses over the next year.
Matt: Can you tell us about a couple of local Vancouver bands you are currently excited about?
Patrick: Les Chaussettes, Girlfriends and Boyfriends, Mode Moderne. The Pretty’s and anything Duncan Lee does. Aside from that Vancouver really sucks for music right now, and I know I was equally to blame for it.
Matt: What’s one current album everyone should check out?
Patrick: New Misery - Cullen Omori