By now, Viet Cong‘s story has been pushed and pulled in every direction.
After singer/bassist Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace saw the dissolution of Women, they teamed up with guitarists Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen to form Viet Cong in 2012, hence ushering in the slew of Women-angled texts. Then their debut self-titled dropped at the beginning of this year, ushering new headlines about the gloomy, sharp, gutted sound of their songs. Then several concerts were cancelled due to issues with the band’s name, ushering more headlines about their less-than-PC name.
To say the least, there’s been a lot of news.
Though when it comes to their music, there’s no denying the four-piece are bursting with talent, revisioning post-punk with a relentless ferocity that bites as much as it wags its own tail. “I can’t really listen to it at all anymore, honestly,” admits guitarist Scott “Monty” Munro of their LP. “We recorded the album a year before it came out and those songs had mostly all existed and been demoed a while before that even.”
It makes sense. He notes that they’re all ultimately happy with the record, but with music that tense, the twists and turns lose their appeal when you make your living off it. So, live, Viet Cong rework their material. “We try to keep it interesting,” says Munro. “We all like some pretty harsh music and I think that that could be viewed as ‘challenging’ it.” The more experimental songs–“Death”, “Bunker Buster”, “March of Progress”–are twice the length and triple the intensity, scaring the most fearless fans.
Not all the recorded versions see the skip button on their player. “‘March of Progress’ was one of the ones on the first set of riff tapes that me and Matt traded back and forth,” says Munro. “It’s also one of my favorite track on the record because it contains a lot of different recordings all stitched together. I think that recording set the tone for some of the songs early on.”
Despite the overload of existential anxiety and dread in the album’s framework, Munro believes the album’s weight stems from a general wonder of where we’re headed as species. “I don’t think about death specifically,” he says. “Though if I could choose how I die, I’d go on a yacht in the Caribbean drinking champagne… at pretty much any age.”
Viet Cong are none of the things press frame them as. They’re not the fighting bros from Women, the gloomy dudes yelling on their self-titlted, or the politically-numb band with no regards to Vietnam. They’re kind, albeit short, musicians who find fuel in their instruments. “I always get energized by those [extended] parts of the set,” says Munro. “In the middle of a tour, sometimes I’ll feel tired at the beginning of a set when we go on stage, but by the end I always feel good.”
Above all else, they’re still relatively new kids on the block, and when I ask about what he looks forward to most each night, his answer is more refreshing than the prior: “This is the first band that I’ve played guitar live in, so I really look forward to that still.”