Interview: Viet Cong
We engage guitarist Scott ‘Monty’ Munro in some deep existentialist debates about bananas…
When Monty picks up the phone he’s slightly worse for wear, in a groggy state of jetlag and the effects of last night’s partying after touchdown in London. This seems to be a general theme for life in Viet Cong though, as he regularly mentions a previous show and then how wild it got. “Those New York shows were pretty messy.. I don’t really remember what happened but it was probably good… y’know?”
We started with the controversy over their band name, which was inspired by watching war movies when younger where “the Viet Cong guys were always the badasses.” Now Monty admits he regrets this comment, as the band receive a considerable amount of hatemail. One girl told them “my family was in a Viet Cong prisoner of war camp for 10 years”, though they have managed to avoid an actual physical confrontation. He attributed the choice of name to the differing perceptions of the Vietnam war in Canada and America, and the way it is presented in education. He always saw the Viet Cong as the good guys, but notes the “terrible atrocities on all sides”, compared to the more glorified perception of it in America . Monty might regret the comment he made but he stood by the name of the band with a resolute “no” to whether he regretted the name of the band, and compared their divisive name to post-punk legends Joy Division.
The album has been described by many as “the perfect winter album”, so we wonder whether it was shaped by the chilly climate of their hometown of Calgary. When Monty was asked for his opinion on this statement he gave us a typically pragmatic response: “The music that gets made in colder climes is generally just different from warmer climates.” But he says it’s not so much that it inspires the music, but rather that more time is spent inside the studio making music rather than outside drinking beers in the backyard.
Two members of Viet Cong are formerly of the disbanded Women, so we asked whether the press’ constant referral to Women gets a little annoying for him (Monty not personally being a past member). He doesn’t seem to mind too much, as without Women’s break-up, Viet Cong would have never come into being. He notes the lineage between Women’s material and their self- released EP, which was made up of Matt’s leftover riffs from Women, but adds that their January-released eponymous debut was much more of an individual conception. “If people wanna compare us to Women I don’t mind, I thought they were an awesome band.”
Despite the infamous onstage fight between Matt and his brother, which resulted in Women’s break-up, Viet Cong have been getting on great, even surviving a 7 week tour in a Toyota Echo. There seems to be an element of luck about this however, as the whole band weren’t close before the tour, but fortunately they’ve gelled well. Monty is incredibly excited for their guitarist Danny on their upcoming European tour: “its fun and fresh again because Danny’s never been to any of these places, so he’s always super stoked about it.” Monty personally is more eager for their tours in the U.S. later in the year, just because he wants to go somewhere warm, but also highlights Portugal and Italy as European countries that he’s enthused to visit, to further highlight this climate point. He did show a fair bit of love for England, Yorkshire in particular, through his views on one particular Leeds venue. “I think its possible that the Brudenell Social Club might be the best venue in the whole world.” Monty was basing this statement off what he knew of the bar and the games room connected to the venue, but when we informed him they also serve pizza he immediately proclaimed it: “absolutely the best venue in the world!”
The members of the band come from a wide variety of musical backgrounds. The Viet Cong sound came “organically from us jamming together.” On tour with Chad, the two decided to work on recordings without serious vision. Danny and Mike joined in the midst of their first EP Cassette. Mike got back from tour with Porcelain Raft when he joined the band, pretty much straight away. Monty says it wasn’t until the four of them began jamming together that the sound began to develop. The first track they wrote, ironically, was ‘Death’, and with subsequent touring the sound really started to come together. However, ‘Death’ naturally had to come at the end of the short, brutal life of Viet Cong’s debut album, as what could possibly come after that urgent, frantic finale? Monty seemed resistant to identify with the post punk tag that critics have given them, being such a wide genre and vague term, instead choosing to define Viet Cong as a straight-up rock record (an even wider genre and vaguer term).
They keep in mind “the ridiculousness of being” that defined their Cassette EP, and the album runs with a similar existentialist approach. He said it’s always important to bear in mind “just how stupid everything is. If you can’t laugh at a situation you’re probably not having a great life.” He elaborated: “people living in the western world have it better than they’ve ever had it.” He then made a claim which our researchers have been thus far unable to verify: “French royalty in the 1600s couldn’t buy a banana, now I can just go down the street and buy one, that’s insane, it’s the height of luxury! You can just get whatever you want whenever you want it. There’s obviously some serious problems still in the world right now but many people right now are living better than anyone ever has. I feel there’s not much to complain about.” He seemed to have steered off the banana topic, but you can’t keep a passionate man away from his potassium. “They’re so cheap, you can basically get one for free!” he digresses. Then confusion and doubt crept into his love of bananas: “how does the banana get here?” he asks “where did it grow and how did it get to my frozen city? THAT’S the ridiculousness of being.”
It has been announced that Viet Cong are playing both Field Day and Green Man festivals this summer. Their debut album Viet Cong is out now on Jagjaguwar / Flemish Eye.