Toronto duo Ducks Ltd released their debut album, Modern Fiction, last week via Royal Mountain and Carpark Records, and it recalls the heyday of '80s jangly pop, with nods to groups like The Wedding Present, R.E.M., The Feelies, The Chills, Echo & The Bunnymen and more. They're great songwriters as well, filling the songs with big hooks and catchy choruses. (New Zealand band The Beths show up to help out on a couple songs as well.) It's a terrific album -- read our review -- and you can listen to it below.
We asked the band's Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis to tell us a bit about the inspirations behind the album. The sonic inspirations might be obvious (see above), so they went a little deeper with their list, including architecture, two different types of football, and more. Also: The Sisters of Mercy. Their commentary is insightful and entertaining, and you can read that below.
Ducks Ltd will be in Brooklyn this Sunday, October 10 at The Broadway for a Modern Fiction release show with Foyer Red and Deer Scout. They've also got UK dates in 2022. All dates are listed below.
DUCKS LTD'S INSPIRATIONS BEHIND NEW ALBUM MODERN FICTION
La Sagrada Familia
An unbelievable place! Just an utter architectural marvel, and I think one of the most earnestly incredible things I have ever seen in my life. That said, my experience of it was coloured by the fact that the previous evening me and my friends had gone to see a band, and at the show met the editor of a Barcelona-based music magazine who then took us to roughly 800 bars and introduced us to a locally popular drink called "Thunderbitch." Wherever Jordi is I would like to thank him for the night out, and also for the levels of truly gruesome introspection I experienced while taking in Gaudi's awe-inspiring monument to God the next day during possibly the most wretched hangover of my entire life. It was a great way to learn things about feeling small, and a thing that "Fit To Burst" is specifically about, and probably many of the other songs are obliquely about.
The drawn Grand Final of 2010
At one point during the pandemic Evan told me about his childhood love of the Australian Rules Football legend Gary Ablett Sr. With it being the pandemic when I had nothing better to do I then went home and spent an entire night getting extremely interested in Australian Rules Football, and its history and characters (Tony Lockett! What a fucking psychopath!). In the context of that I read about the drawn Grand Final, which happened in 2010. Basically it's like if the Super Bowl ended in a tie, in this case between Collingwood and St Kilda, and then a week later they replayed it and Collingwood won commandingly. This is all referenced in the second verse of "Grand Final Day," which is a song about participating in other people's home sickness (which is very much what I was doing when I spent hours learning about the AFL!) and a bunch of experiences I've had watching sports with other people in far flung time zones.
A 2012 Barney Ronay column about Barcelona FC
The title of "Sullen Leering Hope" comes from a phrase that stuck with me in a column by the Guardian football writer Barney Ronay about how annoying peak Messi-Guardiola Barcelona were. The full context (which I will include too much of because it is very good) was: Most teams play like Barcelona once a season for about five seconds. Barcelona play like Barcelona all the time. It is a continual popping of champagne corks, a kind of BMW 5 Series football: undeniably high-spec, wondrous production values, devoid of ragged edges. Barcelona deliver every time at a pitch of homogenised consumer perfection. There is no need for faith, despair or sullen leering hope.
As a fellow "person who is annoyed by Barcelona," the column appealed to me, but that phrase kind of got me on a deeper level. That "sullen leering hope" is definitely a big part of being a football fan, but I think believing in a happy outcome that feels almost impossible is a big part of living in general in a world where only the very rich have anything resembling control. I think that's why the phrase knocked around my head for years, and then eventually I found a song for it.
The 12 inch mix of Sisters of Mercy's "Vision Thing"
This is technically not from the album, but a reference from "As Big As All Outside" which was on the expanded reissue of our Get Bleak EP. Considering that came out relatively close to the album I am counting it because I want to talk about Sisters of Mercy (I always want to talk about Sisters of Mercy!). I don't think we could really call them a musical influence as they are sonically pretty far from what we do, but they're one of my absolute favorite bands. "Vision Thing" is a later track, and the title comes from a Geroge HW Bush quote (he is "the other motherfucker in a motorcade" in the song). It's such a fun one, and the 12" mix is pure, undiluted Andrew Eldritch. They basically just add on an extra three minutes for him to do dramatic laughs in. It rules! It's only happened to me a couple times, but there is a particular thrill in hearing this in a bar and then realizing it's the 12 inch mix and that you are gonna get the goofy Eldritch bonus period at the end, and that feeling is what I'm referencing at the end of "As Big As All Outside"!
Nihilism & Gnosticism in Modern Fiction
The album gets its title from a course I took in University called Nihilism and Gnosticism in Modern Fiction, which was quite formative for me. We read Malcolm Lowry and Nathanael West and A LOT of Graham Greene because the professor was an older Catholic guy who really connected with him. I also really connected with him! In particular there is a thing that is the hallmark of a lot of his work where he writes about very personal crises (often of faith) in the context of large scale human disasters. There are a bunch of examples, The Comedians which is set in Haiti during the rule of Papa Doc Duvalier, The Power And The Glory which is set during a period of Catholic suppression in Mexico following the Cristero War, and particularly The End Of The Affair which is set in England during the Blitz. There are some definite colonialist problems with some of these that I don't want to leave unacknowledged, but I think there is something really compelling in the way he works the wider scale tragedies and the personal ones against each other, and while I would not presume to say I am doing it on anything close to the level that he does, that interplay informed the way I tried to approach writing an album during a period of time when it felt like the world was falling apart.