A Brief Meeting With Departures

By David Nowacki

I first met Nick Liang, the primary singer and songwriter for Winnipeg natives Departures, when he was a temp at HMV a couple of years ago, and the first thing that struck me was how damn savvy he was. I like to think of myself as a fairly well-informed music geek, but man, this guy could geek with the best of them. He had a genuine enthusiasm for all things musical.

After he finished his tenure at ‘the H,’ we unfortunately fell out of touch for a couple of years, during which time Facebook hit its stride and everybody was on it. About a year ago, I started receiving invites and messages telling me about a band he was forming, tentatively titled The Dharma Blues. The first messages seemed pretty fierce, and mentioned a mutual hero of ours, Steve Albini, engineer and musician extraordinaire.

Based on this limited knowledge, I really expected the end result to sound a bit like Albini’s music—which, for the uninitiated, ranges from hard rock to grinding, extremely loud punk—so when I first heard the first EP (now under the banner of Departures,) I was incredibly surprised. It was poppy. It was super poppy. And to all those who may cringe and start to skulk away at this term—be not afraid! This is pop at its very finest, as done by sharp young gentlemen with an ear for composition and an amazing love of the music. The exuberance of the band is palpable; when they play, you know they’re having a good time, and you can’t help but have one yourself. Coupled with a sheen of sharp professionalism unequalled in a band with only one EP and a handful of live shows under their belt.

I went to have a friendly sit-down with Nick to interview him down at plaid-ridden Cousin’s recently, and it was a great interview. I promise! But you sort of had to be there, in that we both had a couple of beers and got to talking, and then the recorder died after about an hour. Upon listening to the recording, two things became quite clear: 1) I’m a terrible interviewer and 2) None of this crap was useable in the traditional question/answer interview format. So what I decided to do what to extol the band as much as possible in the preamble (check!) and then provide some out-of-context quotes from the interview so as to justify the time spent. Here they are:

‘Unadulterated as possible’

‘Veering more towards cold and calculated’

‘The EP, I had sort of a semi-breakdown over’

‘I am the greatest composer to have ever lived’

‘[I am] a tawdry love machine with no limits’

‘This beer is pretty good’

Nick also gave me carte blanche to misquote him, which may have been a mistake on his part.

But I digress. Departures are my favourite Winnipeg band now, and they could very well be yours too. Every show you miss is a disservice to yourself and to your country, so do yourself a favour. Check ‘em out.