by Matthew Dyck
Stumbling on Vikings’ yet to be released recordings was kind of like spotting an offshore ship I wasn’t meant to see. Despite playing to large crowds at The Lytics’ CD release show, and opening for touring acts Twin Shadow and Poolside, Vikings have remained almost entirely off the Internet’s radar as the electro-pop trio gathers a following through word of mouth alone. So, naturally, I was curious why an act so catchy would purposefully keep such a low profile. After a daylong blizzard, vocalist Josh Youngson and brothers Dave and James McNabb braved the snow to have coffee with Stylus and reveal their secret strategy to take over your eardrums in 2013 – well, maybe not so secret anymore.
Both the air of mystery surrounding Vikings, and their lack of MySpace, Facebook, or independent website, is all a calculated move on their part. “But they’re all coming,” Youngson assures me. “You’ll be able to find us everywhere.”
Their plan is to release their debut in three parts, with every section coinciding with the release of a new music video and containing remixes by other artists, as well. “Some of my favorite songs have come from remixes by other artists,” says Dave. “There are festivals happening all the time and DJs playing around the world, and most of them won’t play original versions of songs. So it’s a different way for us to get it out there.”
It’s the kind of collaborative process that has been shaping the band’s sound since late 2011, when the trio first hit the record button in their basement studio. And bonding over coffee and cigarettes during marathon writing/recording sessions has produced the kind of eclectic electronic pop songs that are as catchy as they are hard to define.
“What I wanted was something of a dreamscape, really fantasy-based, and have the song translate towards that – something that acknowledges the 80s but is really more focused on the future,” explains Youngson. To make connections between Vikings and their influences is no easy feat. “There are hundreds of bands that we bond over,” says Dave.
But at the core of every Vikings track lies a great pop song – utilizing a host of electronic instruments, including analogue synths and Native Instrument machines, opened the tracks up to endless possibilities. According to Youngson, “They’re songs that will hopefully make you experience worlds that are outside the one you’re in and take you on a journey.”
“We’ll take things that are sonically beautiful and then mix them with things that are going to make people go really crazy at a live show,” continues Youngson. “Music like that is naturally infectious when you see it.”
While Vikings’ music looks forward, each member’s background fills out their hook-heavy and expansive sound, both on the stage and in their recordings: Youngson has plenty of front-man experience as the former vocalist of Punk/Metal band Sick City, James McNabb has been cutting his teeth as a local DJ, and brother Dave’s education in Audio Engineering at Precursor Productions has been bringing out Vikings’ deadly style in the recordings, which greatly improved their initial efforts.
“We wrote and recorded the majority of everything in our studio,” says Dave. “But when we sent it away to get mastered, it wasn’t where it needed to be in our eyes and in our ears.”
What happened next was four months of the band working overtime, stripping the songs down to their core and starting from scratch to achieve the sound they needed. “We spent a lot of time with Andrew [Yankiwski] at Precursor mixing and mastering our tracks,” Dave explains. “It was cool because I was in class for four hours and then the guys would show up to work on stuff for five or six hours, so I would be there all day.”
It’s the kind of investment and attention to detail that’s making Vikings the band to look out for in the coming months. “We’ve fine-tuned our live show,” says Dave. “We walk away from every show feeling like we’ve ran two miles. We definitely feed off of the adrenaline that comes with playing live.”
And the response from fans has been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s exciting because people are asking, people are bugging us, writing on The Pyramid’s Facebook wall, ‘Where can I find these guys?’” Artists from across the globe are taking notice, too, as electronic acts apply finishing touches to their versions of Vikings’ sound.
“Daytona from Paris is contributing, French Fox from Montréal, and Box of Wolves from Winnipeg. Everyone we send our stuff to wants more,” Youngson tells me. “So we’re finally ready to give people what they want.”