Also what's coming up next for this Toronto based band.
Ducks Ltd. (formerly Ducks Unlimited) have just released their expanded version of Get Bleak, an EP released in 2019 that has recently received a lot of buzz from international listeners. Featuring three new tracks including new single ‘Oblivion’, the Toronto via Melbourne act chats with Mixdown about gear, influences and the process of creating this jangle-pop record.
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Introduce us to Ducks Ltd.: who is the band, and how’d you all end up playing with one another in Toronto?
Tom: It’s me (Tom Mcgreevy) and Evan Lewis. We got to know each other from being around music circles in Toronto. Evan reminded me of this recently, but I think one of our first real conversations was about our shared experience of applying for Canadian residency. We ended up on tour together in different bands and figured out that we were into a lot of the same music and the band grew out of that.
When people think of Toronto’s music scene, I’d imagine their mind would immediately gravitate to artists affiliated with the OVO and XO camps. Could you fill us in on the scene you guys came up in – and Evan, how does it compare to that of the Australian jangle / dole-wave scene? Are there any local groups we should have on our radar?
Evan: Haha! dole-wave. First time I’ve heard that expression! I’ve lived in Toronto most of my adult life so I’m not overly familiar with how the Australian scene compares though I’ve loosely followed it and have enjoyed records by Twerps, Stroppies, The Goon Sax & Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. I imagine it’s pretty similar. The Toronto scene is diverse and bands of all genres are friendly. It’s a nice healthy mix of music lovers and it’s not strange to see the experimental musicians jamming with a poppier act or punk bands in the audience for a synth pop band. Toronto artists i recommend listening to are Cindy Lee, No Frills, New Fries & Carl Didur.
Tom: I’d also throw in Eliza Niemi, whose EP Glass was one of my favorite things I heard last year. Also really love Packs, Quaker Parents, Motorists and our sometimes live bassist and string arranger Paul Erlichman’s project Elrichman!
The songwriting across Get Bleak is truly exuberant and incredibly well-thought out, and the production is super crisp to boot. What did the writing sessions behind this EP look like? How did the project all come together?
Tom: Our process has evolved a bit over time but the core of it has remained essentially that I write the bones of a song and then I bring it to Evan and he helps to give it shape while we make a demo together. With the initial EP there was a step after that where we would play it for a while in a full band set up and then me and Evan would revise the arrangement again after that. We eventually found we were changing things so much in that second revision process that we started cutting the live band part out and dug deeper into the demoing process when it’s just the two of us.
Going through it section by section and making sure everything fits. We found that we share a deep understanding of what our sound is supposed to be, and that the more we drill into the details together the more we sound like us. Playing as a full band is really really fun, but it’s an environment that can make the attention to detail that we get excited about kind of hard to accomplish. The drum machine can play the beat forever while we fiddle with how a 12 bar section is supposed to work. A real drummer (understandably) gets annoyed with us after a while!
Tell us a bit about some of the gear you guys are using to perform and record your songs. Is there anything really exciting you want to talk about?
Evan: A few years back I bought a used Janglebox compression pedal from a Cash Converters. I’m a big Byrds fan and knew Roger Mcguinn was affiliated with it in some way so i picked it up. It has a treble boost circuit that really works for our band. We’ve pretty much used it on all the guitar tracks we’ve tracked in the last little while. Feels strangely cliched to use a Jangle box for our band but it just sounds so great. At this point i couldn’t live without it.
It’s really interesting to hear the differences between Get Bleak and the three newer bonus tracks on this re-release. Can you pinpoint how your songwriting has evolved in the time since Get Bleak initially came out in 2019? Are there any new influences seeping into your songwriting and approach to production?
Evan: Right around the time we tracked the bonus tracks for the E.P my partner showed me an album called Small Time / Hey Hey We’re The Manqués by the Servants and I became hooked. They were one of the C86 bands and write really great melancholic, melodic pop songs. I’m sure their influence seeped into our production.
You’ve also signed on to Carpark Records for the re-release of the EP. How’s the experience of working alongside such a revered indie label been for you both so far?
Tom: Oh it rules! We’re working with them and also Royal Mountain in Canada now and both labels I think are some of the most dedicated and earnestly lovely people in the game. The opportunities they’ve given us have been truly beyond anything we imagined happening for this band. We’d definitely be remiss to not mention Bobo Integral too. Gonzalo, who runs that label, is a guy truly doing God’s work. He hit us up out of the blue when we just had one single out, and agreed to release our EP purely due to his passion for this kind of music and for supporting bands like ours.
So much of the cool stuff that has happened for us subsequently flows from our experience with him and his label. He has excellent taste, and cares so much about the people he works with. We’ve been incredibly fortunate that all of these really genuinely caring people have taken an interest in us. I’m not sure if we would have even continued as a band and made the stuff that we have made if it weren’t for them.
Finally – what’s next on the cards for Ducks Ltd.? Anything else over the horizon you’d like to tell us about?
Tom: We spent a whole year at home working on stuff! I’m not sure what we’re allowed to tell you and what we’re not, but we have made a lot of songs and most of them are coming out this year. When we started this band we had two goals: to do well enough that we had to change our band name (mission accomplished!) and to tour Australia one day. We’ll be down as soon as I can get into the country! I’ve never been, and I can’t wait to appall you and your fellow Australians with the atrocious impression of your accent and horrendous taste in Paul Kelly deep cuts that I have been tormenting Evan with for years!
Get Bleak is out now via Carpark Records.