Northern Transmissions caught up with Ought member Ben Stidworthy somewhere between Utah and and Idaho. The band is currently on tour promoting their new album More Than any Other Day.
Northern Transmissions: Ought is based in Montreal. You’re all from different parts of the US, except for Tim who is from Australia. What attracted you guys to the city?
Ben Stidworthy: Originally, we all came here to go to school. Our drummer Tim moved here on an exchange program. The band came together through various friends and an assortment of musicians. We were all in different bands beforehand, and we really love Montreal. It is a great city to make music in. There’s such a creative and vibrant art scene here. It’s rewarding and inspiring.
NT: How does living in such a politically charged city effect your writing?
BS: None of us are from here, and we are also anglos. It still effects us though. You have to be effected and influenced by it if you live here. People are very passionate about culture, language, and politics. There are so many different cultural groups here, so much art, and much of it is influenced by the history of the city. It’s not like New York, where there are a million things going on, but always enough that there is something interesting happening. The arts community here is very supportive of our music, too.
NT: Constellation seems to be a really good fit for Ought. They also manage and do your PR. Was their co-operative structure something that attracted you to them?
BS: I think that being Montreal based and having Constellation in the same city made it really appealing to us. Somehow, somebody over there had heard our album and really liked it. We really admire Constellation, and the way they do things. In an era where there are blurred lines of what record companies do, they are really genuine. They put out genuine music, and are really passionate about it. I could never picture Ought being on a different label. It feels really special working with people who believe in us and are on board with what we’re doing.
NT: Many of the tracks on More Than Any Other Day were originally released on Bandcamp. You guys later went into Hotel 2 Tango to work on them with engineer Radwan Moumneh (Suuns, Matana Roberts, Jerusalem In My Heart). Did this change the scope of the album?
BS: We wanted to make a cohesive album, and we had the opportunity to work with a great engineer. We played many shows, so we had the opportunity to polish the songs beforehand. We also wanted to go into the studio playing the songs really well. We’re really happy with the sound of the album, and how it all came together. In the end, all of the songs structures stayed the same except for “Pleasant Heart”.
NT: Ought is a politically engaged band. Do you think there’s a place or responsibility for artists to to educate younger listeners about certain issues?
BS: Personally, I think it’s quite tricky and complicated. Whose voices are being amplified, and how deep is their passion? There’s always a place for it somewhere. I think it really does vary from person to person. The band Priests have a lot of valid things to say. Things also come up in interviews, which certain artists will bring attention to, ideas that broad scale politics will usually gloss over.
NT: Which five albums are still influencing Ought?
Answered by the whole band:
Dirty Three – Horse Stories
Joni Mitchell – Blue
Lung Butter – Win Some/Lose Most
Liam The Younger – Clear Skies Over Black River
Television – Marquee Moon