Ducks Ltd. Are Bound By Bleakness

The jangle-pop collaborators are dancing through the dark days on new album, Modern Fiction.

by Daniel Hartmann

Photo by Christiane Johnston

After a chance encounter several years ago at a Dilly Dally concert in Toronto, Tom MGreevy and Evan Lewis developed a close creative relationship that led them to creating jangly pop music together as Ducks Ltd. 

In a world where digital and analog collide, both musicians are obsessed with tinkering in their creative spaces while taking great care in making tracks on the computer sound human and lo-fi. Taking cues from 80s alt-pop innovators Orange Juice and their influential album, Rip It Up, the pair craft a unique sound that folds in a DIY punk rock ethos with danceable chorus-covered rhythms.

Three years after their critically acclaimed 2018 debut, their new album Modern Fiction is an exuberant reflection on decay that came together in the face of separation. One of the singles on the album — “How Lonely Are You?” — speaks directly to the literal distance between them as the two collaborators were separated for an extended period of time over the course of the pandemic. 

Like any self-respecting indie band on a budget, they recorded the album themselves in a warehouse basement. We connected with McGreevy to discuss his friendship with Lewis, the thesis for their new album, and the benefits of recording music at your own pace, even if it means having to take it underground. 

You guys recorded your new album in a basement. How did that come about? 

We just asked. Thank you to Jeff, Evan’s boss. It was very kind of him to let us use it. We set up in a corner and could really take our time. We both had experiences where you do the more traditional studio setup, and then you’re stuck with what you did there. We wanted to be able to set up for a long period and not worry about time.

What was your first memory of meeting Evan?

We talked about our mutual immigration experiences and how we were both applying for permanent residency. Evan is from Australia and I mostly grew up in the States but I was born in the UK. 

How would you describe your artistic relationship?

I think we are opposites and in a way that works well. Evan is very disciplined, organized, and into the process. He’s really good at thinking about the bigger auditory picture; what the feel should be, and how to create that feel. I don’t think about things in that way. I’m more interested in the feeling of a song while I’m making it for like an hour and a half, and then I move on. It’s a good relationship. We have a mutual understanding of what things are supposed to sound like, but we come at it from two different directions.

What would you say was the thesis of this new album?

It’s about the experience of living through and with decline — societal and personal. In a lot of jangle pop or British music from the 80s, the music reflects the bleakness of the times without addressing it directly. That style of writing interests me. 

How did you fall in love with jangle pop?

When I first heard Orange Juice when I was 16.

What record has inspired you the most in your life?

Orange Juice’s “Rip It Up.” Also, McCarthy’s I Am a Wallet opened up a different form of writing that changed my perspective. 

What are you most proud of with the project?

It feels nice that Evan and I had this vision for a long time, and we didn’t compromise on it and made the thing we wanted to make. It feels cool to have followed through on something in that way.

How do you feel about being able to play the album live soon?

We just started practicing again, and it was cool. It was such a regular part of my life for so long, and then it just stopped. It’s a strange feeling to have it back now but it’s exciting. We play things a lot faster live and tend to be a lot punkier than we would seem to be. 

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