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Moist Rises With the Tide on End Of The Ocean

David Usher and friends reignite the flame of their collective creativity, diving into a brave new world.

by Christine Leonard

It’s been eight years since Canadian alt-rock mainstays Moist released their last album, Glory Under Dangerous Skies, a hiatus that naturally prompted fans to speculate that the 2014 album might have actually been their swan song. Given the success of lead singer David Usher’s solo career and the myriad stressors pulling the accomplished music vets in different directions, no one would have faulted them for throwing in the towel. But in a time when speaking moistly is verboten they found solace in reigniting the flame of their collective creativity and triumphed over adversity. The result is End Of The Ocean (Known Accomplice Records), a refreshing collection of heartfelt heavy hitters that are bound to generate waves in 2022.

“There are deep divisions that are going on right now,” says Usher. “The revelations that Donald Trump’s presidency brought to the real fabric of the social and political culture has brought a lot of things to light where things are much more plain about what the real divisions are within this country.”

Flashing back to 2020, Usher recounts how he and his bandmates — lead guitarist Mark Makoway, keyboardist Kevin Young, bassist Jeff Pearce, rhythm guitarist Jonathan Gallivan and drummer Francis Fillion — were fortunate enough to lay down the foundations of End Of The Ocean just as the pandemic’s shadow was starting to fall across Canada. “We had just finished the Silver 25th Anniversary Tour and were just trying to figure out if we wanted to go back into the studio so we got together,” Usher explains. “We were just songwriting in Montreal really loosely with no expectations and songs just came together very quickly for us. Almost immediately after we went into the studio and started recording. It was right as the pandemic was hitting. I flew to Toronto and the airports were empty. We had only been in the studio for a couple of days when things started to unfold.”

Forced into isolation, Usher and his counterparts continued to record and refine The End Of The Ocean from their respective remote locations, collaborating digitally to close the distances between them and bring the album’s content into focus. “It got to the point where I think everyone had a lot of optimism that things were going to get better and bounce back, but with the numbers on the rise it seemed pretty obvious that things won’t be back for a while,” says Usher. “We took a little while to evaluate what was going on with the world and try to figure out how we were going to finish the record. In hindsight, no one knew what was happening at the beginning – so when it became clear that we wouldn’t be getting together anytime soon we all started working on our parts on our own. Some of us have studios, but it’s a very different thing recording and tracking your own vocals. It’s not my first preference, because I’m not an engineer, but it was an interesting experience for sure.”

While Usher may not be thrilled to be recording a bedroom album at this juncture of his career, Usher was grateful for the engineering talents of bandmate Mark Makoway who put his sound production and mixing skills to work, unifying and elevating Moist’s raw tunes into big indie rock tuna. “Every album takes a different trajectory, having Mark in the band made everything work on this record,” Usher observes. “We were very isolated in our own places and Mark knowing each of us so well and pulling all the pieces together made a huge difference. This time around, we had to give feedback individually and normally you’d sit around in the studio and tweak the different instruments and sounds live. Mark has his own take on things but he knows how we want to sound as a band, and that really helps.”

As far as Usher is concerned, there is at least one ‘silver’ lining to the dark cloud that has hovered over the past two years, in that the self-education and practical adaptations we’ve undertaken will inevitably pay dividends in the future. “I think that this pandemic has really pushed these digital ways of working in everything, in work and in life. It’s pushed us 10 years ahead in one year. It’s pressed our move to embracing technology and certain platforms in a way that we might not have done or have taken much longer to do.”

Commiserating with peer groups The Tea Party, Headstones, and Sloan over the cancellation of their joint Saints + Sinners Tour in 2021, Moist is poised to leap into the Year of the Tiger with a battery of hot tracks that have yet to be heard live. Eager to share their work with audiences by any means possible, Moist has put their energy into delivering dynamic videos to help propel the album’s most compelling singles, including “Put A Devil On It,” “Tarantino,” and “End Of The Ocean.”

Drawn from footage shot for the film Off World, the cinematic accompaniment to the album’s deeply emotive title-track adapts original footage from director Mateo Guez’s movie, which follows a young man from Toronto as he returns to his birthplace in one of the Philippine’s biggest slum neighbourhoods. “All of that fell just together,” Usher recalls. “The actual video is from a short film I narrated many years ago. When we were trying to figure out what to do for a video for ‘End Of The Ocean,’ it was like, ‘What can we do now that has some sort of poignancy and relevance with what’s going on today?’ It’s incredible footage and it has such a strong resonance with what a lot of us are thinking about, which is the end of growth, the unsustainability of our economic system, but also our culture and our individual lives, and how that’s going to play out in the next couple of years. I mean, we thought the pandemic was something — I think we’re in for a big surprise when we really find out what disruption means.”

Disrupting synapsis and raising eyebrows with their next video ambition, Usher and company opted to explore the realm of the bizarre when seeking imagery to describe their tribute track “Tarantino.” “I’m always looking for ideas that spark me and I’m motivated by things that I think are going to engage my own senses. When we were looking for a video for ‘Tarantino’ there was a National Film Board project by David Barlow-Krelina; he had made this incredible video called ‘Caterpillarplasty’ that was super engaging, and when we were thinking about the song itself, and the director Quentin Tarantino, it really appealed to my sense of humour. Some people didn’t find it that funny; some people were offended by it, but I loved it.”

While they may have toned down the more extreme elements of Barlow-Krelina’s creature feature for public consumption, Moist can’t wait to blow off some steam – whether it’s on stage or screen – and finally expose the world to the tsunami that is End Of The Ocean. “It’s hard to keep track of the when and the where, especially in covid times, but we’re excited that it’s out. Wishing we could play more, but that’s another story.”