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Staying Up Late With Other People

Vancouver darkwave connoisseur Mark Crickmay channels the weight of the world into new album, Insomniac.

by Ben Boddez

Photos by Analissa Longoria

If you’ve been feeling disillusioned by the state of the world lately, Vancouver band Other People have the album for you. Fontman Mark Crickmay—a former member of darkwave outfit ACTORS—describes his latest project as a “queer-centred” band combining “elements of 70s post-punk, indie pop, and modern psychedelia to create a danceable and endearing sound.” And while it really is a fun and genre-bending sonic adventure, Other People’s debut LP finds Crickmay up until the early hours of the morning with climate change, housing costs, and human rights violations on the brain. 

Delivering lyrical salvoes about a variety of pressing and important topics affecting not only his city, but the world at large, Crickmay and Other People set them to a constantly surprising and upbeat collection of sounds that let listeners tap their feet while raging along with them. From syncopated, surf-rock inspired guitar riffs to delightfully bright and melodic fuzzy piano hooks and prog-heavy, spaced-out tracks that let his storytelling side shine, Insomniac was inspired by Crickmay’s ongoing battles with mental health and the necessity of getting through the world of today as a chronically sleep-deprived individual who also happens to belong to the LGBTQ2S+ community. 

We caught up with Crickmay below to talk about balancing serious topics with danceable beats, mental health and what happens when you stay up all night. 

Who have been some of your musical inspirations? What have you been listening to lately?

Being ADD, my tastes are continually evolving. For this album a lot of musical inspiration came from early ’70s post-punk like The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen, but with modern inspirations thrown in the mix like The Strokes, Tame Impala, Radiohead and Paramore. Lately I’ve been listening to a mix of Paramore’s This Is Why, The Beatles, U2’s War, Gojira’s The Way of all Flesh, Divino Nino’s Foam, and Fleetwood Mac! I can’t really sit still for very long.

 

 

Listening to Insomniac basically feels like Vancouver Anxiety: The Album. What are some of the worst things about the city?

There’s definitely a flourishing anxiety about living in Vancouver; it is after all one of the least affordable cities in the world. Honestly, the housing, homeless, and opioid crises are among my worst fears in this city. It doesn’t help that we elected a mayor who supports nearly all of the pitfalls we’re all fighting so hard to correct. Do we really need government funding for the VPD, skyrocketing housing/rental prices and anti LGBTQ2S+ legislature? Honestly, I want everyone to be able to buy reasonably priced foods, afford shelter and to be able to exist in their own skin. In simple terms, I’m terrified for the future of this city.

The shimmering yet ominous instrumental pieces that appear in the intro, interlude and outro really stood out – is there any meaning behind them in the way they sound and how they appear throughout?

Yes actually! It’s supposed to be a constant reminder of how precious our time is in this world, and that the anxieties that we stress about on a daily, hourly, minutely sort of way are really all just meager and detrimental to our very well being. I wanted these sounds to be jarring and eerie while retaining creepily soothing undertones. 

How do you balance tackling these serious topics with the band’s brighter sound? Do you feel like we need to make these things more upbeat and entertaining for them to really hit home?

They’re topics we should be able to talk openly about without judgement or reservation. I most definitely take myself a little too seriously at times, so I typically write about the things that bother me, which is a LOT of the things going on in our city, nation, and the world. At the same time, I feel that music should be engaging. Not everyone wants to hear someone whining about all the things we’re all experiencing without at least a danceable beat or hooky melody. 

 

 

You address quite a lot in powerful ways here – do you have any favourite lyrical moments, or ones that you’re proudest of because you think they needed to be said/heard?

I am really proud of my spoken word rant in the first chorus of “Deadman.” I feel this lyrical passage really sets the tone for the anxieties and stresses I was trying to convey throughout the whole album. It was a last minute addition; I wasn’t happy with the choruses as they rung a little too true melodically to a particular animated superhero theme (I’ll let you try and figure that one out) so I just sort of got up and ranted about what was on my mind; chronic sleep deprivation, the housing and homeless crisis, climate change, et voila! Other than that I’m quite proud of how I conveyed the necessity for petty theft in “Thieving.”

Another song that stands out is “To Live A Better Life,” which sounds like someone losing their mind after not being able to get any sleep, the music getting spaced-out and woozy. How did this one come together?

Not far off with your interpretation! This one came about in two parts: The first half of my life sleep was never something I worried about – I worked a nine to five day job and would work in Steve Bays’ Tugboat Studios from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and I’d do that five to seven days a week with no issue. Then along came age and mental health. I developed Chronic Sleep Deprivation and was actively losing my mind, my body, and my soul in the process. I had to cut out all stimulants, caffeine included, alcohol which I was relying on to put me to sleep, and went through hell trying to even myself out again. Shout out to my partner and fiancé Cristina for bearing through my growing pains and loving me unconditionally, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her support. I wanted the feeling of sleep deprivation to be tangible, and lyrically for people to relate to what it’s like being up in the witching hours of the night deliriously working on your craft but questioning whether any of it will really matter when you finally awake from that hypnotic state.

What’s next for Other People? Anything else you’d like us to know?

Oh that’s a loaded question I’ll happily answer. We have our album release show at Green Auto Music on March 16 with Post Modern Connection and Grade School – so that’s first up. I’m already about halfway done the next album, which will be a sonic departure from Insomniac, featuring more synths, electronic percussion and moving in a more pop direction. No release date for that yet, but I can definitely tell you we’ll have a summer song with an accompanying music video and it might even be featuring a local Light Organ alumni artist (it definitely does). We’ve also just launched a merch store in tandem with the Insomniac release.