We Are the City, wide awake and ready to play 

Indie popsters move beyond their prog rock label at the Squamish Valley Music Festival

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  • Playing Squamish

Cayne McKenzie's phone died. It drowned, actually.

"Mysteriously, we woke up in a San Francisco hotel room and the whole bedside table had been covered in water, and my phone was on the table," says the frontman for alternative pop band We Are the City.

"There were two cups that had water in them on the bedside tables when we went to sleep, and we woke up and the cups were still upright but empty. My phone was on the table, completely soaked."

It wasn't no poltergeist. It wasn't no "Rolling Stones type of trashing a hotel room" escapade, either.

"We're not those kinds of guys to wake up and not remember a water balloon fight from the night before," says McKenzie. "We checked the cups for cracks and there were no cracks, so we figured it was David (guitarist David Menzel) because he's been known to sleepwalk. He's only just started, only on this last tour has things become very exciting."

Geez, sleepwalking can be dangerous, mainly for the sleepwalker.

"Yeah, I know. We'll have to get a leash or something for him," McKenzie says. "We can't prove or disprove it was him though. It was either ghosts or sleepwalking. It could have been me, too, though I sleep like a complete rock."

We Are the City is a three-piece Vancouver-based band made up high school friends who graduated from Kelowna's Mt. Boucherie High School together. The trio has just returned to the Okanagan for the wedding of drummer Andy Huculiak.

"I was going to say 'We're getting married in Peachland.' He's getting married in Peachland, so we're here and I am calling from my parents' house," McKenzie says.

"I've been home from touring for three days and we've had the best of everything the Okanagan can throw at you. There's been a blistering hot day, there was a forest fire that went out really fast, there's been an insane flash storm with wild rains and crazy winds, tons of lightning."

This weekend, We Are the City will experience the best of everything the Sea to Sky region can throw at them. They are playing at The Squamish Valley Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 9. They played the Squamish Festival the first year, their only other performance here.

We Are the City's new album Violent, which came out a year ago has had "interesting stuff" happen to it, McKenzie says.

"We were dropped by our label and so the record had a stunted release... so we took the reins," McKenzie says. A dedicated team of professional friends provided promotional and other support. Then in March this year they found a new indie Vancouver label and management team at Boompa Records.

"They're really nice... They've been doing a fantastic job. Since we've been with them we've done some touring in Europe and now there are plans for two tours in Europe in the fall... and, of course, the Stateside tour," McKenzie says.

What's interesting about We Are the City's music is that it sounds intimate, almost handmade.

"It's funny you should say that but on our next record we will be doing more demoing on our own. Violent was done true big studio style. We wrote the songs at home, made sub-par demos of them where you'd really have to stretch your mind to get what they could sound like. Then we went into a studio to record, but we spent a lot of time trying to recreate what we had in the demo," McKenzie says.

"We were trying to recreate the feeling we had in the really bad demo, so it was an intimate process of really assessing what we had done before and the thought processes. The demos are the innovation, the Chicago Pile moment (the first artificial nuclear reactor)... when they first used uranium they turned on just one light bulb. They had one idea."

McKenzie says that for a long time the band saw themselves as in the tradition of progressive rock. He realized that it was a little more complicated.

"I watched an interview with a band where they said all bands are trying to become popular. Their music was their take on pop music. I so identified with that and I found an affinity with that statement. We hope when we are writing that our music will be a popular choice for people who listen to it," he says.

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