Cola Montreal band Ought Tim Darcy Ben Stidworthy interview

Photo by Colin Medley

The new Cola album Deep in View is all about our superficial connections

We interviewed former Ought band members Tim Darcy and Ben Stidworthy about their new jam.

The announcement of the disbandment of the local post-punk band Ought came in November, but in truth, the band had already called it quits in 2018. On top of that, longtime collaborators Tim Darcy and Ben Stidworthy were already jamming with multi-instrumentalist/drummer Evan Cartwright of U.S. Girls and the Weather Station back in 2019, on a project that would eventually earn the name Cola (an acronym that could stand for “Cost Of Living Adjustment”) and produce a debut album called Deep in View.

“We just didn’t publicly announce anything, really until we made this record,” says Darcy over a Zoom call. “I think part of that was like kind of an old school sentiment of not feeling a need to and the label asked us to not announce anything for a while. So for a lot of people, it was new news. And for us, it had been something that had been years at that point.”

So what started as a stripped-down open D songwriting session with a CR-78 drum machine soon became a full album and new band after Darcy and Stidworthy were finally able to jam with Cartwright.

“We wanted to see how far we could stretch our compositions with just drums, one guitar, one bass, and one voice,” Darcy says.

Deep in View, which was released last Friday, is a welcome new sound that refreshes the past Ought post-punk vibe and utilizes Darcy, Stidworthy and Cartwright to their fullest potentials. The overall lyrical theme touches on the notion of being trapped in a dystopic society not so far into the future. It also has to do with the superficial connection that we as a society have with technology, a connection that was exacerbated by the pandemic’s periods of forced isolation. 

As a three-piece, Cola was constantly trying to refine their sound and make sure the composition of each piece was something that could be played with three people in a room.

“I feel like this record, we kind of shook off a lot of the nervousness and jitters that existed a bit with Ought,” says Stidworthy on the same Zoom call. “We also liked making sure that the mood of each track was not identifiably upbeat and happy or downbeat and sad, but that there was always an ambiguity. The ambiguity kind of made it interesting.”

That ambiguity Stidworthy is refrerring to is heard immediately in Deep in View’s opening track “Blank Curtain,” a droney white noise guitar and grooving bass complemented by a steady drumbeat and Darcy’s detached, omniscient vocal approach. In Cola, Darcy’s lyrics seem way more introspective than on much of Oughts previous albums.

“I think in Ought I was more of a frontperson, and with Cola I view this as more of a post-punk songwriter record, which is refreshing,” Darcy says. 

The name Deep in View is the same as an anthology of philosopher Alan Watts, someone Darcy would listen to frequently throughout the first part of the pandemic. 

“I would go for a run and there’s this one podcast that compiles seemingly hundreds of his Berkeley lectures and it wasn’t like a one-to-one thing of these being my inspiration for the songs, but there was something very introspective about them,” he says. 

Darcy and Stidworthy also love titles that can hold different meanings.

“So it’s going deep within but also like being somehow deep and in view; like being seen and revealing at the same time. And there is a fair bit of contemplation on technology as well.”

Cola is playing a show with local psych rock wizards the Besnard Lakes and Vancouver’s art punks Blessed as part of the upcoming Suoni per il Popolo Festival on June 18. They will then embark on a major U.S. and U.K. tour. 

“We’ve only played two shows so far,” says Stidworthy. “So we’re eager to be in a room with people again and hope they enjoy the new Cola sound.” ■

For more on Cola, please visit the band’s Bandcamp page.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.