Bodywash told us how their dream pop went dark

When the Montreal band’s songwriting duo felt their whole concept of home slipping away, they threw all their frustrations at their second album, I Held the Shape While I Could.

After the 2020 tour for their album Comforter was cut short due to the pandemic, like many bands, the Bodywash songwriting duo, Chris Steward and Rosie Long Decter, used their time to write new music. But though the light dream pop/shoegaze elements were still there, Steward and Long Decter found themselves feeling dejected, almost dislocated from what they considered home. 

The whole concept of home seemed to be fractured and disparaging for different reasons. Friends were forced to move away, windows to stores and venues shut — some never to open again. It became harder and harder for the pair to find the light in the darkness as they did with Comforter. This led to a darker and more experimental sound on the new, second LP, I Held the Shape While I Could

“It just kind of manifested itself,” says Steward over a two-way call with his bandmate. “This album kind of became a reservoir where we just threw out our frustrations, all those micro and macro complications. So yeah, it got pretty dark.”

“We originally wanted to call the record ‘Atrophy,’ which kind of sums up the thoughts weaving through our minds when writing it,” adds Long Decter. “It shouldn’t go without saying that it kind of is a pandemic record ‘cause lots of those songs were written in the thick of it, April 2020 and lockdown.”

During the spring of 2021, Steward, originally from the U.K., also lost his work status in Canada. After applying for a new job within the music industry, he was told that his work permit expiration had passed by a month. And this was through no fault of his own, but because of a typo from the Canadian government. Still, because everything was moving at a snail’s pace due to the pandemic, Steward had to wait for months for a remedy. 

“I was in the absolute hinterland where I had no concept of home whatsoever,” Steward says. “Home was just other people around me that I loved and cared about. And that’s pretty much all that I could focus on.” 

Steward’s experience became the inspiration behind “Massif Central,” a song that both he and Long Decter call a “cathartic experience” live. 

“When we play it live, there are a couple of us just screaming about the difficult situation he experienced,” Long Decter says. “It can also channel whatever other experiences people are going through at the time.”

So yes, there’s lots of darkness and decay on I Held the Shape While I Could, but it’s some of the best work Bodywash has ever conceived. Walls of frenetic guitars, drone synths, Long Decter’s spectral vocal work — it’s all there in droves on this new record.

But one song that stands out as sounding more hopeful, and closer to the dream pop found on Comforter, is “Ascents,” about the support Steward and Long Decter have given each other over their nine years as friends and musical collaborators. 

“We’ve weathered a lot together and during the darker periods, where the other songs emerged from, we supported each other in new ways and grew closer together as human beings,” Long Decter says. 

The concept of home has changed for us all in these last few years. It’s something tangible that can become intangible in flash as the world changes day by day. Still, perhaps I Held The Shape While I Could is more about the one constant that will remain at our sides through what could be considered a decaying, bleak future: the people we care about. ■

The Bodywash album launch, with openers Tallies and Shallow, is taking place at la Sotterenea (4848 St-Laurent, basement) on Saturday, April 15, doors 8:30 p.m., $15/$18. For more, please visit the Bodywash Bandcamp page.

This article was originally published in the April issue of Cult MTL.

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