The text message reads like directions to a hideaway: Walk east until you reach a bridge. Cross it; then follow the path through the trees until you reach the other side (where I’m promised the home of Facts’ keyboardist Sean Bayntun lies).
It’s a beautiful day in East Van and I’m on an adventure to discover Facts.
Bassist Hugh MacDonald is lounging on Bayntun’s back porch with a beer. I join him while we wait for the arrival of guitarist Sean Bletcher and percussionist Roland Poulin.
The house feels like an oasis of sorts, replete with vintage couches, pianos, an impressive record collection, seemingly innumerable rooms and a view of the mountains.
Soon Bletcher and Poulin arrive. Using music as an axis, the conversation ranges from muskets and math to encyclopedias and trampolines. The entire day is, much like Facts’ music, dreamlike and inviting. Come on in, Facts seems to say, we think you’ll like it here.
Part of the welcoming atmosphere must be Facts’ underlying affection for each other: Bayntun and MacDonald have been acquainted since high school (back then, Bayntun was an award-winning pianist and MacDonald was just picking up a guitar). Both used to play in The Armadilettantes with Bletcher.
At a certain point, MacDonald relates, their other projects were “dissolving away.”
The trio then came together with Poulin and multi-instrumentalist Mike Doull to “do something we’d all wished we’d been doing already… We were trying to basically make a dance record. And what we ended up [with] was not exactly a dance record, but it is pretty cool.”
The bespoke album is Like a Living Being, which dropped March 27.
Facts seemed to be enjoying a much-welcome (if only momentary) break from a long and complex artistic process that afternoon. All the members were adamant that the band is, as Bletcher puts it, “super-collaborative.”
“It’s a not a situation where one or two people call the shots,” MacDonald explains. “We really let everyone play a pretty big role.” Of course, a chorus of voices can also become a cacophony of opinion.
For Like a Living Being, this meant lots of discussion during the recording process. “Everybody has to feel good about it,” Bletcher tells me. It sounds arduous, but the word Bletcher and MacDonald use most often is “fun”: The record is fun; the band had fun making it; the songs are fun to perform.
And the album is fun. It’s the sort of record girls put on before they go out; when they’re in the mood to drink and dance and start trouble. It’s a pop album descended not from the bloodline of boy bands and mega-hits, but from the Talking Heads and contemporary indie pop.
The tracks are infectious: bright synthesizer riffs bounce on top of urgent and anxious guitars. Members take turns with the vocals; most of the lyrics are strange but enticing.
“We want to make songs for people to enjoy… But it’s not all just for fun, it’s got a little bit of feeling behind it, a little bit of mood,” MacDonald reflects.
Take Facts’ first single, the catchy “Retro Oceans.” The song is a peppy, cheerful ode to love’s frustrations- if you can stop bobbing your head long enough to notice.
On its heels comes the wonderfully jittery “Body Break,” where urgent bass lines and driving drumbeats unexpectedly give way to spacey keys and vocals.
Almost seamlessly, the record transitions to the dangerous and indescribable “Phewf!”. The peculiar medley continues throughout all of Like a Living Being, rushing madly through genre and emotion with a healthy dose of the surreal.
Like a Living Being may be Facts’ first record, but the boys promise me it won’t be the last. “This band has follow-through,” Bayntun tells me while chopping vegetables in the kitchen, “which is rare.” Bletcher and MacDonald confirm that there will be more albums and that they’re dedicated to Facts. Bletcher elaborates, “It’s a big learning experience… We know where our strengths lie and it’s easier now to put things together, to write things when you have that understanding.”
To celebrate the album’s release, Facts will be performing in the cabaret of The Waldorf Friday, April 13 with SynthCake and Gang Signs.