We’re pleased to bring you the premiere of Surrender’s song “Hurt No More.” The Ottawa, Canada-based synth-pop duo was formed in 2018 by multi-instrumentalist Dave Williams and vocalist Scott McCash. Having played in numerous acts over the past twenty-plus years and together for the past ten, Surrender will be the pair’s first foray into more traditional pop song-craft, inspired chiefly by the alternative pop acts of the early 80s UK.
Their first, self-titled LP was tracked at the members’ own studio in Ottawa. Surrender found a kindred spirit in collaborator Alex Gamble (Tasseomancy, Fucked Up, Alvvays, Pup, etc.) who is producing/mixing at Union Sound in Toronto.
Interview with multi-instrumentalist, Dave Williams by John Silva | Photo by Remi Theriault
This is very different from your previous band, Crusades. Why did you decide to embrace the new synth pop direction?
When it became obvious to all four of us that Crusades was drawing to a close, I was pretty unsure as to what I was gonna do next, but I knew I didn’t want to do anything even remotely similar. For ten years I’d spent all of my creative energies on that band, and the prospect of doing something that melancholy and emotionally heavy and exhausting again was of no interest to me. I finally wanted to do something that not only made me happy, but that might also bring other people some joy and maybe even get folks dancing a bit. And while I certainly grew up in a community centered around aggressive, angry music, I’ve always had a profound love for the synth-centric artists of the 80’s, be it the artier side of things like Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, or the more by-the-book synthpop of say, Erasure or Depeche Mode, or the bands that fell somewhere in-between like New Order, Eurythmics, OMD or Tears For Fears. And so that’s where it made sense for me to go and I was well aware that Scott (Crusades bassist/vocalist and Surrender vocalist) felt quite similarly.
What is it about synth music that speaks or resonates with you?
There’s absolutely the element of nostalgia there – I was born in ’81, I’m 38 now, and so these sounds were kinda the aural ether of my youth. The radio stations, the movie soundtracks, the tapes in my Mom’s Monte Carlo, all of it just radiated those synths, that melodrama and optimism, and so inevitably I’m transported to that clichéd era of innocence and discovery, as nostalgia tends to do. But there’s also the part of me that recognizes the synthesizer, at least initially, as the instrumental choice of musical outsiders, folks who looked beyond the stagnant standards and practices of their time, and that satisfies the bratty, counter-cultural side of my creative drive, while still allowing me to make fun, dance-y pop songs. Another big attraction of synth-heavy pop music, is that it’s existed and evolved in so many directions since coming to prominence that the inspiration is limitless. There are countless examples of brilliant synth composers across the entire spectrum of genres and styles.
What was your favorite part of recording “Hurt No More?”
Tracking the Surrender songs has been my favorite recording experience in my twenty-plus years of studio time. From the outset, Scott and I agreed that we’d work without any strict deadlines, in whatever way was most comfortable, convenient, and conducive to creativity for us, both individually and together. I write and record all of the instrumental music at home. When I’ve got sort of a ‘first draft’ of a song, I send it to Scott, he’ll demo his vocals at home, send them back, and then I’ll edit and punch up the music around his vocal lines and come up with ideas for harmonies and slight changes in cadence and/or melody. Then we’ll meet at Scott’s every week or two to do the final tracking together. Luckily I adore him and his partner, Erin – the three of us also make up the sort-of traditional metal band Black Tower – and so a regular recording session followed by wine, pizza and chatting only adds to the experience.
I love the 80’s snare sound on “Hurt No More.” Was it deliberate to give it that nostalgic sound?
A huge part of this recording experience being such a wonderful one was finding a kindred spirit in our producer/mixer Alex Gamble. As a fellow 80’s pop nerd and seemingly bottomless well of great ideas, Alex plays a huge role in Surrender’s sound, taking the melee of tracks we send his way and shaping them into something so much better than we’d envisioned. It’s Alex’s wealth of pop music knowledge and his ability to just know when and where to add those very touchstone sounds – that gated snare in this case – that really tether our songs to that sound and era, not to mention his undeniable gifts as an engineer. I really can’t overstate Alex’s contribution in terms of the overall vibe of these songs. I also think that Scott’s voice is so well-suited to deliver the kinda, I dunno, emotivity associated with our aforementioned influences. He’s got so much natural conviction and expression in his voice, which could be the main ‘something’ that separates the pop stars of the 80’s from much of the current crop. So yes, that was a long-winded way of saying that hearkening the sounds of that era was absolutely intentional.