With his wicked and dry sense of humour, Devon Clifford (former drummer with Vancouver’s YOU SAY PARTY! WE SAY DIE!) would have been perversely impressed with the manner of his Spinal Tap style departure from this world.
However, his sudden and tragic passing on the sixteenth of April, whilst playing a show in the band’s hometown has left a massive void in the lives of his band mates.
“We’re all obviously devastated,” says bassist Stephen O’Shea at the outset of our chat, which was carried out over the internet, due to the cancellation of the band’s planned UK tour in May.
“Devon was the backbone of this band…. an amazing person, and an integral part of the family that this band had become since our epic fight at the end of 2007.”
It was certainly very obvious during YSP! WSD!’s last visit to UK in October of that year, that relationships were being severely tested within the band.
“Touring the UK, twenty-six shows in thirty days, opening for Los Campesinos!. Borrowing their gear; crammed into one station wagon, and all five of us staying in one hotel room each night. It was miserable!” admits Stephen.
Matters came to an ugly head a couple of weeks later, when all the bad feeling transmogrified into a physical fight as vocalist Becky attacked Devon in the venue of their Berlin show.
“It happened in a bar full of people – really embarrassing. The next day it took eight hours for our Tour Manager to get us all back in the van. Becky and I thought the band was over…….but Devon was unflinching. He said it would take a lot more than that to end this band. We were astonished!”
So YSP! WSD! returned home to Vancouver in December 2007 in somewhat beleaguered manner. Then, at the turn of the year, they were offered a return to Europe to open for Jimmy Eat World.
“But we looked at Becky’s health and turned it down,” explains Stephen. “Becky was losing her voice. She couldn’t sing the songs we had written, playing four or five shows a week for sixteen weeks as we did (on the fateful 2007 European Tour) Instead, we took up on an offer to tour China. That was in March 2008 and it was while we were there that we all realized what an amazing experience we were having, and that it was the band that offered us these opportunities. China made us realize that we should carry on as new family. That was the foundation of ‘XXXX’ – the new (third) album.”
So has the new album really been almost two years in the making?
“Well, in the latter half of 2008 we released ‘Remik’s Cube’ in North America, and toured Canada. We generally worked on the songs that would be on ‘XXXX,’ though,” Stephen explains. “The first song we wrote was ‘Make XXXX’ and it carried on from there. We struggled through the communicating and healing – it wasn’t an easy road, five people all wanting different things, but we took time out to really craft the songs, making sure that everyone’s part fits with each other instead of all five of us playing all at once. And as you say, it was really inspired by a new found love an loyalty towards each other.”
‘XXXX’ seems to draw inspiration from several genres. For instance the fabulous ‘Glory’ could have come straight out of CBGB’s some thirty odd years ago; ‘XXXX/Loyalty’ is a nod to Siouxie Sue, while there sounds like a little Devo influence on ‘Cosmic Warship Avengers.’
“We’re definitely taking a cue from the New Wave movement of ’79 to ’82. We felt it time to step away from the ‘dance punk’ sound. We explored it on ‘Lose All Time’ (the band’s second album) so these songs came quite naturally – slowing tempos and working on playing less so there is more room for vocals.”
Certainly, it does seem as though this new collection of songs better suits Becky’s vocal range. Most are in a lower register than before.
“We really had to work harder to ensure Becky wasn’t losing her voice, otherwise we’d have to start cancelling shows,” concedes Stephen. “We pushed her through a lot of nights she should have taken off, so the transition to singing lower and the like was intentional but more on her part. We wrote the music, she wrote the melodies and lyrics. She knew what she had to do in writing the songs.”
And it somehow feels as though it was recorded in a more ‘relaxed’ manner. You get the sense that the band really enjoyed making this record.
“It was very relaxed,” Stephen confirms. “We took nearly eight months on it and our new Producer, Howard Redekopp really worked well with us. He was ready to help us take a step forward, and it was lot of fun and made in a relaxed environment. ‘Lose All Time’ was recorded and released in a rush. It was a mistake to finish it that way, so ‘XXXX’ was the response.”
The album title, for those with long memories, has nothing to do with a well-known Australian lager. It is in fact a representation of Becky’s mark of ‘love.’ Stephen explains:
“The artwork for our very first release (the ‘Dansk Wad’ EP) was done by Becky and she placed her ‘XXXX’ mark on the cover. If you look at the front of ‘Hit The Floor’ and the reverse of the ‘Lose All Time’ covers, you’ll also see the same mark. When we made this new album, the songs had a lot of love in the themes of the lyrics and Becky suggested ‘XXXX’ as the title, the reasoning being that it had always been with the band. No one argued, and that was it!”
It’s obvious that Stephen and the others are immensely proud of this new album, but that right now their mood is tempered by their sad loss. Devon receives album credit for playing drums, but in fact his contribution is a whole lot more. He may have been a catalyst in bringing to a head the tensions of three years ago, but he was also the inhibitor that calmed the aftermath and kept the band together, something for which Stephen is eternally grateful.
“As it stands today, we have not come to a final decision about the band; we are still working through the details. Individually, we all feel differently. For myself, I don’t feel like I’m done making music. I think Devon would be angry at me if I stopped!”
Reading between the lines, I don’t believe we’ve heard the last of YOU SAY PARTY!
Shortly after our chat, YOU SAY PARTY released the following statement:
To all of our fans and supporters,
Heartfelt thanks for all the messages of love and condolences that you have sent since Devon’s passing. We have drawn a lot of strength from these as we navigate this difficult time. Losing Devon has been a profound loss for the family this band has grown to become. We have taken some time out of the spotlight these last few months to heal, process, reflect and reevaluate the future of this band.
We have talked at great length with each other and our families and friends about the future. Devon’s parents have encouraged us to continue on and given us their blessing. It is their opinion (as well as ours) that Devon would never have wanted his death to end the band. He would have wanted us to continue on.
In the time between Devon’s passing and this statement, we have all reflected upon our personal lives. Krista has decided that her time with us has come to an end as she no longer desires the long drives, poor sleeps and revolting selection of road food. Instead she’s choosing a home, a garden, some gluten-free baking and a proper education. We will miss Krista very much and she remains a part of our lives.
We have turned to our good friends and former tour-mates Robert Andow and Bobby Siadat of Vancouver band “Gang Violence” to play keyboards and drums This new line up will continue the tradition of excellent live shows and sweaty dance floors, with new strength and a renewed commitment to music and touring. The 5 of us look forward to carrying the spirit of our friend Devon with us everywhere.
The cancelled European tour is being rescheduled for this fall and we will announce the dates as soon as possible. We are also planning select shows for the rest of 2010.
Out of respect for Devon and the evolution of life, today we announce that we will no longer be known as “You Say Party! We Say Die!” but instead as simply “You Say Party”.
Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about the words and meanings we’ve spoken through our music. To return you to the core message of our band, we present the first track “There is XXXX (Within My Heart)” as the next single in North America.
With XXXX and light.