Matthew Angus—the lead singer and songwriter of the Toronto indie rock band Fast Romantics—has genuinely mixed feelings about religion, but you might not know it from the following verse of “Hallelujah, What’s It To Ya?”, which premieres below with a penguin-centric video: “The old church is reborn as a luxury hotel / All the preachers are on the beach they’re all sunburning in hell.”
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“We’ve been playing this song live for a long time but it hadn’t yet found its way onto a recording,” Angus says of the track, which pairs his searching songwriting with propulsive, chiming instrumentation. “I don’t know if that was more of that fear of letting it loose into the world, or just that it was really hard to produce. Either way, it makes me feel good that it’s out.”
“I was raised the son of a preacher man,” Angus continues. “My dad is not just any preacher man, and someday maybe I’ll get more into why my dad is a massive source of inspiration and wisdom to me, despite there not being a religious bone in my body. I was, however, raised ‘religious.’ As a kid I think I remember even liking church. I’m sure it shaped me, in ways I’m still figuring out. Having grown apart from religion, it’s both confusing and empowering.”
Still, Angus believes there’s value in searching for something other than God.
“I feel like we’re all wired to believe and worship something. To aspire to something greater than ourselves. If we don’t believe in ‘god,’ we most certainly believe in aliens, or ghosts, or at the very least, some universal law that governs the universe,” he explains. “This pre-programmed need to believe in something has made human beings what we are. All at once prolific, planet-altering, beautiful, destructive, collective, divisive, narcissistic, redemptive, brutal, and kind. Weirdly we’re always able—despite ourselves—to progress a little bit more towards the idea of being better examples of ourselves. Especially lately, with all of this unrest and division and hate bubbling to the surface in our culture, I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it is to believe in something good, and to fight for those things.”
For Angus, “Hallelujah, What’s It To Ya?” stemmed from the realization that “even though religion is outliving its usefulness, we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
“I’m not alone in having no interest in religion,” he adds. “But faith in each other, in fundamental goodness, in beauty, in celebrating life while we’re alive—that’s faith, all the same. Maybe in moving past our old mythology, we can find something even more powerful to believe in? This song is about the endless search for that thing.”
Lyrically, the track’s final verse seems to sum up Angus’ quest: “I wanna find what I still haven’t found / I wanna hold you while you’re still around / I wanna follow your north star down / Wanna lie with you there on the ground / I wanna lie with you there on the beautiful, beautiful ground.”
Fast Romantics teamed up with director Christopher Mills for the “Hallelujah, What’s It To Ya?” video. “We really wanted him to create something he alone heard for the song, and this is the beautiful, unreal magic he came up with,” says Angus. “When I watch it, I feel all sorts of new feelings about this tune. These animals singing our song, it feels like they’re going through a clash of cultures not dissimilar to the one we’re experiencing in the real world right now. They’re all moving on their own individual journeys, and yet affecting each other’s paths in planet-shaking ways. It feels so good to see this motion-painting set to our song, and it resonates more and more with me every time I watch it, even though I’ll admit I can’t quite put my finger on why.”
The band is rounded vocalist / guitarist / percussionist Kirty, guitarist Kevin Black, bassist Jeffrey Lewis, keyboardist Lisa Lorenz, and drummer Nick McKinlay. “Hallelujah, What’s It To Ya?” follows their latest singles “Pick It Up” and “Only People.” All three tracks will appear on their forthcoming LP, Pick It Up, which comes after 2017’s American Love.
Pick It Up is out August 7. You can pre-order it here.
Photo Credit: Jen Squires