Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
- Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Besides being Drew and Danielle McTaggart's favourite Leonard Cohen lyric, the above line from the iconic singer-songwriter's 1992 song has also served as something of a mantra for the husband-and-wife duo behind Vancouver electronic rock band, Dear Rouge.
"We loved that idea," Danielle says. "There's a crack in everything so let's try to find something that doesn't sound quite perfect and let's not try to mess with things too much and try to keep it as real as we can."
Dear Rouge achieved success fairly early on in their career. A prestigious radio and songwriting award. A record deal. A Juno Award in 2016 for Breakthrough Group of the Year. But all around them, friends and family were struggling. Cancer diagnoses. The death of Drew's cousin. The emotional extremes led to a creeping sense of guilt: how could they bask in what Drew has called "the highest times of our lives" when the people around them were crumbling?
"When someone starts to be really successful in a community, the guilt comes through pulling away or being different from the community. You feel guilty because not everyone else is in the same spot, so there's this longing for community," explains Drew.
Ultimately it was the couple's friends who helped them realize it was OK to take a moment to appreciate their accomplishments.
"I wasn't sharing a lot of news per se, but my friend was like, 'When I hang out with you, I want you to brag. Tell me all about the good things because it gives me energy,'" Drew says. "It made us think a lot about there being successes and failures, positives and negatives and a lot of contrast in life."
It was this dichotomy—the razor-thin line between success and failure, joy and anguish—that informed Dear Rouge's second album, the aptly named PHASES.
"We went through an interesting breakdown of what we wanted to do with this album," Danielle says. "We were saying that 'grit and gloss' would be the sound we're going for. So we'd choose smoother synth to give a sense of peacefulness, and then we'd go for the grittiest, grimiest bass sounds we could find, or something that wasn't this perfectly smooth idea of a sound so you could get that sense that nothing is perfect and everything falls apart eventually."
Fitting with the transitory theme of the album, PHASES was recorded in studios across North America, with stints in Toronto, Montreal, Nashville and the band's homebase of Vancouver, before putting the final touches on the record in New York City. A time they described as "liberating, daunting, and wholly necessary," the McTaggarts' sojourn to the Big Apple stemmed from a desire to get far outside of their comfort zone.
"That's why we moved to New York, to be uncomfortable and inspired in the same breath," says Drew. "It felt like that shaped us a lot because the people we were hanging out with and the music we were listening to at the time was bigger, cross-border, international. It was the international stage. We do a lot of Canadian shows and play with a lot of Canadian bands, and they're all good, but it feels like a small club sometimes, and you need to branch out a little bit."
With their first No. 1 single on the charts, an anticipated sophomore album, and their headlining tour hitting 29 Canadian cities kicking off this fall, it's clear Dear Rouge is in a transformational period. But how exactly would the McTaggarts describe the band's current phase?
"I would say we are more self-aware than we've ever been about who we are and what we believe in and what we want to do," says Danielle.
"You don't expect your path to lead to what you really want to do. People doubt themselves and we often sabotage ourselves. We are just so grateful and it makes you want to make music that brings people together and be exactly what you were meant to be. It's not worrying about what other people are doing. You're specifically in this world to say what you are specifically meant to say."
Dear Rouge plays Whistler Olympic Plaza as part of the Whistler Presents Free Outdoor Concert Series on Friday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, visit dearrouge.com.