On a refreshingly sunny, beautiful day in downtown Vancouver, Patrick McWilliams, aka The Cut Losses, is just finishing up his 2 ½ week tenure recording with one of the city’s leading producers, Felix Fung, at his east-side studio known as Little Red Sounds.
To an outsider, this opportunity is a big deal. Any other person might be puffing their chest and tooting their horn, but not Patrick. If anything else, he seems genuinely surprised that anyone would be interested in him at all, and doesn’t exactly see himself as a certified, real-life artist…yet.
His new 5-track EP is to be released sometime this summer by Cedar Street Records, out of Spokane WA. This particular project has been both a challenge, and a creative release for Patrick, who has really pushed himself to let go of his self-imposed limits during his time at Little Red Sounds. Y57 Media caught up with him there to chat some more about how he has managed to navigate this new territory, and to join him in a first listen-thru of the release.
First off, thanks so much for inviting us here today. It’s a real pleasure to be here chatting with you..
Thanks for coming! It really means a lot.
I was reading a post you made about how this time in the studio has challenged you like never before, and that you’ve really been pushing yourself. So what exactly has this process been like for you creatively?
I think reinvention is a really good word, because I’ve been involved in the music scene here playing with other bands that are either pop or punk, but it was never really genuine. At the time it made sense because I was just happy to be playing music and playing with my friends, but when I would watch footage of the shows – I would think it was terrible.
So before this, you weren’t even really into your own material?
Yeah exactly. The music industry is weird because a lot of people just pump each other’s tires, so people around me kept telling me it was great. And being so young, I was like, “wow everyone loves me!”, and I was blinded by that for such a long time. That made me have no drive or ambition.
Was there a defining moment where you realised you needed to do more to make yourself happy with what you were putting out there?
I went down to LA a lot last year, and was working with some people there. I came back and had a breakdown. Not in a crazy way, but I was in debt from recording and paying other people to do everything. I got a copy of the CD I was working on at the time, and I thought it was so bad. It made me depressed to hear it. I let my family listen and they basically walked out of the room!
Wow, that’s definitely a kick in the butt!
Definitely! I eventually quit playing music altogether, I just got a job and focused on getting out of debt. And then I started listening to the music that I really like. I was a bit insecure about listening to weirder music that isn’t as popular or as accepted, but I was listening to these cool bands and started wondering if I could start doing something like it, because I love all this music and had never tried anything other than pop or punk.
So you had never let yourself go there musically before, even though this other genre is what you had grown up listening to?
Yeah! Bands like The Beach Boys had a huge influence on me growing up. If you listen to their deep-cuts, they’re so bizarre. So I just started writing more of those kinds of songs and it was so natural and easy. Before, I was trying so hard to be punk and fulfil the plans others had laid out for me, but not necessarily trying to write a song. When I started working with Felix, he talked to me about the idea of a song needing to exist. And that hit me so hard. Artistically, for me, I just want to write music that needs to exist, even if it’s just a snapshot in time. I’m in the middle of it, so I haven’t had time to process if it’s good. But I know I’m happier doing it.
You definitely seem a lot happier now that you are doing your own thing and not worrying so much about what other people are hearing. Let’s talk about how you signed to Cedar Street Records. How did that come about?
I only had one song, “Spending Time On My Own”, which I was really proud of because it was the first push back from what I had been doing up until then. And I guess they heard the recording on a blog or through a radio show, and contacted me and wanted to sign me right away. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing to some degree, but I know they do.
I’m sure you’re in good hands! It’s crazy that as soon as you started doing what you really wanted, people took notice.
I remember thinking, “this is what it takes to get signed?!”
So, what do you think The Cut Losses fans will think of this new material? Because it is quite different…
Well, first off, I don’t really know who The Cut Losses fans are, because I’ve met a lot of mixed people during this whole project. Some of them are middle-aged women who would pinch my cheeks, and it made me feel a bit like a joke. But then there would be these die-hard punk people who liked it. I’ve met such a wide demographic, so I’m not sure what they’re like. Or what the precursor on me is.
It’s interesting that you’ve created this new fan-base almost. The ones who really latched onto “Spending Time On My Own”…Maybe there will be some kind of rebranding in the future?
I’ll be like Snoop Dogg, didn’t he have a re-awakening? I really have no idea of anything anymore. Every experience is new. I’ve had 2 nights of actual sleep in the past week since being [in the studio], plus working my day job, doing hard labour, where I wasn’t even thinking of making the album. Then I would come to the studio and it would be filled with hard-core musicians who are talking about chord progressions and all this stuff.
Do you think making the transition into full-time musician will be difficult for you?
I wouldn’t be sad if I got to make a living out of this. I would be really happy. But I love my day job a lot and I would genuinely be sad to leave it and leave the people there. I don’t even consider myself an artist right now, and people have expectations about writing music and what it means to be an artist. But for the first time in a long time I’m just playing guitar or keyboards or drums again because it’s fun; Luckily I got thrown into this situation where someone has enjoyed it enough that they want me to put out a product. I can’t complain about it, but does that make me an artist?
Do you think someone else calling you an artist means that you’re an artist?
Maybe. I think I’m trying to take myself more seriously. I’m letting it soak in.
Do you think you’ll lost any creative edge if you take yourself too seriously?
I’m terrified of that. I feel like that’s the good contrast between having a job and doing music. I work with people who don’t care about me being in a band. And I like that. I’m a human and I don’t deserve more than them. I don’t want to go back to what it was like before where I am so caught up in my own head and don’t realise that something I’m doing is trash.
Well, obviously, people are recognising within you something that maybe you don’t see yet. But it’s you doing your own thing and that’s what matters. So were you in here recording everything yourself?
Thank you! We had some people come in to do some instrumentation and add texture – like saxophone and backing vocals – but everything else has just been me and Felix sitting here working on it. It’s cool because it’s not a full band, but also not a solo act. I like having a name or brand associated with me, it takes away from the self-indulgence of it. I can hide behind the name a bit more. And working with a producer when you’re by yourself is amazing! It’s someone verifying that “yes, this is good”, rather than dealing with a band member who thinks a certain part sucks, for example. It’s been a lot of help too since most of this is purely experimental.
What would you hope is the reaction to this when it’s released? Would you want to have a big audience? Or increase exposure?
I really want a lot of people to hear it because it’s the most expressive album that I’ve done. I know that just as a listener. There’s a lot of deep, weird ideas on it and some people might not understand it, or might be afraid of it. I want people to hear it and like it, or not like it, but I don’t want it to be for everyone. But at least they heard it, and it impacted them, and they had some sort of thought about it. I also want to do videos for all the songs, because they’re visual-sounding, if that makes sense. All the songs are literally a snapshot in my time here, which is pretty unique. They were all written and recorded in the week I was here with Felix. It’s the first music that I’ve done that’s getting a physical release, too. I think I’ll be a lot more motivated to play shows as well. But I don’t want to shove it in people’s faces either.
Sounds like you really want people to engage with it, rather than listen to it for the sake of listening to an album.
Yeah! I want it to have an impact. I feel like I ripped a lot of people off in the past. If I put this out, and people love it, then I know I’m on to something.
Of course you will be! Best of luck! We’re all looking forward to it.