Nathaniel G. Moore and Warren Auld.
Artists from Bruce Springsteen to Taylor Swift have surprised listeners with unexpected new albums during the covid-19 pandemic. But perhaps few were as unexpected—for both the band and its followers—as the self-titled debut from Proper Concern, the genre-defying group formed in Montreal, in 2003, by Warren Auld and Nathaniel G. Moore.
The pandemic unexpectedly gifted the band the time to not just record but also release their first proper album, which they did in July, via BandCamp. “We have, like, a backwoods-cult lead-acoustic campfire thing going on, and then a high-tech parody of the Pet Shop Boys,” said Moore, a writer and publicist (known to readers of this magazine as its one-time most-rejected author), when asked to describe the band’s sound. “A little like Talking Heads.”
Auld, a building manager and self-described “artistic dabbler” who is still based in Montreal, and Moore, a writer and artist now living in Fredericton, connected on FaceTime in September to discuss their band’s unusual career path. Not long after being introduced, through a mutual friend, Moore suggested they record some “random nonsense” in Auld’s loft. “I got really nervous and couldn’t do anything in front of Warren,” Moore said. “And then Warren went to the bathroom, and by the time he came back I had gone on this rant and recorded an eleven-minute song called ‘Mrs. Bachelor,’ based on my Grade 1 teacher.”
“I had recorded some music on a four-track cassette recorder,” said Auld. “When I left the room it kept recording. My tracks ran out and the machine started playing the other side of cassette, which had some Latin music on it, backwards, and Nathaniel’s vocals recorded over that. It was the best thing we did.”
“It still is,” said Moore.
Auld and Moore recorded enough additional tracks, including “Gatchaman Love Song” and “Eight Mile,” to fill a Mini CD. Moore pushed the album to some local college radio stations, where it received admirable air play, but the group never bothered to release the album publicly. “We had no follow-through,” said Moore. “We’d share it with our friends. I would mail a CD to someone. People would e-mail me and say, ‘I was at a party and they played a Proper Concern song.’ That happens at least four times a decade.”
Despite a seventeen-year collaboration and a handful of infrequent recording sessions, the band has never played for a live audience or, until now, released any of its material. “Recently I said to Warren, ‘Hey, I have this podcast I want to do I need a theme for, here’s some vocals,’” said Moore. “I sent him a little jingle, and he sent me something back. A month and a half later we had four and a half songs, and we were on our way to our first album.”
Auld and Moore hope they can keep their recent momentum going, with a future physical release and, post-pandemic, some live performances. “I think our relationship has been a twenty-year performance,” said Moore. “Every time we hang out, which is so rare, it’s like a band meeting. It’s like a first date that’s never ended.”