(Update: Since this was published, FM Attack has continued to release new material. So, perhaps, the retirement was temporary.)
No matter how much Vancouver-based Shawn Ward has altered the formula of his storied FM Attack project, the result is inherently FM Attack. From his 2009 debut, Dreamatic, with its synth-pop-, house- and disco-infused numbers and pioneering synthwave sound, to the post-punk vibes of Stellar, and also on the rest of his work, Ward has infused FM Attack with dreamy, thoughtful, and engaging songs stacked to the gills with heart and soul. He hails from that era when synthwave was more about the intersection of nostalgia and emotion, and less about mechanistic, paint-by-numbers approximations of it.
The Never Ending, Ward’s new album and ostensibly his last as FM Attack, reflects the classic wistfulwave sounds of the project with cuts that at their core wouldn’t entirely be out of place on Dreamatic or 2013’s also-classic LP Deja Vu. And certainly, there are shades of 2017 album Stellar and 2019 LP New World. But this last hurrah also is coated with noticable brushstrokes of more modern-sounding electronic/indie acts like Empire of the Sun, Tame Impala and Memory Emotion-era Electric Youth. Ultimately, The Never Ending is an FM Attack album through and through and there’s no mistaking that, and it’s a hell of a way to close the book.
Vehlinggo recently caught up with Ward for a quick interview about The Never Ending and to get to the bottom of his announcement earlier this year that he was putting an end to his long-running project, among other things. (Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited to fit house style.)
An Interview with FM Attack
Vehlinggo: Shawn, you’ve said this is your last FM Attack album. Why?
Shawn Ward: It’s been quite an amazing journey since I started FM Attack with my debut album, Dreamatic, in 2009. After initially releasing four albums, an EP (Astrowave), and lots of remixes, it just feels right to bring the voyage to an end with this album.
I think I’ve managed to release a body of work with songs that visit different styles and hopefully my discography stands the test of time and will be enjoyed and listened to for years to come.
The album is an FM Attack record at its core, naturally, but there’s a change to your sound. There’s something more modern about your approach to some of it — perhaps recalling Tame Impala and those types. Additionally, there are also strands of classic chillwave and even Empire of the Sun. What inspired this approach?
I’m a big fan of both Tame Impala and Empire of the Sun. Thanks for that big compliment! During the last two years, while writing the album, I was listening to a lot of indie, shoegaze, and dream pop stuff like Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing, and Film School. I think diving into this vibe influenced the album.
When that last note fades on The Never Ending, what do you want listeners to get out of it?
I hope that it feels like a journey for them, as it was for me writing it. Hopefully, it will inspire and maybe soothe some souls. It would be great if a couple of the songs can get played in the clubs — once they open again — to make people dance, too. 🙂
Anything else you want to share about the album?
When I was recording “So Blue,” my five-year-old daughter Stella came into the studio and told me she wanted to sing with me, and we made the song. Love is real.
You’ve been at this a long time — even before your first FM Attack releases in 2009, you were releasing songs on classic techno labels like Turbo under your own name. What have you learned about yourself over the years?
I’ve discovered that I love to perform, even though I’m fairly shy. I’ve learned to depend on myself for almost everything, and also that you have to capture the moment and move on things before they pass you by.
What’s it like to be a professional musician in 2021 compared to 2009, when FM Attack started releasing?
I think it’s tough anytime to be a musician in the music business. You have to have a lot of faith in yourself and find your sound, as well as create a vibe that people enjoy and follow. In 2009 things were new and exciting, so I was very lucky to get my start back then.
The blog era especially had some very cool music and support for new unsigned artists. I think now in 2021 there are so many people writing music that it’s overwhelming and harder to have people notice your music. However, there is still a lot of awesome music being created and some very artist-friendly ways to market your music independently nowadays — Bandcamp is awesome!
What are you listening to these days?
I’ve been listening a lot to A.L.I.S.O.N and Jasper De Ceuster lately. They have this beautiful spaced out dreamy sound that I love. I am lucky to have both of them remixing songs from the new album. Also, stay tuned for remixes from Lucy In Disguise and Betamaxx!
What are you going to do with your time after FM Attack?
I’m going to be working on some different projects. I really want to get back into deep/jazzy house music and also some more organic indie vibes with acoustic guitar, as well as working on some music for film. I will also be working on music with my friends Blake (Vandal Moon ) and Nick (Betamaxx).
This summer I will be spending a lot of time camping and fishing in the mountains here in British Columbia (Canada) — reconnecting with Mother Earth.
- You can buy the digital album and pre-order the physical versions now on Bandcamp. It hits Spotify and similar platforms on May 21.
- Also, don’t forget to check out FM Attack’s fantastic contribution to the Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years comp.
(Feature Photo: Album cover artwork for The Never Ending by Trina Hines.)