One of the more interesting records I've heard lately comes courtesy of a Montreal musician by the name of Thomas Polychuck who records under his surname. His recently released EP, Shadows Exposed, contains five catchy songs with some wicked guitar and memorable melodies. I spoke to Thom recently to find out more about him and the record.

antiMusic: Congrats on the new EP. The lyrical material is pretty dark and that contrasts with the music which is more upbeat. Tell us how you were able to marry the two and what creative head space you were in while preparing the songs.

Polychuck: Thank you! This is really the case with the first and last song of the EP 'Beating Myself Down' and 'Lights out'. It's an element of contrast that I like to bring to my songs in order to communicate through the music that although sometimes life can seem dark and bleak, we shouldn't take our negative thoughts too seriously. This was exactly what I was trying to convey in my latest music video. I'm literally playing the many different facets of me in an almost caricatural way.

antiMusic: You played everything on the record. A lot of people in that position tend to over-play and try to show their chops instead of playing for the song. However, with your record, there is some nice stuff going on in the background but there are also segments with air that allow the material to breathe. After the basic songs were written, did you spend a lot of time on the arrangements because you could have taken the songs a bunch of different ways?

Polychuck: Some of the demos had actually been written for almost a year before I started arranging them. I can easily come up with chord progressions and melodies but a huge part of the identity of this EP lies in the arrangements. I am mostly a guitar player and it was important for every song to have its solo but even more importantly, the different textures, synths, guitar effects and loops are a big part of my sound so I did spend a lot of time working on that aspect.

antiMusic: Part of the appeal of this record for me is the diversity in the material. The songs are all different yet similar like siblings. I can only imagine your record collection / playlist is quite mixed. Was it a delicate balance to construct five songs that were not copy-cats of each other yet retaining a similar DNA?

Polychuck: Thank you! It was actually a concern of mine at some point during the making of the EP --- Will it all make sense? But I think it definitely does. I believe that what retains that DNA between the songs is the melodies and the chord progressions. Every single musical phrase came out of me so they were bound to have some sort of similarities regardless of the arrangements. In that sense, the task of keeping things consistent wasn't too blaring.

antiMusic: Let's talk about the songs individually. First off, tell us about your latest single, "Beating Myself Down". I love the confident piano that ushers in the song.

Polychuck: I started messing around on the piano with something that sounded like The Clash's "London Calling" song, and I took it from there. For me, the melody was clearly going to be kind of uplifting and motivational.

At the same time, a friend and I were working on a text with a depressing tone, these lyrics were almost too much to be taken seriously. The theme was dark but the lines were cool and catchy and I knew there was something to keep developing this song.

At first, we thought it would fit perfectly like a Papa Roach/ Korn type of song, but I ended up wanting to try it on a more upbeat "the world is beautiful & unicorns, etc." instrumental track that I had written around the same time. To my surprise it fit like a glove! It was exactly where it needed to go.

I'm not the depressed type of individual, but I have my dark moments like everybody else, and that's why having this kind of speech while not taking myself too seriously is now precisely what "Beating Myself Down" tries to convey.

Like I said, the lyrics were very dark and almost too much to consider putting on a track at first, however this was the perfect solution. After recording the vocals and having finished the structure of the track, I decided to go all in with my upbeat vibe, and even add a brass section.
The goal was to make it so "over the top" that it's almost like there's a parade going on while I'm singing about how life sucks.

The way I ended up arranging the song was now perfectly in line with the feel that I wanted it to have. The song has a swing beat, it starts off with a very light hearted piano chord progression and the instrumentation gradually gets fuller and more complex until the guitar solo kicks in, and I am moving forward going in a super dramatic sound with the long arpeggios and sweep picking to give it a epic sound.

A couple of weeks after having it mastered, and ready to release, I started getting tons of ideas for the music video to accompany the song. The video would need to be funny, but still keep the meaning that I was trying to communicate in the track. The idea was to have me play the role of many different aspects of myself. A bunch of me's talking to each other like I am having some kind of self-inquiry moment or inner conversation.

It happens to all of us, and that was my way to put that in music and now images. It took a bit of a humorous turn but it still had a very profound meaning. I'm really happy about what we did with this track and I really think it makes the perfect single for the EP.

antiMusic: What's the story with what sounds like a creaky door at the beginning?

Polychuck: Ah! You might be talking about the bass string noise. It was actually a mistake during the recording but I ended up wanting to keep it. It makes the track more raw and i felt like it added to the authenticity of it. It's funny that you heard something else so it means this could be interpreted in many different cool ways. I'm glad I kept it!

antiMusic: Possibly my favorite song is the title track "Exposure" --- great chorus and wicked solo! What can you tell us about it?

Polychuck: Thanks! That one was a fun one to make. It's a song that started with the music and not the lyrics. I was being inspired as you might've been able to tell, by early 2000s rap/rock and nu-metal. Especially the song "Break Stuff" by Limp Bizkit. I thought it was screaming for the same type of lyrics and that's exactly what I made. It's a callout song but thankfully, to a fictional character. Resentment and anger are emotions that we all experience at some point so people can definitely still relate to this text.

antiMusic: "In The Dark" changes things up with a bit more hip-hop feel --- sort of like a Post Malone song --- while also incorporating a Linkin Park vibe. How did this one come about?

Polychuck: This one actually started with a trap/hip-hop beat that I made. The chord progression in it is very simple and it's the same one throughout the whole song. It's one of the rare songs that started with an 808 drum loop and I think it makes it stand out because of it. I kinda took an urban skeleton and "rockified" it until it became what it is now. Fun process!

antiMusic: I love the melody lines of "Driving Me Mad" mixed with the manic guitar which briefly bursts free after chomping at the bit for the previous short but sweet solos in the other songs. What's the story behind this song?

Polychuck: "Driving Me Mad" is kind of the poppy song of the lot. It's strongly influenced by the top 40 EDM/ Electropop music of today which I am not the biggest connoisseur of but I admire a lot. The idea was to make it about romantic relationships which also tends to be a trend in that style. It is about two people being in a toxic relationship and not being able to let go of each other. It's a very relatable subject that can be attributed to not only romantic partners but to other things in life so it can be interpreted in many different ways and that's something I really like about this song.

antiMusic: As previously mentioned, the tunes are not created from a cookie-cutter process. "Lights Out" gives us another side of you. Tell us about this one.

Polychuck: "Lights Out" is the song that closes the EP so naturally it had to have that kind of feel. I really went for the 80's rock/Power ballad kind of vibe for it but still trying to keep a modern overall approach. It starts off with a CP70 type of electric piano and builds up to an epic climax with a heartfelt and slower guitar solo. Lots of bends and longer notes. This one really speaks for itself. Time to turn the lights out and move on! Heal from all these dark emotions.

antiMusic: You're such a proficient multi-instrumentalist. What is your musical background and talk a bit about any other bands you've played with?

Polychuck: Thank you! I've actually been playing guitar since i was 6 years old so it's been a minute. I started playing in local bands fairly young too. Mostly in the underground metal and hardcore scene. I've been in deathcore, black metal, sludge bands such as "Dopethrone" "Vatican" and "Built on lies". I think Dopethrone is still active today and have made it pretty far in their scene so shout out to them! In my early to mid 20s I became interested in different genres such as jazz and contemporary classical music so I went and enrolled at the Music Faculty of University of Montreal and did what we call a Bachelor's degree in Canada. After that I started writing my own music and playing shows. I explored a variety of genres such as country, rock, pop, prog, etc. and what you're hearing today is the result of all that background.

antiMusic: Autonomy is great in the studio when you have an established vision but sometimes kindred spirits can produce new and exciting developments. Can you ever foresee putting together a band in the future or have you succumbed to the independent bug?

Polychuck: I actually have put together a band and I am currently working on my next release which is going to be a full-length album. Scheduled for next year, it's going really well so far. Having a team is really helping me taking my ideas to the next level so I'm definitely happy with my decision moving forward.

antiMusic: Montreal is known to have such a massive arts scene, especially with music. How did the city influence your music, if at all?

Polychuck: It definitely did. Being part of the local underground crust punk, metal, hardcore and emo scenes in the mid 00s to late 2010s gave me a good idea of what the lifestyle of an underground musician can be. It's often not easy but I love it and I'm glad to be part of it.

antiMusic: Besides music, MMA seems to be a passion with you as well. How did you get started with it?

Polychuck: It's my newest passion. Up to my mid 20s I was always the kind who would spend 8 hours practicing guitar and not moving too much. When I finally decided it was time for me to get active I simply walked into an MMA gym to which I'm still a member of and signed up. Since then I've been training almost on a daily basis and have done "Smoker fights" which are just like pro fights but without an official winner. They're not sanctioned but we play by the same rules. It's already been 4 years and I'm not ready to slow down.

antiMusic: With restrictions easing up across the country, what are your musical plans as live shows once again become a reality?

Polychuck: I'm actually going to announce a showcase very soon in Montreal but as far touring and going outside of Canada I think I'm gonna have to wait a little bit. I'm definitely on the lookout for opportunities as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Morley and antiMusic thank Thom for taking the time to do this interview.

Purchase this record here.

Visit the official webpage here.