Photo by David Waldman
The Alberta, Canada post-punk band Viet Cong is under fire for their controversial name. Singer/bassist Matt Flegel (far right) spoke to A&E about the name.
Since forming from the remains of Canadian art-rockers Women in 2012, the Canada-based post-punk band Viet Cong’s accidentally taken the indie rock journalism world by storm, all via their controversial name.
Though the band is unrelated to the U.S.’s Vietnamese communist opposition in the Vietnam War, they’ve taken an exorbitant amount of heat for since their January self-titled debut.
The album’s been out for just over a month now. Was that a long process? how does it feel now?
It’s super satisfying. It was a long process writing [it], the recording didn’t actually take very long, but once it was in the can and mastered, it took, like, 14 months for it to actually be released.
It’s old news for us, but it’s really satisfying to have it out and know that we can move on to the next thing.
What do you think accounted for it taking so long?
I had a very specific end product in my brain that I wanted to see all the way through, and it took awhile to do that. It takes awhile for records just to get pressed, these days. I think there’s only one or two plants in all of North America…
The original release date was supposed to be in November, and then that got pushed back because we realized it was on Veteran’s Day, on November 11. That would’ve been a big ‘fuck you’ to everyone in a bad way –– releasing a Viet Cong record on Veteran’s Day is not cool. So it got pushed back to January.
The name ‘Viet Cong’ –– where does it come from?
No place in particular. It was really just spouted out at practice, and we needed a band name. [We] didn’t put too much thought into it past that, and then cut-to two years later, we’re having to explain ourselves to journalists across the world.
I wish it had a better story, and in hindsight, it’s a dumb band name, and it’s pretty offensive to a lot of people. I feel like, if anything, I’m more informed about that period in history than I ever was before. So that’s a good thing.
A lot of that history got swept under the rug, and I’ve been forced to look into it a little bit more. We just got a show cancelled in Oberlin, Ohio, because the Vietnamese Student Association threatened to protest it.
Yeah, it’s offensive to people of Vietnamese heritage, mostly. I thought the American vets would find it offensive, but we haven’t gotten any bad response from that side of it…
Looking into the history of it, I can see why [it’s offensive]. We get emails from somebody saying their family was in a Viet Cong prison camp and were starved to the brink of death. They did horrible shit to their own people.
But we don’t mean any offense. We’re just four white dudes from Calgary, Alberta.
Would you ever consider changing the name?
At this point, no. I mean, we could, but it has no deep meaning to me at all. As long as people understand that –– I need to write a letter to the Vietnamese Student Association in Oberlin and just say, ‘hey, guys, chill out. We’re just a band. We don’t mean any harm, we have no political affiliations with the Vietnamese communists of the 60s and 70s.’ People just need to chill out, I think.
You were in a band before Viet Cong called Women. I don’t know if this is something that has connected with you at all, but I assume that you don’t identify as a woman, and by what you said a minute go, you don’t identify as a member of the Viet Cong either. It’s interesting that you happen to have two band names that are two particular identities that you don’t subscribe to.
[Laughs] I never actually thought of it that way. It’s coincidence, to be totally honest. I feel like, most band names, when you delve into them and try to get to the bottom of them, they’re all pretty dumb. All the most clever ones have already been taken, in the 60s. I would’ve called ourselves The Who –– taken.