It’s a freezing cold Sunday afternoon. The members of The Will to Power are in my car. The coffee shop we’d arranged to meet in is too crowded and noisy, so we’ve relocated to the Safeway parking lot. Despite the overcast skies, and the fact that little light penetrates my foggy windows, lead vocalist and songwriter James Hofer is wearing sunglasses.
That might not seem significant, but it’s weirdly emblematic of the place The Will to Power occupies in Winnipeg’s music landscape. The synthy darkwave band is unlike anything else in the city right now, free from the influence of local scenes
“I prefer it that way,” says Hofer, 23. “Otherwise I might have felt pressured to write to what others are doing, whereas with this project I feel absolutely no pressure whatsoever. I can take inspiration from any influence on earth, from any time period.”
Hofer, along with guitarist Dylan Hunter, 20, and synth keyboardist Joel Mijker, 22, have branched out from their roots as members of hardcore band Burn Your World to create dark, atmospheric landscapes of electronic sound with a dance-pop sensibility. Their new 7” EP, Might, is their third release since forming in January.
“It’s almost an atheist or a secularist worship album,” Hofer says. “I grew up as a Christian, and a few years ago I made that transition to a more secularist philosophy. Lyrically, the album is about recognizing the ambiguity and absolute indifference of the universe. And just accepting that reality, and loving it.”
The group’s previous two releases, February’s Twilight State and July’s Down, were both home recordings released via cassette and digital download. The band’s frequent output, Hofer says, comes as a result of exploring new genres and sounds.
“When I started The Will to Power, it was the first time I ever wrote a pop song, or an electronic song,” Hofer reports. “It’s different in every single way. I’ve learned this stuff by doing it. So every release has been like, ‘I can do this better now, so let’s hurry up and get something out there that showcases the skills I have now.’”
The group cites classic synthpop acts Depeche Mode and New Order as influences, as well as modern artists Tiers, Weeknight, and Cold Cave. Despite its singular status among Winnipeg bands, the group says the response at its live shows has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think people welcome the change,” Hunter says. “And it’s fun because most shows, we don’t even know who’s going to be there.”
Hofer agrees. “If you come up with, for example, a hardcore band in Winnipeg and you’re any good, you automatically have like 70 people who will come to your shows. With this band, we can stand out a bit, but we don’t get that automatic following.”
In the end, it hasn’t been an obstacle to finding fans.
“It’s weird to see the difference in crowds between this band and Burn Your World,” Hunter says. “People are actually dancing and enjoying themselves instead of beating each other up.”