The Cut Losses: Vancouver’s emerging indie rockers

A lot of bands have weird and crazy stories about the way that they all met. The Cut Losses are no different. Lead singer and keyboardist Patrick McWilliams almost gave up on music before rediscovering it through literature classes and songwriting in high school. Even then, taking music to the next level looked like too big of a jump. When McWilliams seemed like he was out of luck, he sold almost all his gear and took a labour job. But the viral powers of social media had different plans and a batch of recordings that he had put out on his Facebook profile found their way to Cedar Street Records, a small label based out of Spokane, Washington. Soon a deal was in place and preparations for the debut EP Lightning Dolphin had begun.

One of the main steps remaining was forming a proper band. By chance, McWilliams came across guitarist Brett Mackay and bassist Todd Hazzard. Having just moved to Vancouver from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Mackay answered a Craigslist post by McWilliams, searching for band members. From their first encounter, it was clear to Mackay that he had managed to avoid “all the same shit, weekend warriors or dad bands” which usually clogged online band postings and found another musician who was into the same type of music that he was.

Duncan Lee joined the band as well, having already played drums on two tracks from the EP.

The band spent their first few months together in 2016, practicing, getting a feel for the songs and getting used to each other’s playing styles.

Lightning Dolphin itself deserves more than just one listen. Its five-song release may be short, but they pack-in plenty. With influences like Jimi Hendrix, Yes, the Beach Boys, the Police and more, each song honours the artists that inspired it and creates a unique, flowing sound.

Eventually, after taking enough time to get used to playing with each other, the band began to play some small shows and opening act sets. That’s when they hit their luck on Spotify. One of the songs from Lightning Dolphin, “Spending Time on My Own,” was picked for a Spotify weekly playlist and amassed over 155,000 plays. 

As McWilliams described it, “the Spotify curators, I guess, go through blogs to find stuff to add ... to their playlists and they put that on two of their playlists and within a couple of hours and days it just kept growing and growing.”

Success with Spotify translated into the sudden growth of their following in Vancouver. The next show they played at the Fox Cabaret saw them bring in their largest crowd, at more than 100 attendees. 

“[For] the first two bands, there were probably like 30 people, and for us coming out and there are that many people we’re just like ‘fuck.’ That was a crazy show and that was the only time we’ve ever headlined something,” said McWilliams.

Since then, the Cut Losses have played a number of shows including opening for Surfer Blood at the Cobalt and for Paper Lions. Their next show is on Saturday May 13 at Wise Hall on the East Side, where they’ll be opening for James McCartney, the son of Beatle Paul McCartney.

The Cut Losses remain on the indie rock forefront of Vancouver, but don’t be surprised to see them make the leap forward to the national stage in the coming years.