“My best songs are written when I’m having the worst time,” says Alex Little with a wry laugh. “There’s no songs about feeling good. It’s about connecting to that deep dark part of myself, which is the reason why I make music.”

This blunt emotional honesty is the driving force behind Vancouver’s Alex Little & the Suspicious Minds, whose scorching garage-pop songs unflinchingly tackle drug addiction, mental health and heartbreak. And yet, despite the heavy subject matter, the group’s soaring choruses and loud guitars mean that the mood is cathartic rather than heavy.

Little previously played in bands as a drummer, and when she picked up a guitar, she reached out to her friend Andy Bishop (White Ash Falls, Twin River) to teach her a few tricks. “She already knew the basic chords, so I just showed her a couple of new things,” remembers Andy. “The next time we jammed, she showed up with a great melody she had been working on.”

Songs began pouring out of them, and drummer Cody Hiles (The Zolas) and bassist Mike Rosen got involved. Together, they honed a sound that blends searing distortion with aching pop hooks and a psychedelic wash of reverb. “It’s got that late 1970s, early 1980s New York kind of vibe,” Andy reflects. “Just stripped-down rock and roll.”

The four-piece recorded their debut EP, No Control, amidst the rugged beauty of Vancouver Island with producer Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, Destroyer). Recording largely live off the floor, the relaxed environment translated into loose, vibrant arrangements that crackle with raw energy and spontaneity.

No Control’s five songs are an authoritative introduction to the new band. Opening cut “Quite the Mouth” bursts out of the gate with blistering guitars before swelling with dream pop beauty during the chorus. Elsewhere, the jangling “I Quit” is a playfully catchy account of breakups and bruised egos, while “Not Right” explodes with towering hard rock riffs during its headbanging finale.

With hints of woozy surf in “Black Haze” and snarling, hypnotic punk in title cut “No Control,” the EP is cohesive while still covering a swath of influences from across the history of rock and roll.

These songs come from a place of darkness, but the lasting impression is one of four friends cranking their amps and moving past the pain through a shared love of music. “The world is crippling and hard,” Alex says frankly. “I feel very lucky that I have this band as an outlet for all the emotions and turmoil.”