Johnny Brenda's Presents
The Besnard Lakes
The Life and Times
1201 N. Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA, 19125
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
The Besnard Lakes
The story of The Besnard Lakes begins at Besnard Lake: a spectacular yet secluded water feature in rural Saskatchewan which the Montreal group’s husband and wife core, Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, visit each summer for inspiration and escape. This year the couple’s campsite was surrounded for a worrying few days by forest flames, a literal ring of fire which informed the devil-may-care spirit of their exuberant fifth album.
“Besnard Lake is usually the place where we get the germination of ideas,” explains Jace. “We set up a small recording rig in the trailer we have up there .This time there were also helicopters with giant water tanks flying over us while we were fishing on the lake!”
Armed with demos and memories from their trip, the pair returned to the city and entered Breakglass Studios. Co-founded by Lasek a decade ago, this popular recording facility has long been a hub for Montreal’s fertile, collaborative and proudly DIY music community. Having met and fallen in love in Vancouver, where Jace was a photography-trained art student and Olga a bass-slinging star on the underground rock circuit, the pair relocated at the turn of the millennium. Vancouver had gotten too expensive. By contrast, “Montreal was super cheap because there had been the Quebec referendum in ’95 and a lot of the Anglos had left. There was a political teeter-totter happening, so there were tons of empty places. We moved out here and were able to live, rehearse and record in a loft for next to nothing.”
The predominantly French-speaking province’s economic depression birthed an ever-evolving scene that’s become internationally renowned for such disparate independent avatars as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Arcade Fire. Unique among their furrowed brow peers, The Besnard Lakes are unafraid to marry textured, questing headphone sonics to the honeyed pleasure of radio hits past: the rapture of My Bloody Valentine entwined with the romance of Fleetwood Mac. (Echoing prime FM they actually now have two girl/boy couplings in the line-up, keyboard player Sheenah Ko and guitarist Robbie MacArthur joining powerhouse drummer Kevin Laing and non-touring studio axe hero Richard White.) Imagine dreamy Beach House riding Led Zeppelin dynamics, with unabashedly androgynous vocal harmonies. This melodic yet mountainous soundworld was sculpted at Breakglass, their own modest Paisley Park. As the longterm sporter of a Love Symbol tattoo, Prince’s pop alchemy is especially potent for Jace.
“You look on the back of his early records and it’s produced, arranged, recorded and performed by Prince. When I realised that as a 12-year-old I was like, Oh fuck! So this kid can make a record all by himself. So then why can’t I? He was also the guy who made me realise that it was ok to sing high. Just throw caution to the wind. He’s not concerned about being super macho. Once I started getting into punk rock in high school, Prince was still there. He didn’t lose relevancy for me. Prince was still there when I started getting into prog rock, too. We’re just absorbed in music of all sorts.”
Olga, meanwhile, has been exploring a new creative outlet via her domestic interpretation of the occult, inspired by a Disinformation lecture given by comic book writer Grant Morrison. “He was talking about sigils,” remembers her adoring partner. “It was really personal for Oggy, like a meditation she would do in the morning, and also just a fun thing. She developed these 11 sigils, which you can see on the inside of the record’s jacket. For the deluxe edition she’s hand engraved them onto these little tags. The meanings are very simple: one is love, another is empathy. That leads back to this whole idea of mystery and the myth of the band.”
Channelling their obsessions with the paranormal – Jace was a teenage ghost hunter – as well as the dark arts, A Coliseum Complex Museum is populated by cryptozoological creatures (The Bray Road Beast, Golden Lion) while also luxuriating in natural phenomena and beauty (The Plain Moon, Nightingale). These themes are sincere yet good-humoured. The LP’s title jokily refers to a landmark-heavy road sign spotted on tour in Texas, the varied emotional impulses within reflected by its environmentally warped artwork.
“For a long time we were trying to keep secret that we love being out in nature,” admits Jace. “Because it’s kinda cliché. But with this record we decided to stop fighting what we love so much. So the front cover actually has a lake on it, but it’s also got this giant orb shooting light into the water, which is creating a hole that’s opening a portal to the coliseum complex museum. It’s kinda fucked.”
The Life and Times
Since The Life and Times formed, oh, roughly 1,825 days ago and began disarming audiences and critics with unbelievably loud yet relentlessly beautiful music, the main constant for the band has been how uncategorizable they've remained. Sure, they're a "rock band", but one that skirts the boundaries of this word in each song, tipping their collective cap to the giants that loom in each melody.
Yes, they're still moody, spacey, sonically overwhelming, symphonic and always grandiose. But threading these traits together is the same obsessive attention to detail from singer Allen Epley, drummer Chris Metcalf and bassist Eric Abert that was the calling card of Suburban Hymns (DeSoto) and each subsequent release. The music made for their 2nd full length release Tragic Boogie (Arena Rock) reflects a process that's even more detail-obsessed than earlier efforts.
Quoth Allen Epley (gtr/vocs/etc), "We wanted to make the kind of record that a big-name band with a lot of money might make, except we don't have any money. But we said what the hell and decided to do it anyway by going in debt and built our own studio and recorded it in my basement". The result is a record with layered intricacies that rewards repeated listenings. It's also one that heavily scratches that rock itch, ahem, but doesn't drown you in Gee Whiz Factor bullshit.
The time granted by recording without being under the pro-studio-money clock was liberating. Some songs were recorded multiple times, trying different tempos and nuances. Songs like the title track 'Tragic Boogie' reflect an ethos of what they call "pre-post-production", where the idea is to try to "anticipate how we might manipulate the song in post on pro-tools, and then actually perform it that way as we were recording it, and not rely on post to create the effect". After recording , the bulk of tunes were mixed by Jason Livermore (Rise Against, Shiner) at The Blasting Room with the band and their fine-tooth combs in hand.
And though they have made a record for the ages, the live show is the proof. Blisteringly loud, unbelievably lush and brilliantly lit with white light, the sound created by these 3 gentlemen belies their numbers. The muscular 26" kickdrum thump of songs like 'Fall of the Angry Clowns' is not just heard live but felt in the belly. 'Let It Eat' recalls Blonde Redhead in 5th gear at 125mph, anchored by Eric Aberts' headbob-inducing bassline by the time we reach the chorus.
Where '07s The Magician EP (StiffSlack) echoed slivers of Floyd, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, Tragic Boogie finds them wearing multiple masks within one song, or even one verse. The majesty of 'Que Sera Sera' reflects an ethos of grandiosity of The Flaming Lips, while songs like 'Old Souls' and 'Catching Crumbs' owe a debt of gratitude to Doves and Interpol. And an instrumental with a name like 'Pain Don't Hurt' is proof that, while they are moody and melancholy, they refuse to take themselves too seriously.
Tragic Boogie, like the best albums made with unending attention to detail and looking to scale grand heights, never gets bogged down by the frippery. What really hits the listener are 12 foundation-changing rock songs that have been woven together with love and that slippery agent, time.
All shows are 21+ Proper I.D. required for admission