I need to start off by saying that there’s no way I could have written this without the huge pot o’gold that is this interview, which I found over at The Line of Best Fit. A big shout out to those good folks over there.
The Besnard Lakes are a four-piece indie rock band from Montréal who have released three albums since 2003. The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse was shortlisted for the 2007 Polaris Music Prize and The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night was shortlisted for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize. Although the band is widely considered to be the work of the husband-and-wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, they have had drummer Kevin Lang since 2005 and guitarist Richard White since 2006.
Lasek and Goreas met in Vancouver more than a decade ago, then moved to Regina to save money for their ultimate move to Montréal. They took their name from a fishing lake in north-central Saskatchewan.
When they made …Are the Roaring Night, they did something a little bit unusual. While the trend these days is for bands to use a compact, digital mixing console, The Besnard Lakes wanted to do something decidedly different. They went out and got a vintage analog mixing desk that was rumored to have been used during the recording of the Led Zeppelin album Physical Graffiti. Then they spent a lot of time, money and energy moving it into their studio.
They also wrote songs from different angles. The songs that Lasek wrote are fictional. They’re from the point of view of a spy-turned-musician. He says that he’s been writing with a spy theme from day one, but he really wanted to develop the “characters” and the “story” on this album. The story is that the guy is retired from espionage, and isn’t making it in the music world. There’s a bit about him spying on a female spy, but having a bit of a crisis in the process. He wonders if she’s actually a spy or if she’s just a woman. He wonders if she even exists. There’s also a lot of reference to codes and ciphers and things like that. In the songs “Land of Living Skies Pt 1: The Land” and “Land of Living SKies Pt.2: The Living Skies”, there’s a bit of morse code embedded in the song. Back on the previous album, they actual coded transmissions from a numbers station. That’s some weird stuff, by the way. Click the link. Anyway, there’s quite a bit to do with spies and codes and all that stuff on Jace’s songs.
The funny thing is that “Albatross”, from …Are the Roaring Night is one of Olga’s songs. It’s about a fellow who she knew in Vancouver who had a big impact on her life in a short time. It’s one of her songs, and it’s not about spies. However, the brilliant video for that song is all about the spy thing. It’s got the spy following another spy. It’s got coded messages subliminally broadcast in a movie. It’s got intrigue. It’s fantastic. Seriously. Watch the video. Then watch it again.
Today, we’re not here to talk about “Albatross”. We’re here for a different song.
This is that song:
“Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent” by The Besnard Lakes
This one is obviously a Jace song. Here are the lyrics:
Run from this town with empty arms
Find all your homes, and I’d burn them down
Start all the wars that we wanted to see
And I’d watch them all go by in the cavalcade
Was told where you hide from the short wave
Was sent in the night, in the cold
You’re like the ocean, you’re like the innocent
What’s in your empty eyes?
Deciphered your lines from the short wave
It said “Kill all the swine, young and old”
Take it off
Take the noose around my neck,
Take it off
The first time it goes to that “Deciphered your lines” bit, there’s a tiny bit of what might be a numbers station broadcast. Pretty cool.
I love the chorus of this song. Everything comes together nicely. Whereas Jace sings with falsetto in the verses, he brings it down to his “normal” voice in the chorus, and Olga sings backing vocals in call-and-response fashion. That’s a very nice touch. It also turns from a slowcore song to a fuzzy indie-pop, almost shoegaze song. Then the “What’s in your empty eyes?” harmony hits. That might be the best part of the song.
If I’m honest, I didn’t realize that there was so much espionage imagery in The Besnard Lakes music. It wasn’t until I started doing a little bit of research, which landed me at that interview that was so instrumental in the writing of this post. Now, I’m even more intrigued by them than I already was. And that’s saying a lot. I already called …Are the Roaring Night the #1 record in my favourite 15 Canadian records of 2010.
If you don’t already have this record, you have to get it immediately. If you do have it and you’ve been neglecting it, you need to remedy that immediately. Get a physical copy from the band’s web store. Alternately, you can get a digital copy from your favorite legal downloading place.