New Sound, Old Tricks
The Besnard Lakes Reinvent Space Rock
Richard White wields the six-string in The Besnard Lakes, a group that much prefers studio methods of the past to the bedroom recordings so popular today.
Their latest LP Are The Roaring Night is a landscape of guitar-driven music largely inspired by layered progressive rock of the past.
“Most interviewers say to us, ‘Your music is so dark, but when we interview you guys you’re just clowns,’” said White. “I think that’s pretty funny. People are surprised when they realize we’re not huge drug addicts.”
It’s easy to see where these assumptions come from, with the band creating a hybrid rock sound that builds and recedes with ample amounts of guitar fuzz. But The Besnard Lakes prove cheerful people can sculpt dark epics, too.
“In this band it’s a combination of surf sounds, a lot of tremolo and reverb, with almost a classic rock thing which is kind of fatter,” said White. “I mix that with delay, kind of shoegaze influenced stuff, and integrate those three influences in a way that’s cohesive.”
Growing from studio experiments of founding members Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, the band’s latest record has found all four bandmates working closer than ever before.
“The first record, Vol. I, was almost exclusively done by Jace and Olga, and I think it’s been a gradual thing since then,” said White. “Are The Dark Horse was done with a bit more involvement with all the members and with this record the four of us pretty much play on everything. It’s been more collaborative for sure.”
The Besnard Lakes’ increasing amount of live performances has led to deeper collaboration. “Before [2007’s] Are The Dark Horse there was no real heavy touring. Since then our live sound has developed a lot because of all the shows we’ve done, and that sound has crept in the studio,” said White. “The way we sound live is more rockin’ out, more of a visceral thing. It’s found its way on the [latest] record and I think that’s great,” said White.
“Playing in the band we’ve all kind of grown together,” he said. “We’ve become a tighter ensemble in a way.
[Personally], my style has evolved to serve the whole band sound. It’s kind of a streamlining process within the parameters I have already to really just serve the music better.”
Are the Roaring Night’s tracks form a cohesive piece of music, and with its heavy ‘70s influence, this record’s definitely something best suited for vinyl.
“One of the big concepts of the last two records is the ‘70s experience of getting a record and staring at the cover while you’re listening to it. It’s definitely in there, just look at the cover,” White laughs. “It looks hilarious on CD, but on the larger vinyl format it’s interesting. We’ve been selling quite a bit of vinyl on the road.”
Don’t be fooled by the band’s throwback style. The Besnard Lakes offer a fresh approach on guitar-driven space rock firmly planted in the 21st century.
“The pacing isn’t what everybody’s used to, but I feel that you’re rewarded for just being patient,” said White. “I think we have a unique sound, we’ve gotten to a point where everybody has their own sound and it works as a unit. That’s what a lot of bands I like strive towards, and it’s what we strive towards.
“We’re all into what we’re doing, it’s almost like a pleasant surprise when other people are too,” he continued. “Music should be a subjective experience. You go to a show where there are like 500 people and you’re all experiencing the concert; it’s a collective thing in a way, but everyone’s there for their own reasons.”
Are the Roaring Night is an album that borrows heavily from past sounds and aesthetics, but White is interested in contemporary music as well.
“I liked the Beach House record Teen Dream, and I just saw this Australian band Tame Impala, this sort of psychedelic rock band that’s pretty cool. This band Wolf People from the U.K. too, I think their record’s called Steeple, and I really liked the Women record,” said White, the latter two being label mates on Jagjaguwar.
“I like a lot of stuff, even like that Best Coast California stuff,” he continued. “I know they get bashed for their lyrics, but obviously they’re just doing an homage to girl groups. And Suuns, they’re pretty great. Jace recorded them and we
ended up doing some shows
with them. I’ve been listening to them a lot. They sound quite different than us, but live we work well together.”
You can catch The Besnard Lakes with Suuns and Valleys January 15th at Cabaret du Mile End (5240 Parc Ave.). $15 at the door.
This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 18, published January 11, 2011.