Montreal indie-pop mainstays The Dears released their entrancing Times Infinity Volume Two album last summer and co-founder Murray Lightburn is continuing to explore the album’s sonic story by heading out on a run of solo acoustic shows throughout the U.S. in March. Taking the opportunity to thematically unpack the dynamic album, talk about its relation to Times Infinity Volume One, and discuss how the songs will evolve in an acoustic setting, we had an engaging chat with Lightburn for our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One.
NoiseTrade: During the songwriting process for your most recent batch of new songs, when did you know the Times Infinity series would be a two volume release and were there any specific songs that helped drive that creative decision?
Murray Lightburn: It became obvious pretty early on. There must have been almost 3 dozen songs from which to choose. We had to cap it at some point and just say “that’s enough songs” or else the process could have just kept going. I imagined the flow of both records when I could clearly see what were the openers and closers; what were centre pieces and ends of sides. When we finished the first round of tracking, we sat and listened to everything in the studio and began mapping this stuff out after which we continued to write even more songs! It was a bit daunting at first. Once the blueprint was strongly established it became a process of merely scheduling the workload and it became pretty easy towards the end as parts just kept falling into place. The really weird part was finishing both albums and sitting one of them for over a year. When it came time to release Volume Two, there was way less anxiety about it as we were already pretty detached from the work. I recommend that actually.
NT: I love the contrast of smooth atmospherics (“I Love You Times Infinity,” “Nothing In It For Me Nothing In It For You,” “Until Deathrow”) and propulsive agitation (“Of Fisticuffs,” “1998”) that you move back and forth between throughout Times Infinity Volume Two. Did you draw from any specific inspirations to create that dynamic or is that just naturally how the songs came out in the studio?
Lightburn: We actually briefly dabbled with an alternate version of “1998” that in the end was dumb — so glad we went with the version that’s there now. A song like that is referencing a specific period in the band’s life and that beat, those sounds are a part of that. We haven’t used the Farfisa sound that extensively since No Cities Left, really. There was one at the Hotel 2 Tango that needed a lille coaxing to get going but it had all the right aged clunkiness suited for the record. When I first met Natalia, the Farfisa VIP500 was her instrument. A theme on the album is from those old days so in some cases we dug up old sounds, to help tell the story, but updating them to adapt to what we’re trying to make now.
NT: You’ve described this second volume as the “darker half of the Times Infinity series”. What specifically do you mean by that characterization? Do you feel that it’s darker on its own or just in relation to the first volume?
Lightburn: There is a touch more doom both sonically and lyrically. The first album is a bit more innocent yet hints at some gloominess. In general, the entire thing is about the ups and downs of getting into and maintain close relationships. Those relationships can fill us with joy and anxiety. It’s a big subject to tackle, maybe two albums worth.
NT: To celebrate the release of Times Infinity Volume Two, you’re going on your first U.S. solo acoustic tour. What inspired the choice to perform the songs in this manner and what are you looking most forward to in changing up the way you normally perform?
Lightburn: We’ve been building up that side of the band for some time now. We think our audience is definitely ready to hear stuff stripped down as we have been pummelling them for years with a very full sound. Songs usually start out simple, sometimes at the piano or guitar. Then the band gets involved and the sound and vision balloons. We are hoping to offer the audience a window in the simpleness — the origins — of our work.
Personally, I’ve grown to really enjoy doing this show and I enjoy even more when it’s Natalia and I. It’s such a direct connection with the songs and the audience. When we can we’ll add a string quartet which really adds another layer and is a large part of our compositional side; we hear violins sometimes right out of the gate. Right now we are finding it difficulty to land a quartet in Vancouver and that’s a big city. So you can imagine how hard it can be to get one in every town never mind the cost.
NT: Finally, a two-part question to close things out. Being that you’re married to your musical partner in crime Natalia Yanchak, (1) what is one of your favorite parts about creating music together and (2) from a fan’s perspective, do you have any personal favorite bands or albums made by husband-and-wife musical duos?
Lightburn: I really enjoy spending as much time as I possible can with Natalia. She’s so fun to do stuff with and we share many interests. Being able to travel together is such a bonus to this gig. We also have similar aesthetics artistically. It’s probably why we connected all those years ago. Where we part ways however, is on something like Elvis Costello; she’s for, I’m utterly against. We’ve never reconciled that.
One record I can listen over and over again is the Diana and Marvin record. I know they weren’t not married but that album has that dynamic and was a big inspiration behind Times Infinity. Beyond that I can’t really think of many or any couples in bands albums that are notable.