The Dears’ new album Gang of Losers just came out a week and a half ago, but we’ve been spinning it for much longer than that. Before the Montreal-based Dears left for a European tour that starts this Saturday, we spoke Natalia Yanchak, the group’s keyboardist and the wife of band leader Murray Lightburn. We talked to her about all the stuff you’re supposed to talk to young bands about, but we kind of just wanted to keep asking questions about being a rock mom. Check it out after the jump.
What are you up to?
Right now we are heating up a bottle for our daughter and getting ready to go on tour.
Does your daughter come with you on tour?
How is that?
Its great because mommy and daddy are both in the band, so its not like there is much of a choice. We bring a nanny. Its good times, man. She brings a totally good vibe to the touring scene. Touring can be dark and exhausting, and then you come off stage and there is this cute laughing baby.
Does she actually come to the shows?
No, she is asleep by the time we play, but in the summer we had some festival shows. We have these hearing protectors for babies, she wears those. At the big outdoor shows the nanny brings her out, like way in the back so that’s fine, and then she usually just passes out.
How has it been playing the new songs live?
Some songs we were playing on tour for a while, like “Hate Then Love” and “You an I Are a Gang of Losers.” Some songs we were playing for a while, but were reworked for the album. “Bandwagoneers” was overhauled. Some songs we are playing for the first time on these tours. The way we recorded the album, we actually played the songs live, so we learned them for the album. It wasn’t that much of a transition, to playing them live.
How was recording the new album?
It was great. We’ve had bad experiences in the past. We did No Cities Left all digital and that kind of left a sour taste in our mouths, so we did everything analog with Gang of Losers. We recorded it in our house and still have this enormous tape machine that is too heavy to move sitting in the corner of our dining room. It was a very organic experience, and everything with the Dears is a family experience.
Do you guys all hang out when you’re not touring or recording?
At this point we are always together because we are having meetings or touring or rehearsing or recording or doing photo shoots or making videos, but yeah we do see each other external to that. We are friends.
So it’s not a business relationship.
Yeah, its not all business, otherwise we’d all kill ourselves.
What about No Cities Left left a sour taste in your mouth?
The person we were working with sort of encouraged us to play things over and over and again. He recorded everything and was like, “Oh don’t worry, we’ll edit it later.” Later when it came to editing there were some songs that had like 800 takes. So it was a matter of cut and pasting all these different performance, and it was just very unnatural, and I think it was a bit of an eye opener for us too like, “Wow that’s the most soulless artificial creation of an album” and even like performance of music, I mean its not a performance of music. A lot of music we listen to now, we don’t even realize how its been recompiled, and cut and pasted. When we were making Gang of Losers it was really important for us to be able to translate these songs live, so we performed everything live, there was no editing.
Do you even like No Cities Left?
I think No Cities Left is a great album, the songs are awesome. I still enjoy playing the songs from that album live. It definitely has its own spirit. We are relearning some old songs, so I was listening to End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story, then No Cities Left and then Gang of Losers. I was listening to End of a Hollywood Ending Bedtime Story and I was like, “Wow this recording sounds amazing.” It totally cost us $200, but it sounds amazing, And I was listening to No Cities Left and—these are totally snobby production comments that I am making right now—I think if there is anything I don’t like about No Cities Left, it is just on a production level. But you know, musically and as a listener, it is still a great album.
Do you think with Gang of Losers you were able to get back to that $200 sound?
Yeah, I think that, maybe unconsciously it is something that we were trying to do. And we kept it really simple. And also we were under a lot of pressure for No Cities Left because for us it was our second album. A lot of places in the world hadn’t heard End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story, but we were totally having second album anxiety. We were second guessing ourselves, and we had all these industry people saying, Oh it’s got to be like this or this, you have to write a hit… And its tough, you know? A second album is tough to make, and I think with Gang of Losers we came into our own and asserted our own identity on it.
When you are recording as a band, does Murray talk to you guys about the themes he is going for?
Well thematically, not really. I think we all sort of know it’s not going to be about puppies and rainbows and lollipops, just cause, you know, it’s the Dears. We work with Murray on a more musical level. Murray would have the bones of a song and then he’d bring it in and jam it out and then flesh it out and really get the structure down. Maybe on a tonal sense we would have some kind of say, but the lyrics, Murray writes those.
Did you grow up in Montreal?
No, I’m actually the one member of the band that didn’t grow up in Montreal. I’m from Toronto. I moved to Montreal like 12 years ago to go to university, to my parents dismay, and then never moved back. Actually that makes me sound really old. I mean I moved here five years ago to go to university.