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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Light And Darkness

Chris Morin
Published Thursday September 4, 05:53 pm
The La Luz formula combines sunny surf-pop and sombre lyrics

La Luz

Thursday 11

Vangelis

La luz,” the name of a surf-psych indie rock band from Seattle, means “light” in Spanish. Sound-wise, that makes sense — but lyrically, their songs often carry a morbid heaviness.

After releasing an EP, Damp Face, in 2012, the band dropped their debut full-length a year later. Featuring plenty of four-part harmonies, It’s Alive is full of splashy melodies and lighthearted guitar, conjuring images of beach parties, go-go boots and muscle cars. When it comes to the words, however, singer Shana Cleveland says that many of the songs actually come from a dark place.

There was an intense vibe in my life because there was a mass shooting in Seattle around that time,” she says. “It involved a café that I go to a lot, and somebody walked in and killed a bunch of people at once. It happened that two of my friends were murdered that day.”

The incident happened in 2012 at Café Racer, a Seattle venue popular with local musicians. A man went on a deadly shooting rampage which ended with five people dead and another critically wounded.

The songs on the album were either written right before the shooting or right after the shooting, and I think that’s where the creepy, foreboding vibe came from, which tends to be in a lot of the music I write anyway,” says Cleveland. “But it was definitely intensified by the tragedy that happened around that time.”

With many of the songs that will make up La Luz’s next album already written, Cleveland says the tentative plan is to hit the studio when the band returns from their European tour in November. She says she’s still finding inspiration in the juxtaposition of sombre lyrics and sunshiny pop flourishes.

It’s been really fun to create music that mixes in the more depressing and painful aspects of life along with hope and fun,” she says. “I think you can find fun in music that doesn’t ignore the dark side, like in old folk music and early rock ‘n’ roll — there’s a lot of dark stuff where people are getting their hearts broken, and to me it’s the kind of the music that makes me feel more of a kinship with the human race.

Everything is really messed up, but we all feel that way. And that can be fun — sometimes, anyway.”

The band packs an intense visual wallop as well. Cleveland is an illustrator who’s drawn for the likes of Vice and The Believer. Her recent artwork, particularly the pieces on La Luz’s t-shirts, gives the band a cartoonish aesthetic reminiscent of the Hernandez brothers, who are famous for their Love and Rockets comic book series.

I read a lot of their stuff and I’m glad it’s seeping out there, even if I didn’t intend it.”

Even though their music reverberates with a certain heaviness, Cleveland says that La Luz’s live show is always geared towards creating a raucous dance party.

We try and come across as fun as possible,” she says. “It’s weird being on tour and playing in cities where not everyone knows the lyrics or we don’t know anybody. I think there’s a tendency where you tend to be anonymous, and we try and fight that. We want to make a connection with the audience so we can all party together.”

 

 

Eagle Tears

Wednesday 17

Capitol

It was just over a month ago that Montréal up-and-comers Eagle Tears earned the chance to play in front of thousands of fans in their hometown. In May, the group won a battle of the bands contest that put them on stage at the Heavy Montréal festival, where they got to play with the likes of Metallica and Offspring.

It was absolutely wonderful,” says guitarist Steve Ludvik. “It’s probably the loudest I’ve ever gotten to play guitar.”

Their showcase appearance at the festival also lined up nicely with the release of their debut album. On their self-titled LP, Eagle Tears combines hip-shaking grooves with driving rock rhythms and a three-guitar attack, resulting in a sound that’s more retro, southern-fried riff-rock than heavy metal.

They formed in the fall of 2011, and Ludvik says that it’s taken several years for the band to finally settle into their sound.

We had a different drummer and guitarist just prior to recording the album,” he says. “We recorded in November last year, [and] just before that we had the two new members come in and give us a different, and better, sound. We’ve been with the new guys for over a year now; we’re definitely comfortable with each other and the sound has finally gelled.

We’re all songwriters, even the drummer, and we have a lot of ideas floating around,” continues Ludvik. “It’s a bunch of guys in the kitchen making a salad — everyone is bringing something to the table. We’re constantly songwriting, so there’s really no stepping on toes or anything. And with three guitar parts, everyone can put their own touch on it and we always make sure there are a lot of harmonies.”

 

 

Eamon McGrath

Saturday 13

Vangelis

Toronto folk-punk singer/songwriter Eamon McGrath is finally about to release the complete version of Exile, his latest full-length album. Originally conceived as three separate digital installments, the EPs retain a cohesive sound, but also capture McGrath delving into different genres — from fuzzy-headed ‘90s grunge guitar-worship to gruff, heart-on-sleeve acoustic folk.

According to McGrath, the songs that make up Exile have been constantly evolving since their release, with every tour he’s taken adding a distinct mutation to their live versions.

Everything has always been about booking the shows first,” he says. “It’s always been my philosophy: if you have shows you’ll always find someone to play with, and that informs the writing.

For example, if I’m going on tour with just a drummer, the way I play the songs that I’ve already written, I start to hear things in the changes I have to make to the arrangements. And it starts to affect the way I write and perform the new songs. And when you play with a punk band and you have a loud drummer behind you, you start to get in the mindset of writing fast two-minute-long punk rock songs.”

Embarking on a short Canadian tour before heading off to Europe for several months, McGrath says that fans may not get another chance to see him perform for the foreseeable future, as he’s planning a hiatus from the road.

I think that touring a year over one release is exhausting, and for my creative sake I need to take a break,” he says. “It’s been an interesting experience, being the kind of artist that moves really quickly and is forced to revisit the same material over the course of 12 months. It’s been challenging, but ultimately it’s the writing that will be affected.

That said, I wrote a whole album on the last tour I did, and there’s a bunch of songs that are ready to be tracked — so who knows what’ll happen?”

 

 

PS I Love You

Saturday 6

Amigos

Oh, Kingston, Ontario: once capital of Canada back in the day (curse you, Ottawa!); now known for only two things: a university and a prison.

Residual anger over those long-ago decisions probably don’t affect many people these days, but the reality of the limited employment prospects that resulted from them certainly do — meaning that Kingston has a highly transient population.

So it’s not surprising that Paul Saulnier, singer and guitarist of indie fuzz-rock duo PS I Love You, chose to examine this tradition of impermanence on the band’s third full-length album. For Those Who Stay is drenched in feedback and layers of guitar grit, which is a big part of what fans love about the band. But Saulnier, who recently relocated to Toronto, has added anxious lyrics that deal with the transitional state of his previous home.

Nobody ever really stays in Kingston,” he says. “They come through to go to school, they might stay for another couple of years, but they always move on. And being one of those people that stays, it’s strange to have these people come into your life, and then all of the sudden you have an entirely new set of friends — it has a weird effect on you.

I’ve seen it so many times, and now I’ve moved on. And I guess with the album I was reflecting on that.”

It’s not all gloom and reflection: there are moments on For Those Who Stay where Saulnier and drummer Ben Nelson sound almost jubilant, spewing a tightly wound energy throughout the album. The duo even manages to find room to breathe on the excellent folk-laden “Bad Brain Day”, which strips away the nearly ubiquitous layers of fuzz. Chalk it up to the band finally working within the confines of a proper studio, says Saulnier.

We definitely had better working conditions,” he says. “We had access to more fancy gear, and we had extra musicians play with us, so there was more collaboration. On our last album, Death Dreams, I think there were more guitar dubs, but with For Those Who Stay we were finally able to make all the sounds come through more clearly.”

 

 

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