The Dears


Interviews, Music | by — February 20, 2005


by Joanna Orland & Isla MC

We were very nervous. Loose Lips had ventured out to Camden’s Electric Ballroom to meet Canada’s marvelous indie maestros, The Dears, on the London leg of their European tour. We arrived early, and after a caffeine fix felt jittery and nearly sick to our stomachs. We huddled shivering outside the Ballroom and rang up the band’s tour manager, who for various reasons we now will lovingly refer to as Patches. Patches was very helpful, yet slightly confused and passed the phone to Dears drummer George, who then came to fetch us. We took this as a very good sign — any band whose drummer is willing to retrieve two bedraggled girls on a wet Tuesday afternoon has its feet firmly on the ground.

It was once we entered the Ballroom that things got scary. The band was in the middle of sound check, rendering us an immediate irritation. We stood like large lemons in the middle of the venue, looking conspicuous — Joanna was wearing her Scooby-Doo trousers (modelled after Fred). After a few death stares we shuffled over to a corner, tripping over various mountains of equipment (not doing ourselves any favours) and tried to become Inconspicuous.

Despite the long wait for the interview, we were thoroughly entertained by the band’s sound check. The sweeping, lush and epic sound of The Dears haunted the venue. Coupled with some fancy lighting effects, the band created a devastatingly intense atmosphere. Frontman / songwriter Murray proved a fierce competitor for Isla’s crown as Queen of Top Of The Burps when he released several spontaneous belches into the microphone. Random fact worth knowing.

After sound check we were lucky enough to be joined for dinner by the rhythm section: aforementioned drummer George (Carling, burger and chips) and bassist Martin (Guinness, salmon fish fingers – although he would’ve preferred seaweed, that was really dried cabbage and definitely had MSG in it, even though he said that he really couldn’t eat that sort of food because of the nasty side effects that the MSG has on his internal organs and complete digestive system). Isla’s only contributions were ‘What’s your favourite Prince song?’ (Darling Nikki, Purple Rain, Pop Life and a coughing fit from George) and ‘Did you call Morrisey “Mozzer”?’ (weird look). Joanna managed to ask some rather more “sensible” questions.

Featured on the NME Cool List CD of 2004, and having finally released their album ‘No Cities Left’ in Europe, The Dears are experiencing a new wave of popularity here in the UK. Gigs have been selling out, but the band insists that their egos have not become over-inflated. They make an effort to stay grounded, and describe themselves as ‘a bunch of clowns!’ Since their music is often quite dark they appreciate that some may think they take themselves too seriously. The band believe otherwise, that although their music can carry a pessimistic edge ‘it always ends with hope’.

The Dears were formed in Montreal, Canada in the late 90s, and they began to make a name for themselves alongside other Canadian artists such as Sam Roberts (Bearded trauma) and DJ Tiga (Tight trousers). They found it hard to make a living as an indie band in Canada, which prompted them to have a global vision and to work hard on breaking free from the Canadian shackles. Alongside Roberts and Tiga they began to achieve recognition in other countries — as George says, ‘we’ve known these cats for years. It seemed like all of a sudden everybody got their shit together’. Suave.

Frontman Murray Lightburn is described as the ‘vision’ of the band. As the main songwriter and director of the band’s output, do the other members ever feel that their contributions are overlooked? On the contrary, George and Martin describe Murray as ‘great to work with’, and say that he ‘knows how to get the best of each of us’. A shared musical sensibility and respect for each other’s abilities means that the band feels free, never stifled — ‘We all do our thing’.

George and Martin include Led Zeppelin, Bowie, T-Rex, Hendrix and the Britpop movement among their main musical influences. Strong Smiths echoes are apparent in The Dears’ music, and touring alongside Morrissey in 2004 was a dream come true. Spiritualized is also cited as an influence – George and Martin say they felt like ‘little kids’ when they met Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, who then invited them to look him up when they were next in London. Did they? ‘Nope. Didn’t have the balls!’

The Dears’ music can be described as theatrical, grandiose, and epic. So we ask the band if they have ever considered following in the footsteps of The Who and writing a musical? In fact, it turns out that they whole band hates musicals, with the exception of Murray who likes ‘West Side Story’. So that’s a no then?

Listening to the band’s lyrics, it is apparent that they have a political and social conscience. We ask them what they have done to make the world a better place. Martin reveals that he does his best to recycle, while George makes every effort to be polite at all times. They believe that it is important to be yourself, to promote kindness and to establish worthwhile relationships. Since touring The Dears have grown fond of their tour manager, Patch(es), and their bus driver, to the point of never wanting to let them go. They have become part of what The Dears describe as their ‘functional, dysfunctional family’.

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