Children of the Millennium

The Dears walk down Degeneration Street

  • Mar. 2, 2011 8:00 a.m.

The Dears walk down Degeneration Street

When it came time to record their new album, Degeneration Street, the Dears were determined to get it right. Not that one can fault their previous efforts; the Montreal band, despite having its ups and downs, has been at the forefront of Canada’s indie music renaissance since releasing their debut album, End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story, back in 2000. But this time around, frontman Murray Lightburn says the band — whose lineup has changed numerous times over the years, but currently consists of Lightburn and his wife Natalia Yanchak, Roberto Arquilla, Robert Benvie, Patrick Krief and Jeff Luciani — was very calculated in its approach.“We made a concerted effort to make the very best album that we could at this time,” he says. “The band that came together around this album is effectively the same band that made [2008’s] Missiles, except . . . [when making Missiles] we were just hanging around in the studio, around gallons of booze and a tonne of ideas. Whereas when we started putting this record together, the roles were more defined and [we had] a much clearer picture.”It seems that concerted effort has paid off; the album was released to considerable buzz on Feb. 15, and was the focus of the inaugural Polaris Prize Record Salon talk, where Canadian music critics present their top picks for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize ballot. And while, technically, the album was recorded over 16 days, the band entered that studio well prepared.“We recorded 14 songs with strings and vocals, everything; tambourines and keyboards,” says Lightburn. “We just went for it, but we’d spent a good six to eight months preparing for that. We capped it off with a residency in Mexico for three nights, in Mexico City, just to really keep us on our toes so there was no mucking around in the studio.”Lightburn says the live residency allowed the band to tighten and polish the material before laying it down in the studio — a process he’d like to revisit not just to make the record as good as it can be, but also to explore a different approach to making a record. “It’s the original way that music was presented, in a live concert. Then it went into being published, and once it got into being published, it changed everything,” he says. “My worry is that people take the whole thing for granted and, I think for me, personally, I’m into a bit more of a proper way to consume the art … It’s like the way you would have a musical open on Broadway and then eventually they record the soundtrack. The whole package is already developed … you’re just creating an official artifact.”Lightburn also credits L.A. producer Tony Hoffer, who has worked with Stars, Belle and Sebastian, and the Silversun Pickups, with honing the record. “It was kind of like having a referee in the situation, but also having a guide in the muck. We can easily get carried away in our ideas,” he says. “We were very open with the creative process and nobody really got up in our grill about what we were doing, which we really appreciated … It can happen when you open that door, where people will say, ‘Write a goddamn hit’ or something like that. The thing is, our mandate was to make an all A-sides record.”And it appears they have. M

The Dears(with Eulogies)8pm Friday, March 4Sugar Nightclub, 858 YatesTickets $16atomiqueproductions.com    

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