Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Library Voices takes stock as new music simmers

by Craig Silliphant

libraryvoices

Library Voices
O’Hanlon’s* / Thursday 18
The Owl / Saturday 19

*Rogue venue

Library Voices had a glut of professional success in the last year or so, after the release of their last album, Summer of Lust, but as band member Michael Dawson puts it, “both ‘professional’ and ‘success’ feel like such relative terms.”

Beyond Canada, the record was released in the US and the UK, and they toured like mad, finding victories in terms of booking international tours and getting radio play. In the midst of the whirlwind, they found themselves sipping margaritas in the Hollywood Hills, as well as sleeping next to bloodstains in Amsterdam hostels. These stories make for good memories and even better sound bites for interviews, but when the smoke cleared, they were confronted with the model of the current music industry as seen through the eyes of a Canadian indie band. They were smart enough to know they had to take stock of what they were doing.

“In art it’s hard to separate professional and personal,” says Dawson. “Industry- and audience-wise, we made great strides with Summer of Lust, but when you’re operating as a professional band you have to start to look at things as if it’s a small business. It’s hard to keep roofs over seven heads and stay fed when your income is the equivalent of running a lemonade stand. And so as a band I would say the greatest success that came out of it was that we reached a point where we recognized that if we’re going to spend another couple of years squeezing lemons we better turn out the best goddamned lemonade we’ve ever tasted.”

Dawson is actually living in Vancouver these days, while the rest of the band is situated in Regina. But this hasn’t affected their writing and rehearsing too much, because their method of output is usually more in the realm of shotgun blasts of creativity.

“We’ve never really had any sort of functional schedule as a band,” says Dawson. “I know a lot of bands that rehearse from eight until nine PM on Sundays and Thursdays, but for us it’s always been short bursts of focused creative output followed by extended breaks away from it. We’re now, for the first time in half a decade, allowing ourselves enough time at home to try to find a productive routine that lends itself to writing and demo-ing new material.”

To that end, many of the band members have other projects on the go to keep their creative juices flowing beyond Library Voices, but they’re still thinking ahead to the next album, being currently in the ‘kicking around ideas phase.’

“We’ve got iPhones full of scraps Brennan [Ross] and Carl [Johnson] are sifting through,” says Dawson. “We’ve kept pretty busy writing Library Voices music for other tasks and recently started to exorcise, or maybe exercise, some other creative demons. Brennan has constructed a studio and has a hard drive full of potential; by the time this goes to print Carl will have an EP out with a project he plays guitar in called Coldest Night Of The Year. Mike [Theivin] has been at work on a mathy prog record, and I’m just finishing up a bummer-rock LP I’ve been meaning to make for years with some great friends.”

I had asked Dawson to reflect on the surreal nature of their experiences touring the world, and he gave me a much more honest answer than my trite questions deserved, having found out the day of the interview that a friend and fan of the band had passed away.  What for Dawson was a very personal response, also shone a light on what makes Library Voices such sincere musicians in the first place; sure, they might be forced to pursue their band as a business in order to pay the rent and justify continuing, but they haven’t lost focus on the fact that their music, their art, creates endless possibilities of connection in themselves and others.

“When I heard that our friend John from Buffalo passed away today,” says Dawson, “I realized that we also would have never got to meet such an incredibly fascinating human being if it had not been for music. At the heart of it, he’s one of the reasons playing music is meaningful. He was so well read and his musical knowledge was much vaster than our seven heads combined. The fact that our music connected with someone we almost look to as mentor, and that he was willing to travel great distances on multiple occasions to spend some time with us and watch us perform, is truly surreal to reflect on.”