The studio is perhaps the most important instrument the Besnard Lakes own.
More than a means to polish near-finished songs, the Montreal-based, shoegaze-loving rockers used the tools at Breakglass Studios to carefully build their new album, Are the Roaring Night.
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They began by envisioning a blank slab of vinyl — a 45-minute canvas — and aimed to fill it the same way as ’70s concept records that were meant to be listened to as a whole.
Rather than rehearsing beforehand, they put together songs at the Studios, which are owned by founding members and married couple Olga Goreas (who sings and plays bass) and singer-guitarist Jace Lasek. Short parts were assembled into songs that oscillate between slow builds and rocking crescendos: headphone tracks that play with pacing and layers of sound. Vocals, which are added last, were carefully processed — a technique Lasek said is used by many other groups, including the Beatles.
“(The vocals on) Albatross are (time) stretched. They are a little out of Olga’s range, and so we time-shifted them a bit so she could sing comfortably … Beatles records do that a lot — they used a lot of time-stretching,” said Lasek. “With my vocals, the sound is more a thickness that comes from layering vocal tracks in triples … Putting on the reverb and delay effects while singing helps give it that phased vocal sound.”
Lasek, who has produced works by Wolf Parade and the Dears, views the studio as an instrument. Keen to share his favourite sounds, Lasek pointed to the raw, noodling guitar work of J. Mascis on early Dinosaur Jr. albums Your Living All Over Me and Bug as a favourite. While the Besnard Lakes may lack that band’s raw power, their heavily processed guitars recall the twangy, distorted sounds Mascis made famous.
The band’s focus on studio effects is also partly homage to one of the band’s favourite musical eras: the shoegaze of the 1990s. While Lasek said they also mash in elements of music from the ’50s to the present, the tweaked guitars and shimmering waves of sound conjured by My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive echo in songs like Albatross and Glass Printer.
“All of us are big fans of that era. We’re always listening to bands from the ’90s — Swervedriver, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine — so that sound comes naturally for us,” said Lasek. “When you see us live, you’ll see we have the quintessential shoegaze guitars: a Jaguar and a Jazzmaster.”