Domino Records was already a well-known entity in the music business when founder Laurence Bell decided he was ready to move into publishing.

Established in 1993 with his partner, Jacqui Rice, the London, England-based record label built itself a slow-but-steady reputation for interesting independent music with a slightly outsider aesthetic. By the time they signed Glaswegian band Franz Ferdinand a decade later, however, the label had opened an office in New York (Domino now also has divisions in Germany and France) and secured an international reputation.

When he founded Domino Publishing in London in 2005 (the Brooklyn office opened in 2006), Bell decided he wanted to buck the trend he saw in record labels starting publishing companies in order

“More and more frequently, we find ourselves looking to Canada for talent.” – Jeff Pachman of Domino Publishing

to better control their own revenues. Instead, Bell was intent on providing writers with efficient administration and creative assistance, along with proactive work in the area of music synchronization. In the same spirit with which he had founded his label, Bell brought in Paul Lambden to serve as managing director and began building the company organically, from the ground up.

“A lot of serious music lovers have the utmost respect for Laurence Bell and the repertoire he has released,” says Jeff Pachman, Domino Publishing’s General Manager in North America. “That definitely helped open doors when we started building Domino Publishing as a stand-alone entity.”
Domino Publishing has grown quickly since then, cementing a solid reputation as a boutique publisher with a serious roster of artists encompassing genres from electronic, rock and indie (including The Jesus and Mary Chain, Siouxsie and the Banshees), to world music (Buena Vista Social Club and Ali Farka Toure, among others).

They also represent a growing handful of Canadian artists, including Doug Paisley, Junior Boys (Jeremy Greenspan and Matthew Didemus), and BRAIDS (Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Taylor Smith, Austin Tufts and Katie Lee), among others. Both Domino Records and Domino Publishing now represent Austra’s Katie Stelmanis as well.

“More and more frequently, we find ourselves looking northward for talent,” says Pachman, “and a

“A lot of credit is due to the quality of Canadian songwriters and the music that is coming out of Canada.” – Jeff Pachman of Domino Publishing

lot of credit is due to the quality of Canadian songwriters and the music that is coming out of Canada. I get the feeling that we’ll be spending more time with our boots on the ground there.”

For now, Pachman says the company is keen to keep building a quality roster of artists, even in light of the challenges facing the music business. “There is non-stop chatter about the death of the record industry,” he admits, “but as forward-thinking publishers, we’ve been able to grow fast. We have been able to build a house on a great foundation, and we have been extremely proactive in terms of finding opportunities for writers.”

As he looks forward, Pachman says he expects the Domino Publishing to outgrow its status as a “boutique publisher” while staying true to its roots. “I think we’re going to surprise people in the coming years.”

In just 10 years, The Besnard Lakes have become the unchallenged masters of dreamy, soft soundscapes that lie somewhere between the progressive rock of the 1970s and the shoegaze wave of the 1990s. A flexible band in its early years, it’s now made up of four members including Jace Lasek on guitar and voice, Olga Goreas on bass and voice, Richard White on guitar and Kevin Laing on drums.

The result of a fateful meeting between two people – Lasek and Goreas – in a Vancouver art school, The Besnard Lakes have released four albums since 2003. Their first effort, the Pink Floydian concept (and somewhat untidy) album Volume 1, was followed in 2007 with the better-crafted and more sophisticated The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse and, in 2010, with The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night and its aerial rock-sounding psychedelic textures. Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, a fourth opus originally planned for a 2012 release, only came out in the spring of 2013.

“We had wanted to quicken the pace of our album releases – which normally is one every third year – but the more pressure we put on ourselves, the more we found that the stuff we were recording was bad,” says Lasek. “We’ve recorded a lot of useless crap! So we decided to forget about deadlines so we could work more naturally at our own pace. We had been too hard on ourselves. When you’re in the studio looking at one other for ideas that aren’t coming, you’re better off moving to a new strategy.”

A streamlined album replete with great layered guitar parts, Until in Excess’s space-rock is reminiscent of Brian Wilson’s harmonics and melodies. “When we started promoting the album, we toured it to Germany and France, and many people were saying that our new album was lighter, less dark and anguished,” says Lasek. “That took us by surprise, because this album has heavy connotations for all of us, as it deals, among other topics, with the death of Olga’s father. We used to be good at creating feelings, but I believe that those expressed in this emotional and introspective album are very real,” the fair-haired, 40-year-old guitarist and singer maintains.

Psychedelic Music
By turns aerial, dense, cinematic and slightly nostalgic, The Besnard Lakes’ new style, which relies

We used to be good at creating feelings, but I believe that those expressed in this emotional and introspective album are very real.

heavily on carefully layered guitar riffs, defies classification – although Lasek personally likes to use the word “psychedelic” as a general descriptor. “This work always connotes interesting things in my head,” he says. “To me, it means a degree of experimenting, freedom of action and a desire to push things to the limit. This is more or less our band’s philosophy – making incremental steps to take our sound as far as humanly possible,” says Lasek, who also happens to be the co-owner of Montreal’s popular Breakglass Studio.

Lasek and Goreas, who are man and wife in real life, and diehard fans of Slayer, Spiritualized and Yes, are perfectionists who feel the need to isolate in order to function more adequately. “Normally, Olga and I will lock ourselves up in the studio and work on basic arrangements,” says lasek. “More often than not, I will sing my own lyrics and she’ll sing hers. We talk things over for a while and then lay down the song’s basic structure, looking at what the finished product is going to sound like. Then we have Richard and Kevin listen to the result, and they come up with the finishing touches.”

Montreal Love
A Saskatchewan native, Lasek took immediately to Montreal and its music scene when he relocated there 13 years ago. “There’s an element of pride in being able to say that you’re part of that scene,” he says. “I didn’t realize this until I started travelling abroad. Everyone knows about Montreal. It’s even more relevant today, and there is still this energy. The Montreal scene got a real break in that it was never pigeonholed. This has made it possible for artists to experiment freely and try new things.”

At press time, the band was gearing up for appearances on the continent as well as in the U.K. this September, to be followed in November with dates on the U.S. West Coast. Otherwise, Lasek has his work cut out for him in the studio.  “There’s always something to be done,” he says. “Never any breaks. We will probably start concentrating on a new Besnard Lake album sometime soon. I hope we can get it out a lot faster this time! But you never know with this business – anything can happen.”

This past spring, Xavier Caféïne released New Love, a scorching hot collection of 12 solid rock songs. At 37, this Ottawa-based artist is a veteran of the punk rock scene in which he’s been active for the past two decades, yet he’s lost none of his original fire and sincerity, and he’s acquired new creative partners along the way. His is very much a rock journey in progress.

Watching an artist release an album of stirring songs after suffering a heartbreak is nothing new, but seeing a love-affair-gone-wrong produce such raw and contagious energy is a rare thing indeed. Far from being heavy, the new Caféïne opus is a balanced rock album with exhilarating keyboards reminiscent of The Cure, Joy Division or PiL.

“What I look for above all else in art,” Xavier says, “is sincerity. So I decided to go all the way and create small tableaux of the emotions one feels after a breakup. No moral grandstanding there, though. I stay away from these things. Of course, the creative process provided me with a kind of exorcism, and this recent episode brought me to revise my ideas about love and to realize that it can be a much greater thing than I used to believe.”

Recorded in Montreal and mixed in New York City with the Gus Van Go/Werner F tandem (Les Trois Accords, Vulgaires Machins, Chinatown), New Love is Caféïne’s sixth album. “Gus too is in love with the new wave,” he says, “so we hit it off right away, as we realized that we were speaking the same language and sharing the same music references. It’s easy to move forward when everyone is adding their own strength towards a shared vision.”

Although album selections like “Electric” or “Love Disease” are not revolutionizing the artist’s style – there’s a feeling that we’ve heard that sound before – there’s no denying that Caféïne has remained true to himself, that he has produced precisely the album he had in mind, and that he truly knows how to package a catchy tune. He’s a pro. So what does he think of all the changes the music industry has had to make in recent years?

“There is a good side and a bad side to everything new,” he says, “and one’s ability to adapt is a sign of intelligence. Granted, music has become more democratic now, but selling albums is not as easy as it once was, that’s for sure. So if people download my album for free and enjoy listening to it, I can’t get miserable over this, particularly when they come to see me perform onstage, buy a T-shirt and so on. The people who miss ‘the good old days’ often are those who will tell you, ‘I lost track, I no longer listen to new music, I don’t have time.’ I say, ‘If you no longer take the time to enjoy music, you’ve really become an old man, my friend.’”

In terms of years, 37 is a ripe old age on the punk scene. Can we talk about maturity here, or is this anathema to the rock mindset? “All my role models were people who never really grew up,” says Caféïne. “I’m thinking of Plume, Iggy Pop, David Bowie or Joe Strummer of The Clash, who died a 50-year-old teenager. Of course, I hope I’m not going to die that young, but I still try to live life as fully as I can so that if I were to depart from it prematurely, at least I would be able to say to myself that I did my very best.

“Life to me is one long journey with lots and lots of side trips. You have to get out of your original environment, out of your comfort zone. You will never convince me that the purpose of life is to listen to Warriors when you get home at 5:00 p.m. because there is nothing else to do. To me, this is like being dead already, and when I go there myself, I try to shake it away as soon as possible.

“When I do get there for real, however, I want to be able to say to myself “Wow, I almost went all the way around the world, I came up with my albums, I loved with all my heart, I was blessed with great parents…” I want the balance sheet of my life to be positive.”

Speaking of going places, Xavier Caféïne makes no bones about the fact that he viewed the release of a second English album since his 2004 Poxy release as a means of making his music (and himself) travel further along.

“Being from Ottawa, I already speak English, so for me doing an English album is a walk in the park,” he says. “There are two French tracks on New Love – I insisted on it. If I may say so myself, I believe that I have the ability to make French rock lyrics sound natural instead of forced, and I certainly wouldn’t want to lose my spot in the Quebec music landscape.”

With his myriad appearances on the Quebec scene over the summer months and his list of upcoming fall concerts, the artist who gave us Gisèle, one of the most solid Francophone albums of the mid-2000s, is showing no sign of slowing down. Au contraire!