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.
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.
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.”
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.”