The Besnard Lakes: ‘I Love The Idea Of Espionage’

Secret spies and changing history with The Besnard Lakes.

We’re talking to Jace Lasek, The Besnard Lakes’ guitarist, vocalist, producer and all-around great guy, and we have somehow come onto the subject of David Lynch. “In all his films he always has the very beautiful right alongside the off-putting and eerie, even kind of ugly, and I love that juxtaposition of things,” Jace explains, when we ask how they pull off that ever so difficult dynamic of being both loud and tender. “It can be hard to do but we always strive to create the ugly and the beautiful and the loud and the soft and the loud and the tender.”

It’s something that The Besnard Lakes seem to do effortlessly. The Montreal band have created four albums of irresistible space rock and with their new full-length, ‘Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO’, they continue to keep the bar exceptionally high. It’s a release the band are understandably thrilled with – well, except Jace, at first. “The rest of the band is really proud with the album. I’m always a little apprehensive, when it’s completed,” he laughs, “but the album seems to be starting to be received really well. Everybody has breathed a sigh of relief about it. We think we’ve made something really great.”

And great it is. Their fourth album continues where the previous ones left off. The twosome of Jace and his wife Olga Goreas – plus the other members of the band and some illustrious collaborators – have, for a decade, created beautifully mesmerising shoegaze. They’ve produced their own unique sound that, yes is loud and is tender; but it’s also brilliantly widescreen and elegant, music that is aiming for the stars. Twice their previous albums have been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize - 2007’s ‘…Are The Dark Horses’ and 2010’s ‘…Are The Roaring Night’. How does the process of making music work? “Usually what happens is Olga and I will go in to the studio and put the rough demo ideas together and then Kevin and Rich will start filling in the blanks, putting together the actual song but we’re building the core part of the song and then the guys come in and make it awesome.”

But despite how effortless this sound appears, the recording of ‘Until In Excess’ wasn’t without its problems. Certain obstacles meant that it took two years to record. “We try to make it faster but it never seems to end up being any quicker than that. Since we have the studio and it’s busy and I’m producing other bands all the time, it’s hard to get in to do it and record it. Plus we hit a couple of stumbling blocks creatively and we ended up throwing out a lot of stuff we had recorded and starting all over again.”

We ask whether those creative stumbling blocks help them, in the end, to gain a clearer picture of the album they want to create. “It helps out in the end. Sometimes the stress can be a good thing. It can help create a sense of urgency and help you to get something done. But in another sense it can be really damaging because you can feel you’re never going to make another song again. We had a self-imposed deadline and once we dropped that the stress kind of went away and we felt we could relax and make a record.”

The result is a record that sees them refine their sonic palette, creating something which is both new and sounds unmistakably like The Besnard Lakes. Jace views it as a development of the last two albums – with tweaks and changes helping them to spread their wings even wider in the future. “We wanted to develop something so we could expand on the next record so we don’t get locked in to the idea of the what we’ve been working on before.” To that end ‘The Specter’ is his favourite song here. “That’s the furthest removed from what we’ve done in the past just because it’s almost wholly piano driven more so than the other songs have been. It’s also probably closest to like a late 60s Brian Wilson song and I’m pretty proud of that.”

Further changes include the removal of any Morse Code on this album and the ideas of spies becoming more of an undercurrent than on their previous records. What is it about spies that intrigues him so much? “I don’t know. The storyline makes it easier for me to write lyrics. It kind of gives me a stepping-stone and a platform to come up with ideas to write about. I love the idea of secret espionage and a single person being able to single-handedly change the course of history because of a message that was received on the radio.”

There’s also obviously the change in the way the albums are titled. “I kind of felt it would be a bit goofy if I was a fan of The Besnard Lakes and I saw another album with ‘The Besnard Lakes blah blah’. I’d kind of roll my eyes a little bit. And dropping the way of naming the album part of it was to free ourselves of the system that we had developed so we had a bigger palette for the next album.” There‘s also a funny story behind where the new title comes from. “The title actually comes from when we played a show in Paris. There was a review of that show written in French and our label manager had Google translated it and sent it to us. And one of the sentences used to describe us was ‘Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO’ so I wrote it down. Then when we were trying to come up with album titles I remembered that. It seems perfect.”

Odd descriptions seem to be order of the day for Besnard Lakes. There’s a YouTube comment which describes the band as My Bloody Valentine mixed with Queen. Is he happy with that description? “Yeah totally! I love the fact that we get put in to the classic rock genre with our music. I listen to a lot of 70s rock so that comes out in our sound. I love reading some of the descriptions of our sound. It’s pretty hilarious sometimes.” Who does he feel is closest to their sound? Who inspired them? “Well, a lot of Joe Walsh and early Spiritualized like Lazer Guided Melodies. And there’s Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue and for this record I was also listening to Pie on Fire and OM and stone rock dune bands just for their textures and power. All that stuff is really influential for me – at least on this record. And of course the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson and Dennis Wilson. And Bee Gees too - I’m a huge fan of them.”

The Besnard Lakes’ new album ‘Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO’ is out now via Jagjaguwar.

Read the full interview in the 15th April edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now.