Just off of their second Western Canada tour, and before Dane LeTourneau left for Europe, Jess caught the frontman of Gold & Shadow on the phone long enough to chat music, touring life, the Birdhaus, and all about their hometown of Nanaimo, B.C. The band consists of Dane on keyboard and vocals, Jordan on guitar, and the rhythm powerhouse Jesse on bass and Wes on drums.
If you're unfamiliar with the band, it's a 4-piece indie outfit out of Vancouver Island. They've just released their second album in 2 years - an EP follow up Birdhaus to their 2015 full-length Torch. Check out the stream below and hear what they've been up to in our interview.
Jess: Since you've been to a lot of these cities before on tour, in what ways was your last tour different?
Dane: The biggest difference was I basically just asked the band members what days they are available in June and was given a set of dates, so as the tour booker I was given a set of dates and was like 'okay, I've got to book how many shows in how much time?!' So we ended up playing, in the most concentrated part of the tour, 8 shows in 9 days which was awesome for efficiency but it was absolutely crazy because we were driving around the prairies pretty frantically. But we got in front of a lot of audiences and it was really productive, so I'm happy about that part.
Jess: Were there any places that you specifically went back to, or maybe avoided?
Dane: Without mentioning.... we played a venue in Banff last time and, maybe there was stuff going on elsewhere but essentially it was just us and the bar staff, and the bar staff were kind of uninterested. So that was awesome... you need one of those nights to keep you humble. Otherwise you start to think you're some sort of rockstar, which is never true. We avoided that, but we went back to a lot of places. We had great experiences, both tours. We went back to a venue in Saskatoon called Capitol which is awesome, we went back to Broken City in Calgary which is an awesome venue. There was lots of great stuff that happened last time so we followed that and we played a brand new venue this time in Lloydminster called The Root that we'd never played and that was probably our favourite show. Super cool community centre, everyone seemed to participate in this place. We know not a soul in Lloydminster and there was a full house. That was very cool.
Jess: How were the people? Did you talk to them?
Dane: They were so cool, they were all intersted in what we did. They were chill, very curious, upbeat. I asked them a lot of questions about the venue and they said it was the only thing like that, so it really gets heavy investment from the community. That was amazing.
Jess: Is there anything you've done now on both tours that's now become a tradition? Or, anything you're never going to do again?
Dane: Well, we're never doing the overnight drive which we did this tour, which was ungodly. But, we do have a band tradition. We go to a restaurant in Merritt called Queen India. You know how when you stop there's the Subway, the gas station, all the typical rest stops... well this one has an East Indian lady who makes East Indian food which is delicious and very well priced. Right alongside the gas station and Tim Horton's, so we go there. She's awesome.
Jess: What did you do to keep up energy and morale on the tour?
Dane: We're all really good friends, and the usual things like coffee. We're all really into hip hop which does not come through in the music we make, but we listen to a lot of Kendrick and Kanye so that keeps up the energy pretty good in the tour van. That last Kenrick Lamar record is our favourite record of 2015. That hasn't been out of the CD player.
Jess: So, Birdhaus is your new album, or I suppose EP follow-up to your last album?
Dane: EP follow up. We've made loads of records, but nothing that we pushed as hard as the last ones. These are the records we've made.
Jess: What makes a difference from everything you made before? Did you make it intentionally different or have an intentional plan for it?
Dane: Yeah, well the first question - what's the difference. This is the thing we're happiest with because we went into it very intentially wanting to make something that was very compact. With no filler. We wanted to write concise songs under 4 minutes long that told a story as a whole as a record in under 20 minutes. So it's EP length, but still a collection of songs that are supposed to be together. The biggest overall difference is we went with Tom Dzbranski, Vancouver producer. He's done such great work with Lovecoast, We Are the City, we got to go in there for a couple of days and it was awesome. After the experience of recording our last album, which was very drawn out, this was so beautifully easy. And fun, we had a great time. The recording experience parallels the listening experience. The recording experience was quick, meaningful, easy, painless, and I think the listening experience is the same, and that was intentional.
Jess: You said it tells a story from beginning to end, what's the story
Dane: Well I don't like to assign a concept to something that doesn't have it, so the songs don't really make a story lyrically, but the songs we designed to flow and they have these 2 interludes. It plays as a whole really nicely. The way the songs flow is really nice, things kind of reach a peak at the end of 'Little Death' and draw to a close with 'Lifegiver' so that's all very intentional, and the way the interludes sit in there. Kind of the overarching theme is that all of those songs were written and arranged in a crazy space called Birdhaus.
Jess: So what is the Birdhaus? Is it a musical space or is it something you made into a music space?
Dane: It's your typical univeristy house with beer cans and empty Absolut vodka bottles and clothes all over the floor. Our guitarist was living in it and had a jam space that was basically his bedroom, but it was really cool and it was free so we started jamming there and it became the space where we wrote everything. We kind of took that and went with it on the record. Our designer made a booklet with little themes from the Birdhaus, we kind of immortalized it and embraced it's weirdness in a way.
Jess: Do you think the weirdness of the house influenced the music as you were writing it?
Dane: It didn't have as much of an impact, the music was very much what we wanted to make as a response to what we'd made before - we wanted shorter songs, try synthesizer, a few other things... It was mostly just a space where we worked on these things. It was a little claustrophobic... it didn't have much influence on the sound which I think is good, ultimately.
Jess: Did you write all of the songs together?
Dane: We wrote a lot of songs. This is the first record where we wrote more songs than we actually used, we wrote 11 songs and picked 4. They all got written at one time but in the past we'd just taken all of the songs we'd written and just made it into a record, but this time we wanted to just pick the very best songs.
Jess: How did you pick which songs to use?
Dane: With many fights in the Birdhaus where we yelled at each other. There was a lot of debate. In any group there's people who have different tastes. Some people really wanted the heavier stuff, I was pushing for the more synth-y kinda poppy stuff. Our guitarist was pushing really hard for the weird, instrumental stuff. It ended up being a little bit of a balance of all of them, but in the end people agreed that the pop-y stuff was what we hadn't tried so we went with that.
Jess: Would you consider yourselves a pop band?
Dane: Absolutely not. I'd consider ourselves a rock band, we're Art Rock. But yea, the pop thing creeps in when it comes to songs like 'Dimension' and even 'Judges.' We'd never tried that so we wanted to toss that in there for flavour.
Jess: Do you find that that changed the vibe of your live shows?
Dane: Yeah, well we found people responded to our pop-ier kind of stuff. The new material fit in really well. The older, more kind of post-rock, we arranged the set so those fit in the middle and bookended with the pop-ier stuff. Everyone loved it, so that might be saying something.
Jess: Are you planning on continuing in that direction?
Dane: I don't know, but I've been loving forcing myself to write in that way, to write more concisely. I don't know, a lot of the music we love does that but also does other things. For example, Dan Mangan's last record Club Meds was huge for us, we love that record. It manages just to be concise but also get really weird and experimental - very Radiohead, very dark. I love that, that's the music that makes me tick and same for a lot of the guys in the band. Pop is fun, but ultimately the most meaningful for us is the music that gets really deep and challenges conventional forms. We never want to lose that, that's important.
Jess: So the sort of art aspect instead of the consumer aspect of music?
Dane: Art is sometimes a contentious sounding label just to seperate itself from just rock or pop.
Jess: How do you think being from Nanaimo has impacted your band? Do you think that's helped set you apart and something you're proud of?
Dane: We're definitely proud to be from Nanaimo. It's a very supportive music scene, even though it's not ideal or perfect, the musicians here are amazing. Musicians are very supportive of each other and we've got a few little hubs like the Vault cafe, which is just going crazy with music there, almost every night. Stuff like that is really huge and there's no pretentiousness here in Nanaimo. Noone really cares who you are, you just kind of blend in. For example, the Wolf Parade guys have been hanging in Nanaimo quite a bit here over the last half year preping for their record and tour, and they've just been jamming out at the Vault and it's Nanimo, people are so relaxed.
Jess: Now that you're all back on Vancouver Island, what's next?
Dane: We're definitely taking a break, the last 3 years have been crazy. We wrote Torch then went on tour, then came back and immediately went into the writing room and wrote Birdhaus and recorded it, released it, toured it. We're going to see what happens after this. I personally need to see where writing takes me next. I felt like Birdhaus happened so fast after the last record, and I'm glad it did, but I definitely need more time for whatever's next. I need to change it up and do whatever feels meaningful and right for the time.