Interview Series: Library Voices
Ever since I first heard “Drinking Games” as a free download on iTunes some 17 months ago, I knew there was something different yet fascinating about Library Voices. From the wonderful vocal harmony arrangements, to the subtle and truly odd noises in the background, it caught my ear—and my interest. If you own or have listened to any of their work from their two full length albums or their debut EP, Hunting Ghosts, you’ll likely know exactly what I’m talking about. As it goes with most music, however, they may not be your “bag”.
But if you can dig ‘em, and Library Voices are indeed you’re “bag”, then it should be safe for me to assume you have listened to their latest gem of an LP, Summer of Lust [if you haven't, read my review of the album and get listening!]. Currently, the guys and gal from Regina, Saskatchewan are on a cross-Canada tour and are playing Vancouver this coming Thursday (Sept. 22nd) at the Biltmore Cabaret. I had the pleasure of phoning Mike Dawson—who is the lyricist, as well as synth and sampler from the band—and got to pick his brain a little bit about said album and a few other nifty tidbits about the band. Check it:
MoreThanAFeeling Music’s Interview with Mike Dawson of Library Voices:
Dylan: I wanted to congratulate you on your recent success with your sophomore album, Summer of Lust. How’s the tour been going and how have fans been receiving the new music?
Mike: So far it’s been incredible. We all just completely overwhelmed with the response. When we went in to make the record, we purposely isolated ourselves a little bit; looked inward as far as writing the songs musically and stayed focus on what we were doing. What happened with Denim On Denim was, we over thought everything a little bit, I think, and that took a lot of soul out of the songs. So on this album [Summer of Lust], we wanted to remedy that. Having done that and finished the record—in the middle of winter—we had been sitting on it for so long that we started to second guess it, but luckily this time around we committed to it already. It’s been awesome to see people reach out to us and have such a positive response.
Dylan: So you guys are down one band member from your previous album and tour—Karla [Miller]—how has that adjustment been?
Mike: I guess it’s two-fold. There’s no hard feelings at all between us and her. She’s gone off to do her own thing, she travelled to Bali to study yoga and now she’s teaching yoga in Regina. That being said, it has sort of opened up just that much more space within the songs, I think, for us all to do a little more sonically and creatively with our own instruments, so it’s been—with no disrespect to her—it’s been a little bit of a celebration of that extra space in the songs to grow our own sound on a personal level.
Dylan: You guys have had—correct me if I’m wrong—at times, up to ten band members at once.
Mike: When we first started out, there certainly was no mission statement by any means for the band. We just invited a bunch of friends to get together and started playing music. Everyone sort of stuck around for the first while, but with that said, we spend a ridiculous amount of time on the road and some people love it and some people grow tired of it quickly.
Dylan: Survival of the fittest, in a way.
Mike: For sure, everyone on this tour as a current state of the band absolutely loves playing music and touring it. If your heart isn’t in it anymore and touring trips start to feel like a burden, there are no hard feelings if you want to move on.
Dylan: Yea, you don’t want to become resentful.
Mike: Right. You work your day job to fund your band to stay on tour but if you’re not enjoying it, it makes me wonder what your motivation is to play music, you know?
Dylan: For sure. Going back to your “sound”, from your debut EP, Hunting Ghosts. What I found is, even though on Summer of Lust the Library Voices sound is still there but it’s a bit of a departure from some of the quirkiness that was on Hunting Ghosts and to a lesser extent, Denim on Denim. Can you explain that progression in songwriting and style?
Mike: Yea, it wasn’t conscious. From our perspective, we just sort of feel like we’ve become better songwriters and we’ve successfully streamlined those things. I guess it’s our hope that the quirkiness, and the weird little noises exist in a more succinct song than they did earlier on. To us, it’s less meandering. And I do like how that first EP just came together. I don’t think we could go back and recreate those songs. When we play those old songs live, there are parts where the audience is with you and then we throw in those “weird” parts, and you kind of lose their attention and you see people’s eyes shift and get diverted a little bit. We wanted to write songs that were geared towards performing them live, because you record them once but then you end up playing them a couple hundred times a year.
Dylan: Right on. In typical Library Voices fashion, the Summer of Lust album is basically littered with literary references. I’m curious as to who the biggest bookworm in the group is.
Mike: Everyone is a bookworm in their own way, in different areas. Especially—even though I constantly make fun of him and make jokes at his expense for the rest of our lives—Carl’s [Johnson] knowledge of science fiction literature is mind blowing [laughs]. I don’t know how but he’s read every bold book you could ever come across. But yea, I guess I get the loudest voice in that I write the lyrics so they kind of depend on what I’m reading or what inspires me.
Dylan: So does the group have a collective favourite book or author?
Mike: I don’t think a favourite book, per se, but we all sort of shared in this experience on the last tour where Paul [Gutheil] had Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything as a book on tape. It’s narrated by Simon Vance who did the intro and outro on our record. It’s this book that’s full of scientific information about planet earth, essentially, but he [Simon Vance] delivers it with this cool, dry, sarcastic british tone and he’ll tell a fact and we all high five each other—we all get so into it—so that’s what we go to on long drives.
Dylan: Nice, that’s pretty funny. I can appreciate that dry, english humour and sarcasm. It comes across on those intros and outros, it’s pretty awesome. I’ve got one more question for you, it’s regarding the tune Prime Minister’s Daughter off the new album. It’s one of my favourites on the new album both lyrically and musically, and if I’m not mistaken it’s probably the most political song you guys have ever written—or at least, recorded. Could you give a little background on that?
Mike: I dunno, I guess I’m under the belief that everything is political to a certain degree. I didn’t write it spitting it out to be some sort of overt, political statement by any means. It was more a comment on how hard it is to be an artist, to be working a full-time job to fund your art, and working full-time to pursue your art, and then trying to maintain a relationship on the side. That, coupled with blatant observations and factual things that our current prime minister has done. We didn’t write it to influence anyone’s vote, but I also think a broad scope of our audience, especially the ones we relate to the most will share a similar political view. It was sort of written as our pro-CBC song than it was of us trying to take a stand to change anything. Not that I’d be upset if it did help change a couple opinions. I’d like to hope our current social policy doesn’t continue to loom towards the stone ages, but…