Tonight, The Dears return to Philadelphia for the first time in more than six years. The Montreal indie-poppers (who’ve been at it since 1995), led by husband-and-wife Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak, are touring in support of Times Infinity Volume Two, released earlier this year. The album is the darker follow-up to, and second-half-of, Times Infinity Volume One, released in 2015, their first album in nearly half a decade. In 2011 they were touring behind their critically acclaimed Degeneration Street and found themselves and the late-and-dearly-missed North Star Bar. Well, tonight they’re headlining Philthy’s current favorite musical dive bar, Boot & Saddle (which actually just celebrated a fifth birthday). I recently got a chance to chat with Murray Lightburn about the latest chapter in the band’s two-plus-decade career.
Izzy Cihak: How would you characterize your process of writing and recording together?
Murray Lightburn: When I write songs and record songs Natalia acts as a sort of barometer to gauge the emotional response. It’s not intentional, but if she cries a bit, that’s usually a sign that we are headed in the right direction. It’s been that way for many years now. The result is meeting people along the way and having them tell us about the supportive role a song of ours played in their life. That is generally our purpose so, from our end, Natalia and I are like scientists testing in a laboratory.
Izzy: I realize this is a cheesy question, but I always feel inclined to ask it to duos who are married or “real-life couples.” Do you have any particular favorite couples who worked together throughout music history… in addition to yourselves [laughs]?
Murray: That is an incredibly cheesy question, indeed – but forgivable. There’s no couple I could think of that inspires us in that way. However, looking around and finding other couples who have this kind of “all-in” relationship perhaps makes us feel a little less cheesy about what we are doing and how we present it. John and Yoko would be at the very top of the list of public, artistic couples who put their relationship into everything and vice versa. It’s a beautiful thing that they shared with the world and the world always needs more beauty and love stories. Always, always, always. If Natalia and I can continue that kind of tradition and practice through our work, I hope that it will inspire others to participate as well.
Izzy: Times Infinity Volume One and Times Infinity Volume Two were your first albums in a handful of years. How do you feel like they compare to your previous work? Do you feel like a different band now?
Murray: With every album we create, we are always hoping to evolve. We can’t ever really change or be different from before. Sometimes it’s about subtracting things, sometimes it’s about adding. As we continue and the years go by it becomes a little bit of both. The goal is to achieve as perfect a balance as we can get to deliver the very best that we can offer. We feel we’ve mostly been successful with that.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the most significant influences behind your recent release, both musical and otherwise?
Murray: We were inspired by some of our past works, but not entirely in a nuts and bolts way. I had squirreled away stories related to our past and told several throughout TIV1&2. It’s almost why the project had to unfold the way that it did. It’s a very grand telling, very “once upon a time.” It’s hard to push something like that through in 2017. Musically, we are always inspired by the sounds of Motown and great R’N’B stuff from the end of the ’60s/early ’70s. Diana and Marvin, for me personally, is something of which I can never get enough.
Izzy: I see that Lou Cannon will be opening your upcoming US dates. Were you previously fans of hers? Are you excited to get to spend some time on the road with her? I definitely dig her sounds.
Murray: Frankly, I never heard of her before we connected with our Canadian label, Paper Bag Records. They sent us music to check out. I think what she is doing is wonderful and kind of reminds me of a mellower Kate Bush. I also really love the way she does her show. She really has her shit together. We talked a bit about her rig and she’s all about being able to run it all on her own. That’s after my own heart.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live experience when you play Boot & Saddle this Saturday? It’s been quite some time since you’ve played Philadelphia.
Murray: We have been trying to both bring our audience up to speed and recapping the songs we all know well. We love when everyone is singing along, too. As usual, I’m drenched in sweat by the third or fourth song, as the show for me feels like a “Jane Fonda Workout” – sweating to the oldies.
Izzy: For that matter, do you have any favorite memories from the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection (as we call it)? You’ve played here a number of times in the past.
Murray: Most of my memories of Philly are very nice, indeed. I’ve had great fun there, eaten great food, and have played wonderful shows and met some great people.
Izzy: I realize this is a really huge question, but considering that you’ve been doing this for more than two decades now, what have been your favorite highlights of The Dears’ career?
Murray: Every time we’ve played Philly…?
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for the two of you? What are you hoping and planning for 2018?
Murray: We just announced a bunch of shows in March. There’s more stuff in the works. Stay tuned!