Montreal musicians embrace their inner Morrissey: Article on The Dears and how they're Moz fans

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Montreal musicians embrace their inner Morrissey
By Andy Stonehouse, For the Camera
May 27, 2005

Every few years, it seems like the collective musical compass begins to point in the direction of one new hotbed for bands, usually a spot just a bit off the collective cultural mainstream. After rock 'n' roll scene explosions in far-flung communities such as Athens, Ga., Seattle and even Omaha, Neb., eyes are focused just north of the border on the vibrant and complex musical world developing in Montreal, Quebec.

At the epicenter of the new focus on that marvelously multicultural and historic community is the Dears, a Canadian alternative group with some interesting attributes. Led by Murray Lightburn, a black singer whose vocal style is a dead ringer for ex-Smiths leader Morrissey, The Dears' orchestral leanings and complex musical makeup is unlike anything else you've heard in a while.

Natalia Yanchak, the band's keyboard player — and the second oldest Dear, save for Lightburn — says she and her fellow musicians have appreciated the recent attention paid to hers and other Montreal acts such as the Arcade Fire and Stars, but says that spotlight can be a mighty fickle thing.

"Murray's said this a lot and I agree — it's kind of like the Olympics. Every four years a different city gets to have its music scene be the big thing for a while, and then it shifts to a different place," says Yanchak, who performs with the band Tuesday at the Climax Lounge in Denver. "I'm not so concerned as I might be in other places, you know, that the rent will go up and all these cheeseballs will move to town and try to start bands. Montreal is a tough town to crack; it's hard to make money here and you still have to speak French to get by."

The Dears' story goes back to 1995, when Lightburn, an unapologetic Smiths fan, put together the early version of the band. The sound blended the instrumental complexities of 1970s King Crimson with intimate, beautiful and evocative harmonies — and yes, loads of stuff that occasionally sounds just a little too much like Morrissey and Blur/Gorillaz vocalist Damon Albarn.

While some have criticized Lightburn's Manchester-by-way-of-Montreal fixation, it paid off in the end when the band was recently invited to open for Morrissey, not only in Toronto but also at a special show sponsored by influential Los Angeles alternative radio station KROQ — in Morrissey's adopted hometown.
"It was a pretty emotional experience," Yanchak says. "Murray was the only one who really got to meet him but the shows were amazing ... he's just such a huge idol to all of us. It's kind of like Jesus asked us to open up for him, you know?"

Since then, The Dears have gone back to a rather tireless touring regimen to promote their newest CD, No Cities Left, with a growing fan base in Europe ("We're huge in Holland, for some reason," Yanchak notes) and have continued pounding at the American market. A series of sweeps across the heartland has seen the band mostly hitting smaller venues such as the Climax, but Yanchak says the group's reputation in the United States is beginning to develop.

"This is our fourth tour of the U.S. and I'm feeling really optimistic, for some reason. It's been difficult for us, just as it was in Canada — at home, there's really just eight or so major cities, and the country is such a big place, so it's hard to get out and build a following," she says. "That's why there's definitely a brotherhood and sisterhood among Canadian bands, which is sort of our form of lazy patriotism."




Montreal musicians embrace their inner Morrissey
 
K

Karl

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i remember when i saw morrissey, the dears had opened up for him. it was for the KROQ Flashback to the Future make up show beucase he was supposilvy sick but i think that he was still just scared of playing after billy idol becuase he whould have looked like crap.. besides he wantted all his pretty lights im sure...

> Montreal musicians embrace their inner Morrissey
> By Andy Stonehouse, For the Camera
> May 27, 2005

> Every few years, it seems like the collective musical compass begins to
> point in the direction of one new hotbed for bands, usually a spot just a
> bit off the collective cultural mainstream. After rock 'n' roll scene
> explosions in far-flung communities such as Athens, Ga., Seattle and even
> Omaha, Neb., eyes are focused just north of the border on the vibrant and
> complex musical world developing in Montreal, Quebec.

> At the epicenter of the new focus on that marvelously multicultural and
> historic community is the Dears, a Canadian alternative group with some
> interesting attributes. Led by Murray Lightburn, a black singer whose
> vocal style is a dead ringer for ex-Smiths leader Morrissey, The Dears'
> orchestral leanings and complex musical makeup is unlike anything else
> you've heard in a while.

> Natalia Yanchak, the band's keyboard player — and the second oldest Dear,
> save for Lightburn — says she and her fellow musicians have appreciated
> the recent attention paid to hers and other Montreal acts such as the
> Arcade Fire and Stars, but says that spotlight can be a mighty fickle
> thing.

> "Murray's said this a lot and I agree — it's kind of like the
> Olympics. Every four years a different city gets to have its music scene
> be the big thing for a while, and then it shifts to a different
> place," says Yanchak, who performs with the band Tuesday at the
> Climax Lounge in Denver. "I'm not so concerned as I might be in other
> places, you know, that the rent will go up and all these cheeseballs will
> move to town and try to start bands. Montreal is a tough town to crack;
> it's hard to make money here and you still have to speak French to get
> by."

> The Dears' story goes back to 1995, when Lightburn, an unapologetic Smiths
> fan, put together the early version of the band. The sound blended the
> instrumental complexities of 1970s King Crimson with intimate, beautiful
> and evocative harmonies — and yes, loads of stuff that occasionally sounds
> just a little too much like Morrissey and Blur/Gorillaz vocalist Damon
> Albarn.

> While some have criticized Lightburn's Manchester-by-way-of-Montreal
> fixation, it paid off in the end when the band was recently invited to
> open for Morrissey, not only in Toronto but also at a special show
> sponsored by influential Los Angeles alternative radio station KROQ — in
> Morrissey's adopted hometown.
> "It was a pretty emotional experience," Yanchak says.
> "Murray was the only one who really got to meet him but the shows
> were amazing ... he's just such a huge idol to all of us. It's kind of
> like Jesus asked us to open up for him, you know?"

> Since then, The Dears have gone back to a rather tireless touring regimen
> to promote their newest CD, No Cities Left, with a growing fan base in
> Europe ("We're huge in Holland, for some reason," Yanchak notes)
> and have continued pounding at the American market. A series of sweeps
> across the heartland has seen the band mostly hitting smaller venues such
> as the Climax, but Yanchak says the group's reputation in the United
> States is beginning to develop.

> "This is our fourth tour of the U.S. and I'm feeling really
> optimistic, for some reason. It's been difficult for us, just as it was in
> Canada — at home, there's really just eight or so major cities, and the
> country is such a big place, so it's hard to get out and build a
> following," she says. "That's why there's definitely a
> brotherhood and sisterhood among Canadian bands, which is sort of our form
> of lazy patriotism."
 
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