An ode to love

Library Voices tours with its latest album

Library Voices are as much friends as they are a band.

Photo by Chris Graham

Given that love has been the go-to muse for songwriters throughout music history, it’s almost a surprise that indie pop outfit Library Voices’ latest album, LOVISH, didn’t come along sooner.

Frontman Carl Johnson says the album about relationships was more of a happy accident than a deliberate creative decision. 

“I don’t think we had a specific theme or concept that we were holding true to when we made LOVISH,” Johnson says. “But when we were trying to figure out what to name the album, it ended up turning out to be quite an apt title.”

In spite of the album’s focus on romantic aspect of relationships, Library Voices is borne of the platonic. 

Five of the band’s members grew up together in Estevan, Sask., and now all of them live in a three-block radius within the same neighbourhood in “the big city” – Regina. 

“Our friendships allow us to be overtly critical of each other’s creativity,” Michael Dawson, one of Library Voices’ two keyboard players and three songwriters, says.

“I think everyone feels free to express themselves freely, which in the long run has meant that we continually push each other out of comfort zones and help each other continue to grow as artists.”

Dawson jokes about a time during the writing of the band’s first album, Denim on Denim, when himself and Johnson had to take away all of drummer Mike Thievin’s cymbals. 

The friendships in the band also ensure that each member has a say, which allows for a broad range of influences to come out in the band’s sound. 

This diversity is evident on LOVISH, whose fuzzy, pumping sound is a departure from the perfect pop Johnson says the band had been striving for on past records. 

He adds that while moving away from the band’s established sound was nerve-wracking at times, exploration and experimentation are, for them, the only way to continue making music that makes them feel fulfilled.

The band, which is rounded out by Brennan Ross (vocals, guitar), Paul Gutheil (saxophone), Amanda Scandrett (keyboards) and Ethan Anderson (bass), is kicking off their 12-city tour with a show on Feb. 25 at Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre.

While the tour itself proved challenging to put together due to most members having careers and children, a more significant threat was posed before the album was recorded, when Johnson was severely injured in a random assault outside a Regina nightclub.

In a testament to the bond the group shares, Johnson says that rest of the band, who he refers to as his family, were all supportive of him throughout his lengthy recovery. 

“I couldn’t play music for a long time,” Johnson says. “They were just there for me regardless and the music stuff just came afterwards.”

He eventually made a full recovery, contributing lead vocals on seven of LOVISH’s eleven tracks. 

For his part, Dawson also attributes the band’s longevity to friendship.

“I know these people more intimately than any human should ever know another,” he says. “But I think without that basis of friendship and acceptance of each other’s personalities and traits, this band would have imploded years ago.”

Published in Volume 70, Number 21 of The Uniter (February 25, 2016)

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