The Besnard Lakes are the Beach Boys Jr.

Montreal’s favourite atmospheric quartet gets happier on new LP

Get moody this spring with the Besnard Lakes at the Park Theatre on June 18. Supplied

With such obsessive attention to detail on display on their records, it’d be easy to assume that Montreal psych-pop experimentalists The Besnard Lakes purposefully take three years between albums.

As it turns out, their fourth opus, the ostentatiously titled Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, was supposed to be their version of a wham-bam, quickie session.

“It’s always been three years between records and we always have to rebuild our audience again every time because people forget about us,” says band co-founder/producer Jace Lasek on the line en route to Glasgow. “We wanted to avoid that this time around.”

Lasek, an established producer who has recorded albums by such Montreal luminaries as Wolf Parade, Young Galaxy, Suuns and more, owns and operates Breakglass Studios, which is also where all of The Besnard Lakes records are written and recorded. As such, the band has to take studio time when it’s available; a week here, a three-day session there. But, as Lasek and bandmates Olga Goreas (Lasek’s wife and band co-founder), Kevin Laing and Richard White, were painfully reminded this time around, creative energy doesn’t always align with scheduling.

“As we got deeper into it, we got frustrated,” Lasek says. “We threw a lot of it away. It was a scary decision. We had to make a call on what was more important. In the end, we’ve never put out a record that we weren’t happy with.

“It also makes you question whether you can make something good again.”

Of course, it was the right call. Released in March via Jagjaguwar, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO is a resplendent studio masterwork. None of its eight songs clock in under five minutes; each is a beautifully composed, incredibly nuanced piece of music, worthy of being described in classical music terms.

Still, The Besnard Lakes aren’t the type to take themselves too seriously, as evidenced by the winking haiku of a record title. Pro-tip, musicians: Google translations of your past reviews are veritable gold mines.

“When the label found that line in a French-English translation of one of our reviews I was like, ‘Shit! That’s my favourite line ever!’” Lasek recalls with a laugh. “I wrote it down and didn’t know what we’d use it for. Then we finished the record and it ended up being the most apt title.”

The title eschews the “The Besnard Lakes Are…” set up of 2010’s The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night and 2007’s The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse, representing a stylistic departure for the band. Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO shoves aside its predecessors’ dense, velvety, shades-of-black soundscapes in favour of an effervescent lightness. Indeed, there’s a reason why The Besnard Lakes have been earning a share of Beach Boys comparisons.

“After it was finished, we started doing interviews in Paris, then we were in Berlin for a day, and we noticed that a lot of people were saying it was ‘sun-bleached’ and ‘not as dense,’” Lasek says. “No one’s really described us that way before; we’re usually ‘drenched in darkness.’ We’re huge Beach Boys fans, so we were happy to be described as ‘sun-bleached.’”

Not surprisingly, The Besnard Lakes are also fond of the “capital-A Album,” the kind that demands your full attention from beginning to end. Like a glass of really good red wine, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO is meant to be savoured.

“I enjoy getting lost in something for 45 minutes,” Lasek says. “A lot of my first albums were prog. Maybe even bands like Spiritualized in the ‘90s — they taught me to listen to entire records. I think that’s important. I’m also very enamoured by the three-minute pop song, but being able to get lost in a record, I think that’s something to be embraced, not forgotten.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 26 of The Uniter (May 29, 2013)

Related Reads