The Dears. Pic credit: Richmond Lam
The Dears. Pic credit: Richmond Lam

Five Questions With... Murray Lightburn of The Dears

It’s one thing to be partners in music, but to be partners in life on top of that displays the kind of connection few of us will ever have with another person. After nearly 20 years, the bond that Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak share has become the essence of The Dears, one of the Montreal scene’s defining bands, and one of Canadian alt-rock’s most successful exports.

Although a hallmark of The Dears’ output has been unabashedly honest and emotional songwriting, those traits took on extra meaning in recent years as Lightburn and Yanchak embarked on their Times Infinity project, their first collection of new material as The Dears since 2011’s Degeneration Street. The first volume of Times Infinity appeared in 2015 and immediately shifted the perception of the band, providing—depending on one’s interpretation—a window into the complexities of a long-term relationship.

The Dears are now set to release Times Infinity Volume Two, July 14 on Paper Bag Records, with all indications suggesting it will go deeper into exploring how we choose our daily battles. That’s clearly evident from the album’s first single “Of Fisticuffs,” available now on Apple Music and Spotify, which proves the current incarnation of The Dears hasn’t lost any of the edgy melodicism that’s long been the foundation of their sound.

Murray Lightburn spoke of the process as the band prepares to tour this fall, with their only scheduled Canadian date to this point being a special performance of their classic album No Cities Left on Sept. 15 during Pop Montreal. Keep checking for updates.

How would you describe Times Infinity Volume Two in relation to Volume One?

For one, on a technical level, I was more focused during post-production. Sounds fell into place easier the second time around. The songs themselves portray a bit more sadness and longing than the first one. It’s less urgent.

This project is another testament to your partnership with Natalia. Is there any separation between your personal lives and creative lives?

These days there’s not a lot of separation between us at all. We work together a lot and spend a great deal of time together. That said, my studio is in the garage while Natalia works in the dining room of the house. We text, email, and call each other all day long. Then we make dinner together. Then I’ll do a bit more work before we put the children to bed, together. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m a lucky guy.

At this point, The Dears have amassed an impressive body of work. Do you give any thought as to what your legacy might be?

The past will still be there long after we are truly gone so we just have to keep building towards the future, little by little. The music business is not set up for bands like ours who refuse to go away, no matter how few in this biz are willing to embrace us fully.

It seems that if a band doesn’t get to a certain level by the second album, it’s game over. Even if an artist has success, the biz is mostly ready to move on from them, no matter what, after three albums. It’s kind of sad. So the trick, I think, is to just focus on the fans who are growing with us, going through the same stuff. They get it.

When all this is truly over, perhaps their kids will dust off the old gramophone and drop the needle on No Cities Left or something. But that won’t happen if we stop now. We have to just keep going.

What's your best tour story?

As I said, I’m lucky. I get to tour with the one I love, so I have a million “best” stories.

If you could change anything about the music business, what would it be?

There are a few things, but off the top of my head, I’d say there’s far too much focus on numbers and counting beans all the bloody time. Now that everything is quantifiable, we are in danger of never finding the next Sly and Family Stone or whatever great artist you’d like to name.


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