Playing Pop: Murray A. Lightburn

The singer from Montreal’s the Dears presents his solo record MASS: LIGHT with a piece of karaoke theatre at Pop Montreal.

Murray (2) (542x600)

Murray A. Lightburn. Photo by Andrew White

Nearly two decades into the Dears, the local band is on hiatus and its singer Murray A. Lightburn has released his first solo record, a project that he chose to take well beyond his comfort zone. MASS: LIGHT is guitar-free, entirely solo and has its roots in a concept that’s both visual and narrative—he’s talking about eventually rendering it on film.

Though he didn’t initially intend to stage the record, Lightburn prepared a “synthpopera” spectacle for Pop Montreal after being prodded by texts from the festival’s creative director Dan Seligman.

In short, what you can expect is live vocals by Lightburn and back-up vocalists Laura Wills (ex-Pony Up, briefly a member of the Dears) and Cult MTL film critic/musician Malcolm Fraser (the World Provider, Lion Farm). There is no band, but there will be a screen depicting images related to the project’s core concept: final judgment of a sinner who has died, as inspired by the Christian tract (ie. comic) This Was Your Life.

Murray A. Lightburn: This is completely different from what I normally do. With the Dears, everything is still conceptual but super-abstract. This is a very specific project that’s trying to tell a very specific story. The album is a soundtrack to this movie in my mind and staging it is an extension of that. My elevator pitch has been that it’s theatre meets karaoke.

Lorraine Carpenter: How theatrical is it? Will there be facepaint and leotards?

MAL: I will say that there is at least one costume change. It’s theatrical in the sense of, like—and I’m not comparing myself at all to David Bowie, but it’s in that tradition of a theatrical rock show, except there’s no rock.

LC: But there is mass.

MAL: This concept of final judgment is a kind of abstract attempt to answer the question, what is one’s mass-to-light ratio? Darkness vs. luminosity. It’s a super-nerdy scientific equation about the universe and galaxies. I read and watch a lot of sci-fi, so I lifted that to use it as a metaphor for this character. ■

The Mass Light All Electronic Pop Opera, with openers Montag and Un Blonde, happens at the Ukrainian Federation (5213 Hutchison) on Thursday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m., $15/$20

See our Music Team’s Pop Montreal picks here

Leave a Reply