Even as the world keeps turning, the role played by Montreal stalwarts the Dears remains the same.
“What we’ve come to understand, after all of these years, is we’re that friend that people can rely on to get through something,” explains frontman Murray Lightburn. “If you call, we’ll answer.”
Is Lightburn comfortable providing emotional support through speakers, two decades and seven albums in, including the band’s new release Times Infinity Vol. 2?
“I think I’m okay with that,” he concludes. “If we don’t, then who’s going to do it? When I was growing up I had the Smiths.”
In 2017, the Dears have their ducks in a row. Now that 2015’s Times Infinity Vol. 1 finally became available worldwide a few months back, they were able to drop the sequel (on July 14 via Paper Bag Records), and they’ve kept a steady flow of reissues and remasters going as they retake ownership of their material. They even had a brush with the streaming revolution following a visit to Spotify’s posh Manhattan offices. And this September, the group will perform classic 2003 album No Cities Left in its entirety at POP Montreal.
Lightburn is cool with their past and present — an enviable position to be in.
The Times Infinity twins – some of their most concise, songwriting-oriented work yet – reflect the passage of time with an eye on the future. They’ve built up a rapport with fans and amongst themselves, and they have no intention of letting that go.
“Times Infinity is about those deep relationships that you want and will make every effort to preserve,” Lightburn says. “There’s deep love and admiration, and a sense of importance.”
One way to keep an honest dialogue with listeners is to avoid the common pitfall of talking about everything but the music. Sure, business and politics make for fiery conversations, but as Lightburn observed with an example even he admitted came out of nowhere, no one cares about what happened to the Cult as they were making Electric – they just care about the tasty riffs.
“I don’t want people listening to Dears albums thinking about something I said about the business or what we went through to put out a piece of music. I’d rather people drop the needle on a Dears record and relate to it on a personal level, because they’re songs of a personal nature,” he says.
One exception: The prescient “I’m Sorry That I Wished You Dead” from Times Infinity Vol. 2. It not only features a surprising backing vocal from Lightburn (you’ll have to listen to it yourself), but despite having been written two summers ago accurately captures the current social media climate.
“It almost didn’t make the record,” Lightburn admits. “I wanted it to be about the vocal, maybe without anything else but the vocal.”
So what’s it about? Who would wish somebody dead?
“In the time we’re living in, the way the news is presented to us, we’re living in a world of escalation. You can decide within that, if you want to contribute to the escalation, or you can de-escalate. We’re presenting the latter. This song is about that point of reckoning.” ■
The Dears will perform No Cities Left as part of POP Montreal at la Tulipe (4530 Papineau) on Sept. 15, 8 p.m., $22