Interview with Natalia Yanchak of The Dears


Via e-mail

SC: I have to say I think you guys handled the leak as tastefully as I’ve ever seen.  Most bands come off sounding kind of  disconnected from reality at best and tool-ish at worst but your letters just made it sound like you really cared about your record.

NY: Thank you.

SC: How would you say this current album differs from your previous albums?

NY: Every album is a journey, taking us to another place both musically and thematically. Missiles is a step along this adventure, one that reflects on the past and looks to the future. For this reason, no two Dears albums will ever truly be “the same.”

SC: The idea of missiles tends to imply the larger more sweeping realm of politics and organization for me because of their own massive scale of destruction but the lyrics on the album seem more concerned with personal results of these grand systems.  How do you see the content of this album relating to the album’s title?

NY: That’s kind of it: an alternate working title was “Threats,” which also implied an impending doom, or the insecurity of modern, Western living.

SC: The video for “Money Babies” has some pretty direct imagery, what were your roles in the shaping of the video? (you can view it here)

NY: We are into scifi/apocalypse: Murray and I wrote our own treatment for this song and it kind of combined the films Children Of Men, Perfume: a Story of Murder and The Village. When we read this treatment by Anton Purr, we were totally into it because he nailed the fatalistic concept. 

SC: When you guys were initially breaking out it seemed as though every band in Canada and Montreal especially was getting noticed.  Now that you’ve become established how do you feel that your scene has changed.

NY: We broke out in 1999, when half the bands you’re likely thinking of were just getting started. So, at risk of sounding curmudgeonly and jaded, we’ve been there, done that. The landscape has changed so much that you can’t even compare the before and after.

SC: With technology personalizing how people experience their media do you find that you draw more diverse inspirations for your work.  What would you say is the most important piece of work held up in common by the entire band?

NY: I’m not sure I understand the question….but watching The Mighty Boosh’s “Old Greg” on You Tube has definitely got us through this tour.

SC: Can you discuss the departure of the rest of the band?  How would you say that the roster change has affected this album?

NY: The band fell apart in stages, with different people leaving for different reasons. But our time working together had just come to an end: as if we were in a serious relationship and suddenly realised that we weren’t in love anymore. Working through this total collapse of the lineup informed the album: it really revealed what was important about making music and being in a band. There was a big battle of money vs. art and for Murray and I, keeping the music as “real” as possible was paramount.

SC: What are the current plans with Lisa Smith and Laura Wills?  Will they have a presence on future Dears recordings?

NY: Well it’s kind of up to Lisa and Laura. Pony Up is still happening and their album is scheduled to come out in 2009.

SC: I was reading the Stacey DeWolfe biography on the site and she writes that you had begun to write an album as a solo endeavor before realizing that it was a Dears album.  What quality took it from a Murray Lightburn album to a Dears album?

NY: Murray just started writing songs…not knowing if they were meant to be the next Dears album or something else. The songs just kept coming to him so he finished writing them. I don’t think Murray was ready to go there – the solo, side project route – and I don’t think the fans were ready either. There’s too much of that going on: running away from stability, afraid to commit to what is immediate, always thinking the grass is greener on the other side. That kind of attitude is kind of unrealistic and not what The Dears was ever about.

SC: I’m a pretty big fan of your blog and I have a couple tiny blog specific questions if you don’t mind.

NY: I don’t mind.

SC: This may be irrelevant because I read about it a while ago but do you find that playing dope wars messes up your computer?   Whenever I play a round I find that my computer becomes much more sluggish than normal.  Are you a vengeful online player?

NY: I reserve all playing of Dope Wars to handheld devices. I don’t really get addicted to playing online…sometimes I am convinced that I’m only playing against 13-year-old boys. I do enjoy arena play of games like Call of Duty….its a total free for all out there! I LOVED the game Gun for PS2. The old West arena-every-man-for-themselves multiplayer mode was amazing…online or not.

SC: In one post you claim that you’d rather be pushed to the outside and that your used to it.  How do you think a kind of underdog feeling plays a role in the Dears whether recording, touring, promoting, etc?

NY: The Dears have never fit in anywhere. We have made (some kind of) a career of being outcasts. Otherwise you risk losing your identity, your individuality, and these things are important at least to me; they inform my everyday life.

SC: What is a grupster?

NY: It basically identifies a grown-up yuppie hipster. Or something like that.

(back to business)

SC: I’ve heard a couple of comments tied to The Dears about the absurdity of using indie as a label in the current musical environment.  What are your major beefs with the term and what do you think the label does to how you’re perceived.  If you could be called anything what would it be?

NY: I wouldn’t want to come up with one ill-fitting label to replace another ill-fitting one. Indie has definitely become a commodity, a brand that informs a music listener without consideration for the art or music behind it. That’s the main reason why we can’t really identify…it strips the music of its intrinsic detail.

SC: You guys seem to shift labels a lot from release to release, what makes a label the “right label” for you and how important is it to you that you find it.

NY: There are a lot of factors, but the most important is finding people who “get it” and want to make The Dears a success for the right reasons. We are not an easy sell, we aren’t an obvious choice for radio, and we don’t really fit in. Our albums are generally a slow burn and so anyone who is up for that is a good consideration.

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