Published Feb 26, 2009There are always two sides to every story. When the Dears released last year's Missiles, Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak did it with a whole new band in tow, leaving only vague explanations as to what actually went down. Well, now two of those former members, Patrick Krief and George Donoso III, have resurfaced, not just to tell their side of the story, but also to show that outside of the Dears they still have music flowing within them just dying to be heard. The result is Black Diamond Bay, a band of like-minded, sweeping rock that has been in the works for a few years now. Finally they're making their move, thanks to a newly released self-titled debut and a number of upcoming North American dates. Krief took some time to set the record straight and tell us all about the freedom of Black Diamond Bay.
Can you tell me exactly what led to you and George leaving the Dears?
George and I didn't exactly leave as a union, though having this band in place did give us a great alternative, I think we both left for different reasons.
Initially I didn't intend on staying in the Dears longer than the five-week tour I was asked to sit in on in February 2004. I got roped in 'cause the songs were great, I was given a lot of room to contribute and I really developed a great bond with the band and its followers. I really felt like I was a part of something important (and still do). So I was okay with making my writing a side thing, especially for the kind of experiences we were having (traveling the world playing for jammed rooms, etc). But I knew putting my writing aside wouldn't last forever.
Gang of Losers was supposed to be the album that knocked it out of the park for the Dears. Everyone in and around the band was expecting that record to be "The Bends" or something. Of course when things didn't turn out that way, fingers were pointed all over the place: "It's the production," "It's the mix," "it's the label" and " it's the management." Things got ugly, really ugly and I couldn't justify putting my music aside to exist in that climate. Expectations were way too high and everything we had was taken for granted. Things were still really good but nowhere near where they were expected to be and it created some ridiculous tension, erratic behavior and clouded judgment that lead to some horrible decisions making.
To sum it up: the Dears camp became miserable place to be for all the wrong reasons.
On our down time, George and I were doing tours with Black Diamond Bay sleeping on people's floors or in our van, playing for five people a night in small towns for little to no money and that felt better to us than a cozy big bus tour across the world in front of thousands of fans. All of that meant nothing in the state of manic turmoil the Dears were in. It reminded us what we got into this for and gave us a newfound strength and naivete to give it a go from scratch with BDB. It was like a defibrillator to our chests.
While we were making Missiles, I wasn't sure I'd tour the record or not. I told Murray upfront that I'd be a part of any record he makes till I die, but that I can't promise a role in the live act for now. When the new lineup was being formed, things were just taking off for Black Diamond Bay, and I didn't see myself putting aside all those efforts and breaking the momentum. I also didn't see myself asking the Dears to compromise a resurrection that would require lots of touring to acknowledge my small tours. Even though things had been smoothed over and I felt touring would be fun again, I felt I was doing both of us a favor by leaving.
Was it something you saw coming or was it out of the blue?
Nobody saw any of it coming. In retrospect, there were many warning signs. But ultimately it was a shock to me. I remember on our first GOL tour of Europe our crew asking, "What the fuck happened to you guys? Why is everyone so miserable? Is the band done?" That was the first time it occurred to me that something wasn't right. It also made me realize that I was just going through the motions. It was so gradual that we didn't notice, and by the time it surfaced it was a full on disaster.
How do you feel Murray Lightburn has handled explaining the situation?
I think he's being careful 'cause he has no choice but to be. That said, his vagueness has led a few people to believe BDB were the cause of the Dears' demise, but it really had nothing to do with our band, and he could tell you that himself. We were co-existing for over a year.
I'm basing this on two articles I've read, I have no idea what else he's been saying out there, and I don't really care either to be honest. He's a brother to me, we know what went down and we're still standing. The rest is not important.
Are there any hard feelings?
There are tons of hard feelings all over the place. Though I feel it has been subsiding and people are realizing they messed up and behaved erratically. The one thing that line-up had that made it great and disastrous at the same time was passion. So it will take some time for those wounds to heal, whatever anyone says, I don't believe anyone of us to be over it. I'm definitely not.
When did Black Diamond Bay begin?
Krief was the starting point in April 2007. Same line-up, different name. In April '08 we decided to give the band a deserving title.
Did leaving the Dears have any significant effect on what you were doing with BDB? Or give you more creative freedom?
I've always had creative freedom, whether it was to lay down whatever guitar part I had in my mind with the Dears or to write my own songs on my own time. The main effect leaving had was to add some gray hairs to my head. There's a lot more responsibility on the logistical side, and more stress about how the music will be received. That said, it's also a lot more rewarding and liberating on so many levels, there's a whole new rush of emotions and urgency for me with this role.
Did the situation inspire any of your lyrics, maybe as a cathartic act? Calm Awaits reads like it's trying to deal with the fallout...
There are one or two moments on the record that deal directly with that situation. I don't always realize till much later what my records are about or that the themes are connected. It's like an abstract dream, where I wake up and go "What the hell did that mean?"
I do realize now that the bigger picture is mostly about things in my life falling apart in general, the Dears being one of them. "Calm Awaits" is a pep talk to myself or better yet, a mantra.
Do you see any correlation between the music of the Dears and that of BDB?
Definitely. George and I spent many years in the Dears only to leave our mark on them. That sound is present in BDB along with the mark the Dears has left on us. We have similar ingredients, but an entirely different recipe.
Can you tell me a little about Calm Awaits and what it means to have the album out there for people to hear?
The record was started in my bedroom on my laptop. I felt pretty isolated when I was working on it, things in my life were really unstable and I had no security ahead of me. (Not sure any of that has changed hehe.) I really had a sense of urgency to make music that would save me. It's an extremely personal record; the content really opens up some old wounds.
I had a bunch of songs on the go, which I thought would be an album, until I wrote the song "Mother's Arms," which had a snowball effect. That song just captured the whole essence of my existence at the time and really set the tone for the album. I wrote the rest of the record in about a week and canned all the other songs.
Having it out there... Well at this point I feel like the record is not ours anymore. It belongs to whoever chooses to welcome it into their lives. We have to share it and that's not easy. Obviously not everyone is going to like it, and I'm sure it'll come across some trashings and some high praises, both of which we have to struggle to ignore in order to continue making earnest music.
With that in mind, we did make this record for it to be heard. We have something to say and I sincerely hope that it can inspire or awaken something in as many people as possible. This music is our therapy and as cliché as it may sound, I hope we can share the release it brings to us.
I've noticed that the album is to be released without a label. What's the plan behind releasing it?
There is a team behind it that I believe can and will compete with that of any small indie in Canada. Fontana North distribution has put together a team for us to handle the marketing [New Prey] and we've hired radio trackers and publicists, all that good stuff with the help of FACTOR and some saved and borrowed money. The record will be in stores across Canada with great visibility, it'll also be on iTunes and other similar download sites.
We also have booking agents for Canada and Quebec and plan on being pretty aggressive about touring this record to make sure it gets heard.
We've seen a few offers and we're much more confident/comfortable putting it out this way. And it leaves the door open for something bigger and better to come along down the line.
Are their tour dates scheduled to go with the release of the album?
These are a few, but much more are expected to come in:
3/13 Toronto, ON - Rancho Relaxo (CMW)
3/14 Pittsburgh, PA - The Brillobox
3/15 Chicago, IL - The Dark Room
3/17 St. Joseph, MO - The RendezVous Bar
3/20 Austin, TX - Scoot Inn
3/21 Austin, TX - Lamberts Barbeque
3/23 Kansas City, MO - The Records Bar
3/25 De Moines, IA - Vaudeville Mews
3/26 Menomonie, WI - Blue Devil Lounge (University of Wisconsin Stout)
3/27 Minneapolis, MN, The Uptown Bar
4/3 Quebec City, QC - Le Cercle
4/4 Montreal, QC - Divan Orange (ALBUM LAUNCH)
4/17 Windsor, ON - Phog Lounge
4/18 Guelph, ON - Jimmy Jazz
4/30 Peterborough, ON - The Montreal House
5/1 Toronto, ON - Sneaky Dees
And many more to come in April and May.