Published Jun 28, 2013When they aren't delivering crushing, epic rock tunes as members of Black Mountain, the duo of Amber Webber and Joshua Wells perform far more stripped-down material as Lightning Dust. Their third album, the newly released Fantasy, finds them embracing synth pop, and the pair sat down with Exclaim! in Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park to explain how this change took place.
"I wanted to take a song that Amber had written for acoustic guitar and voice and then arrange it for an entirely synthetic orchestra and see if that worked," Wells explains, going on to note that the experiment started with the 2011 single "Never Again." "I got this thing I could sequence stuff with — an old MPC — and I just started messing around with it, and tried to learn how to use it over the course of trying to arrange this song."
They continued along this path, with Wells reworking Webber's minimal tracks and turning them into dreamy synthscapes. At other points in the writing process, he composed beats and keyboard parts, and Webber added her own vocals.
Although the synth tones on twinkling tracks like "Diamond" and the aforementioned "Never Again" — which appears here as the closing cut — are lush and textured, the band note that the arrangements are intentionally sparse and rely on very few elements.
"That is the one thing that, whatever we do stylistically, has to remain constant in our band — that space is the major instrument we work with," reflects Wells. "It allows it to be more human. You can hear when Amber breathes, or the subtle things she does with her voice, which is her strength."
These simple arrangements mean that it will be possible for the band to closely recreate the songs when they perform them live. On stage, the band will be joined by an auxiliary synth player and a percussionist using primarily electronic pads.
Although they've worked hard to recreate the album's electronic textures, the group note that they would be open to stripping the songs down for future duo performances. "I would certainly love to perform some of the songs acoustic-style, just us two," says Webber. "If it so happens that there's an opportunity to do something totally different. If someone invited us to a really echo-y cave or an underground parking lot, where something like that would be really cool."
In the meantime, check out the band's summer tour schedule with Louise Burns below.
7/24 Calgary, AB - Palomino Smokehouse *
7/25 Edmonton, AB - Brixx *
7/31 Bellingham, WA - The Shakedown *
8/1 Seattle, WA - The Crocodile *
8/2-4 Happy Valley, OR - Pickathon
8/6 San Francisco, CA - Brick & Mortar Music Hall *
8/7 Santa Ana, CA - Constellation Room *
8/8 Los Angeles, CA - The Echo *
8/9 San Diego, CA - Casbah *
* with Louise Burns