Calgary noise-doom duo Mares of Thrace always strive to record music that accurately captures their live sound. But when it came time to make their sophomore album, The Pilgrimage, baritone guitarist and vocalist Thérèse Lanz admits that the temptation to create a more complex, sophisticated recording than could ever be produced by two performers, no matter how talented they may be, was strong.
"I'm very unwilling to record music that can't be pulled off live," Lanz tells Exclaim! when discussing Mares of Thrace's commitment to creating recordings that accurately portray the feel of their live shows.
Occasionally, the difficulty of maintaining this balance between the live performance and recorded music leads to some creative tension -- not between Lanz and drummer Stef MacKichan, but within the minds of the musicians themselves. There were times that Lanz bent this rule in order to better serve the music, she explains.
"I just love countermelody. There's a few points on both albums [The Pilgrimage and 2010's The Moulting] where I couldn't help myself and I played countermelodies."
Despite this tension, Lanz and MacKichan have so far resisted the impulse to add any more instruments to their lean, stripped-down, two-woman live setup. Saying of her partnership with MacKichan, "We're like those two old guys from The Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf. We've spent a decade growing into and around each other," adding that the idea of bringing in another musician was "repugnant."
While Lanz does admit that "every now and then I'll hear a band with a terrific bassist and I'll contemplate getting one at some point," she also firmly believes that "the frequencies that modern guitar tones cover render a lot of bass playing sonically unnecessary."
While Mares of Thrace continue to wrestle with this question of complexity, they also capture the immediacy and authenticity of their performance in other ways, making many of the ambient sounds and imperfections that are a part of the recording process into vital components of the music.
"You can hear my hand scraping on the strings, and you can hear the pickups shrieking because we were running way more gain than was appropriate for them, you can hear me take a deep breath before screaming."
Lanz is deeply interested in the artfulness of these imperfections, and states that it plays into her obsession with feedback and noise.
"Like any good pretentious drone weirdo, I could cover every song in 800 tracks of feedback, if only someone would let me."
The Pilgrimage is out now on Sonic Unyon Metal, and you can catch Mares of Thraces at all the dates listed below.
4/26 Kamloops, BC - LBH
4/27 Vancouver, BC - Funky Winkerbeans
4/28 Seattle, WA - Highline
4/29 Tacoma, WA - TBA
4/30 Portland, OR - East End
5/3 Calgary, AB - Broken City
5/4 Saskatoon, SK - Amigos
5/5 Regina, SK - TBA
5/6 Winnipeg, MB - Negative Space
5/7 Thunder Bay, ON - Black Pirates Pub
5/8 Sault Ste Marie, ON - The Rosie
5/9 Hamilton, ON - This Ain't Hollywood
5/10 Ottawa, ON - Cafe Dekcuf
5/11 Toronto, ON - 460
5/12 Montreal, QC - Club Absynthe
5/13 Quebec, QC - Le Kaméléon
5/14 Portland, ME - Geno's
5/15 Brooklyn, NY - St. Vitus
5/16 Boston, MA - TBA
5/17 Whitehaven, CT - TBA
5/18 Rochester, NY - Monty's Krown
5/19 Columbus, OH - Carabar
5/20 Dayton, OH - Blind Bob's
5/21 Detroit, MI - Lager House
5/22 Indianapolis, IN - Vibes Music
5/23 Chicago, IL - Ultralounge
5/24 St. Louis, MO - TBA
5/25 Dubuque, IA - Off Minor
5/26 Minneapolis, MN - Medusa