Published Aug 14, 2013Murray A. Lightburn has fronted the Dears since the '90s, but this year, he's stepping away from the long-running group in order to release his first album under his own name. MASS:LIGHT is out on August 20, and before that, it's available to stream right here on Exclaim.ca.
"This is all me," Lightburn tells Exclaim! "It's just me falling on my sword in the middle of fucking nowhere. I don't know what the fuck to expect."
Despite Lightburn's extensive music industry experience, MASS:LIGHT represents a fresh start and a complete overhaul of his recording process. The Dears were on hiatus after keyboardist Natalia Yanchak — Lightburn's wife — became pregnant with their second child, and the frontman focused his efforts on a new batch of material that didn't fit with his usual band.
"The first day of walking into the studio, I didn't have that bag of tricks that the Dears rely on. I went in empty-handed and empty-headed," he remembers with a laugh. "I went in there with a clean slate, and that was really liberating and refreshing and awesome."
Exciting as the process was, Lightburn emphasizes the challenge of going it entirely alone. "This process was literally one sound at a time. One thing at a time. It was kind of like trying to move a fucking couch by yourself. You're doing that thing where you're rolling it one side at a time. It was fucking hard, dude. Really, really hard work."
He was initially nervous to show anyone was he had created, but prior studio collaborator Adrian Popovich eventually convinced him to let him mix the DIY recordings. Lightburn says, "He almost bullied me into giving him the tracks. I didn't want anybody to hear it. I didn't even play anything for Natalia at that point. And then he was like, 'Just give me the fucking tracks.'"
Lightburn needn't have worried, since MASS:LIGHT is made up of beautifully executed electronic pop anthems, with moody synths fleshed out with pensive beats, crooning vocals and orchestral flourishes. Opener "Motherfuckers" begins the album with sharp hooks and dark drama, while "A Thousand Light Years" sounds brash and confrontational. Other cuts, such as the title track and the instrumental "From Dreams," tap into a more reflective, low-key sound.
Tying it all together is a thematic concern with fatherhood, and as the singer explains, "the relationship that a man has with his children, and how that impacts society at large and the world over generations."
This was inspired by Lightburn's own experiences becoming a father for the second time. "My son was born during the making of this record," he says. "Watching that whole process. They were growing together — this record and my son are like twin children. It's very personal."
As Lightburn and Yanchak raise their newborn, the Dears plan to take a little more time off. That said, the frontman already has some new songs in the works, and the band intend to reconvene in late 2013 or 2014 to work on the fresh material.
In the meantime, stream MASS:LIGHT right here and pre-order it on vinyl.