The Dears returned last year with the release of Degeneration Street, their fifth studio album. The refreshing track list ignites remembrance to former years, indulging listeners with Brit-rock noise and smooth appeal. Each song—from Omega Dog to Tiny Man rings immediately with bluesy-bass resonance; rooted in ballads and rhythms. This dark pop-rock outfit has held true even amidst band change-ups and the basic growth of its members, outside of music.
Degeneration Street has a sort of excitement of refined maturity. Polaris long-listed and having made Amazon.com’s ‘100 Outstanding 2011 Albums You May Have Missed’, the album is a testament to the band’s development and empirical taste. Speaking with Natalia Yanchak (keyboardist / vocals) last month after The Dears’ CMW performance proved to be a pretty rich chat indeed. Here’s what went down.
K: As a band that’s been around since the mid-nineties what does it feel like playing shows now? Do you still get the same excitement—is it the same passion?
N: Yes, of course. Playing shows is the energy that keeps us going. I think if our fans were apathetic we probably would have given up long ago. We are inspired to keep going by the people out there.
K: What are your thoughts on songwriting today and songwriters in general? Is it lacking?
N: The market is saturated with music. Everybody is suddenly a musician. The digital era has enabled the masses to create and record music as will — which is awesome and democratic but also leads to a culture inundated with music created for the wrong reasons. People often think about being a “rock star” or “famous” before they’ve ever been inspired to write a note. It’s kind of sad because there are so many people constantly trying to get our attention, that anybody with a laptop can make an album, but still only those that can afford a publicist see the light of day. Hard work and true talent, inspiration, is rarely pushed to the forefront. It’s the business of art, and like any other business in a capitalist world, the rich get richer….
K: The band writes all the bios and information – how important is it for a band to have this control? Do you think nowadays more bands can really do things themselves or is it better to have professional assistance?
N: You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and image is everything. Self-promotion is not for the feeble-hearted.
K: How do you find music, listen to music, buy music?
N: I don’t really listen to music, as arrogant as that sounds. Lately I’ve been picking up classical music vinyl records at charity shops (Value Village, etc), as pretentious as that sounds. I’m done with “indie” music. It’s all shit.
K: Let’s talk live albums. What are your thoughts on The Dears releases and live albums in general – do people buy / care about them in your opinion? Do you?
N: Live albums are superfluous things, for people who just can’t get enough of a good thing. A live album is fun but really, the crappy audio from aobile-phone / YouTube video taken during a show is kind of more fun, isn’t it? I mean, it’s what we’re used to, so why fight it?
K: When The Dears emerged the sound was very unconventional. The orchestra meets electronic mix wasn’t really tapped into – what did that feel like shaping a sound so different than commonly heard?
N: Well it’s not like it was a conscious thing — like we just did it to be different — we made music out of sincerity and so I guess that’s how it felt..
Watch The Dears perform ‘Blood’ live on KEXP
K: To date what performance still sticks in your head?
N: Our first show in Mexico City at the Polyforum Siqueiros back in 2007. We had no idea what to expect and the audience of about 2000 was just losing their minds. We’d never released a record in Mexico, or played a show, and yet we found all the people who knew like every word to every song. It was the most inspiring show of my life.
K: As a musician what would you say to your younger self now?
N: I dunno. I try to live my life without regret, so I’d say I’ve done pretty good over the years. Except I might reiterate that the old saying “never do business with your friends” really holds true….
K: So what’s coming up for the Dears?
N: Well, lots of exciting stuff coming up later this year — we’re remastering and rereleasing some of our older records, playing a show in Istanbul, Turkey, and will have a documentary about our last trip to Mexico aired on CBC TV.
Listen to The Dears here