When people emotionally connect with a song, it adheres itself to their time and place and is indelibly woven into their life’s fabric. The same is true of those that create the music. Their journey is marked with emotional connections that inspire and distract the creative process, resulting in music that reflects their time and place. Music In Press spoke with Michael Dawson and Carl Johnson of the band Library Voices about their time and place: the indie music scene of Regina, Saskatchewan, about the brutal attack on Carl and bassist Eoin Hickey-Cameron outside of a local bar that left Carl with lasting injuries prior to the recording of their new release Lovish, out now on Nevado Records.
“We don’t really have any guitar solos in our songs because it’s hard to shred when you have to wear mittens all of the time,” begins Michael, who writes lyrics and plays a variety of instruments – including some guitar – on Lovish. “It’s winter about 11 months out of the year here,” he adds, “though the music scene is “warm and safe – the opposite of how the city is stereotypically portrayed.”
Prairie Shag Weirdos
“Regina is very blessed,” says Michael, “because the music community from our perspective is very accepting and embraces new bands.” Though it was common for new bands to spring up, they were met with a welcome. “There are always rumblings when people are starting new bands or when a band appears out of nowhere. It usually sends ripples through the city.”
By the time the band had formed, most of the members had already played together in other bands before. “Carl and I have been making music together off and on since Carl was seventeen. So although we were a new band, we were lucky enough to know a lot of people in the community and we ended up with some lucky opportunities we probably didn’t deserve.”
Carl curated a cassette compilation a couple of years back called Prairie Shag. “It was a wildly eclectic bunch of Regina artists,” says Michael, “I think there may have been a Saskatoon band or two stuck in for good measure. Of course when I speak of this scene over and over, I’m definitely referring to the weirdo indie world connected to Prairie Shag.” He continues with an example. “My love for The Extroverts (who appear on Prairie Shag) stems from a job I had running a venue in the city. We share a jam space with Rah Rah (another Regina band) and Marshall’s father used to manage The Extroverts. He also, at some point in history, had the same job I once had at the venue. Anyway, he must have left one of their 7”s behind because one day I discovered it and it blew my mind. I’ve been in love with them ever since, so when I heard that they were thinking about getting back to together to play some shows I was so stoked. There are also amazing metal, hip hop, country and Americana artists in the city doing bigger things in different circles than any of us are.”
“Anyway… we’re really overdue for a second edition of the compilation.”
After the Attack
“After the attack I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make music the same way again,” says Carl. “I couldn’t even listen to music for a few months. It took a lot of nights sitting in the jam space for everything to come back, but it did. I think the first song written was “John Farrell Buffalo” from the For John EP we released before Lovish.
“One of the advantages to writing lyrics to a song someone else is singing is that I feel like I have a sense of what I can get away with based on the melody and delivery of the vocals,” adds Michael.
“There are a lot of social and economic challenges facing Regina, but I don’t think either were directly related to my attack. Intolerant and ignorant people exist everywhere and I just happened to get up close and personal with a brood of them that night. I don’t want revenge or justice as much as I just want to be a better, more tolerant person. I’m not sure how much of an impact it had on our sound, but it did effect the fabric of the band.”
The video for “Escape Artist”, the first single from Library Voice’s new release, Lovish was filmed in Vancouver, set inside an indoor swimming pool, common in Canada’s cold climate. “My partner, Emma, works on all of these incredible award-winning commercials but rarely has a window to take on creative projects of her own,” related Michael. “She shot it all on her iPhone with the intent of keeping it direct and capturing two friends hanging out being their hilarious selves. The video stars her close friends Jamie and Sarah. The two of them have a podcast and comedy group called The Jamie & Sarah Experience.”
“Regina will always be home base for the band. There will always be some remote outposts and the odd rogue satellite but most of the band has built amazing lives here outside of music.”
If you’re planning a visit to Regina, check the band’s favorite clubs to get a taste of the local music scene:
Michael Recommends: “One legendary spot in Regina is The Exchange. That’s the venue I referred to above in the story about the Extroverts. It’s an honor to have gotten to spend a few years so involved with it. Some other amazing spots in the city include The German Club, The Artesian, and O’Hanlons. Creative City Centre is a great spot downtown as well, with a venue, shared work spaces, along with artist studios. We recently finished shooting a video for the song “Slacker” with Colby Richardson, who is a Regina-based artist with a studio in that space… I’m leaving out a ton of venues.”
Carl Recommends: “One newer venue in Regina is the Tartan Curling Club. They have a mixer during the winter at least once a month where $10 gets you and your team a few hours of curling and then afterward there’s a local band that plays in the lounge. I believe this weekend it’s a collection of members of local bands teaming up to play Neil Young & Crazy Horse songs. Wonderfully, painfully Canadian.”
Carl Johnson: Vocals, Guitar
Michael Dawson: Organs and guitar
Eoin Hickey-Cameron: Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Mike Thievin Drums & Percussion
Amanda Scandrett: Keyboards and backing vocals
Paul Gutheil: Saxophone, Trumpet, and backing vocals,
Brennan Ross: Guitar and Vocals