Jace Lasek of Besnard Lakes on How Carl Sagan Changed His Life

Categories: Interviews

Richmond Lam
Since 2003, Montreal's The Besnard Lakes have produced a catalogue of some of the finest psychedelic rock out there. Led by the husband-wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, the group released their stunning Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO earlier this year as the follow-up to 2010's excellent The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night. We could continue casting superlatives onto the group, but others have done that in droves, as evidenced by the amount of Polaris Prize nominations their albums have received.

The Besnard Lakes bring their moody and majestic groove-thing to Dada Saturday night, and we spoke to Lasek about Carl Sagan, working and living with his wife and funny relatives.

Let's start with something pretty weird. In 2010, I caught your South by Southwest set at Stubbs, and the couple next to me started chatting me up. The man asked me if I knew anything about your band and I went on about what I knew about you guys as if I was educating them. They both start laughing and then admit to me that they're your Aunt and Uncle.

[laughs] No way! That's Bob and Norma! Oh, my God, that's hilarious. Yeah, my Mom was there too because she was visiting my Aunt and Uncle in Lafayette, Louisiana where they live. So they all came to Austin to see us play that year. It's basically the only time my entire family has been in America together, and you were there for it! That's pretty awesome.

Speaking of that tour in 2010, the group would come on to the stage as audio from Carl Sagan's Cosmos played. Are you still doing that or have you moved on?

Yeah, we do it from time to time, still. I love Carl Sagan. he kind of changed my life when I discovered the Cosmos series about ten years ago. It totally blew my mind. I feel such a reverence for him because when Olga and I first got married, I'd come home from work and we'd sit around and watch the show and probably get high. His ability to explain concepts in layman's terms, so we could all underrstand what's going on in the universe, was like discovering a new religion for me. I love being insignificant on this tiny speck of the universe. It's a beautiful concept and he was a beautful orator. So, yeah, I took a few snippets from that and realized it would be cool to use as an intro. I've always wanted to slip Carl into one of our songs, but it's tough to do that. It's like, "How do I write a song about Carl Sagan without it being the cheesiest fucking thing ever?" I'm still working on it, but I just haven't gotten there yet.

Critics and fans often refer to the band as "ambient" or "cinematic," but the Besnard Lakes are a hard-core psychedelic band, right?

Oh, yeah. When we describe ourselves, we say we're either a psychedelic band or a progressive band. Cinematic gets used because of the atmospheric shit we use, but I think we're always taking the position of a psychedelic band. To me, psychedelic means experimentation and trying things to see what happens next and then playing with the different sounds and structures of a song and then creating an atmosphere. Psychedelic is the only real genre we fit into, because it allows for that experimentation. The prog-rock thing is weird, because so many people consider Pink Floyd to be prog-rock, especially after Dark Side of the Moon, but that's always felt more psychedelic to me. In the 60's, psychedelic musicians were doing things with vocals that other bands hadn't done before, so they were experimenting too.

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