Lakes of Canada Come Out of Hiding to Play Osheaga Opening Party

Montreal’s own Lakes of Canada have been on a bit of a hiatus lately. After months on the road, Jake, Conor, Sarah and Caleb have been in the realm of the musician’s existence that privileges long days in the studio over long nights playing to noisy rooms. Luckily for us though, an offer to play a slot at the opening party of one of their favourite festivals coaxed them out of seclusion. 

Looking forward to the show, three of the band’s four members sat down on a sunny terrace in Mile-Ex to tell me a bit about what they’ve been working on, making ends meet as an artist, and climate change. We also talked about how to prepare artichokes, why women should rule the world, and even gave their bassist a new nickname. 

Jake, Caleb and I got things started with a round of cherry sours and an quick culinary lesson on the mysterious artichoke. Apparently a man of many talents, Jake explains that you simply steam them whole, dip the leaves individually in butter, and are rewarded by the succulent heart. Brilliant in its simplicity. Thank you, Jake. 

Shortly after, Conor arrived and then we got down to business. Right off the bat the guys were discussing a new (and for the time being, secret) deal with Netflix. It’s a project they got through a partnership with Third Side Music. The band has been supplementing their revenue through projects with the synchronization licensing & copyright administration company since last April, and it’s helped make music a viable full-time career. “The band has a lot more income than we’re used to,” Jake explains. “It’s the only way musicians are making money these days.” 

It’s a pretty straightforward process that provides musicians with projects, so they can benefit from royalty cheques and keep thing afloat financially. As Conor puts it, “As long as were forced to live under capitalist restraints, money is something I’d like to have.” 

Not to say they don’t work hard for this; all multi-instrumental musicians, these guys take what they do seriously and are always looking to push the boundaries of what they can accomplish as a group. When asked how he ended up playing lead guitar line and a drum beat at the same time, Conor responds that when Jake asked if he could do it in rehearsal, he said, “I don’t know, I’ll try.” Long story short, he can and he does.

Caleb, the newest member of the group, is also a multi-instrumental talent, with a “puppy-dog” quality and a penchant for gas prices; the new bassist’s boyish charm lends a degree of levity to the group. The youngest member, he has already had an entertaining rotation of nicknames. From “new buddy” to “full-man puppy,” his latest moniker, inspired by a road trip pastime and an attempt to assert dominance, will remain known only to myself and the band. 

Returning to business, I asked about whether they pursued providing the music for the hit series, The Handmaid’s Tale, a TV show based on the same Margaret Atwood novel from which their second album, Transgressions, draws inspiration. They explained that there were negotiations, but that ultimately the show’s creators wanted to go with all female musicians. It was a decision well respected by the band and that prompted Jake to go on a charming rant about how he can’t believe how women still don’t rule the world. 

He also said he loved the series, what he felt to be a solid adaptation of the book that had such a big impact on him. Speaking of how Atwood and other speculative-fiction writers are becoming increasingly relevant, Jake notes that “it’s crazy because we are closer to that reality than when I read it, let alone when she wrote it. It’s really terrifying.” Mentioning the #letsmargaretatwoodfictionagain hashtag, the guys all agreed that now is the time to take action. 

Which lead us to the topic of their new album: climate change. Although this album isn’t based on a specific work and draws its inspiration from a larger pool, Jake states that science and speculative fiction continues to inform his song writing. Noting Octavia E. Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin and others among his influences, the album is an attempt to confront the reality of our times and imagine an alternative future. 

Despite its looming inescapability, climate change is a notoriously tough topic to tackle creatively. It’s an ambitious task and the band has been working hard to bring their vision to life. Formally trained musicians with an appreciation for the narrative and storytelling capacity of songwriting and performance, this band clearly has lots to say and we can expect to continue seeing them come up with inventive ways to say it. Come hear what they’ve been working on this Thursday at Divan Orange, and get a taste of the dystopian instrumental panoply that only Lakes of Canada can create.