Q&A: The Dears' Frontman Murray Lightburn on Louis C.K., Fatherhood, Moonshine

He just turned 40, but the Dears' frontman Murray Lightburn isn't planning on hanging up the microphone any time soon. In fact, after a U.S. label change (from Arts & Crafts to Dangerbird Records) and some line-up tinkering that saw bassist Roberto Arquilla and guitar players Patrick Krief and Rob Benvie leave the band at various times only to return in 2008, Lightburn says that the Montreal orchestral pop rock band, whose 2003 release No Cities Left earned it the title of "probably the best new band in the world" from NME, feels like it's been born again. After the release of this past February's Degeneration Street, the band's fifth studio album, the Dears took off on a whirlwind tour of the West Coast before wrapping up at South by Southwest in Austin with six shows in three days.

The Voice checked in with Lightburn before the Dears head back out to the Atlantic coast, including tonight's stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The husband, father, and preacher's son schooled us on cheese-making, Louis C.K., and the art of aging gracefully.

You guys have been at this for awhile. Does touring get easier or just more aggravating?

It's definitely not aggravating. You just have to be in shape. You can't be a couch potato and go on a six-week tour. It's also more of a mental than a physical strain: by the time you get to the fourth week, you're basically on suicide watch [laughs].

When a tour is over, do you just go home and crash?

I can't believe that at this stage of my career, I still go through that kind of post-tour stress disorder, where I'm just super anxious and antsy. I get home and my body is exhausted, but my brain is still going at a hundred miles an hour. It's a weird adjustment.

Do you have any sort of ritual that helps you adjust?

This time, I came home and did some research on homemade cheese and was dicking around, making some bread and cheese. Spending an entire day cooking snapped me out of it. It's kind of relaxing and a bit of a hobby for me.

What's in your cheese repertoire?

I'm just figuring that stuff out. Basically, I'm researching various things that I can make at home. The next thing I'm considering is homemade vodka. I guess you could call it moonshine.

Is that legal in Canada?

Hmm. I think so. We're tolerant of a great many things in Canada.

Indeed. Turning to the album, the recording process was more collaborative this time around.

It was very liberating for me personally. I still busted my ass as I always do on every Dears album, but what made things easier was the communication that we developed as a band. I've known all these guys--with the exception of Jeff Luciani, our drummer--for quite a number of years and have worked with them extensively. It was a lot easier to develop the trust that wasn't always necessarily there with the band in the past. So everyone was at "10" all the time working on this, and it kind of came out as an explosion of brains on record.

With all of the turnover that you guys have had, it must be nice to have a stable lineup.

It's funny because when you look at it, the same people who made No Cities Left (2003) also made Gang of Losers (2006) and the same people who made Missiles (2008) made Degeneration Street. The line-up didn't change for about six-seven years, so we haven't had that much turnover. It only looks that way [laughs] because we had a complete disintegration after Gang of Losers. Since then, we've been building towards this band and this record now.

Are you happy with the way the album turned out?

In a sense, Degeneration Street is a new beginning. A lot of my friends have told me that it has a kind of first-album feel. I can see that because it has that energy of a band that's been in the garage making demos for years and feels as if they have something to prove. Subconsciously as a band, I think we all wanted to make that kind of record. From the outside, it just looks like a fifth album for the band, but we feel like we've hit a reset button. With Missiles, it was kind of like we were dating at that point. So when we got together for this album it was more of a commitment.

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