Besnard Lakes' Jace Lasek on UFOs, Spooky Album Art, and the Polaris Music Prize

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Wherever it is along the sonic plane that shoegaze collides with post-rock, Montreal quartet Besnard Lakes thrives, cooking up haunted, atmospheric sprawls that tickle the introspectively inclined.

Their fourth release, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, also marks their third nomination for the Polaris Music Prize. They have yet to win, but this year, their friends/former collaborators Godspeed You! Black Emperor grudgingly accepted the award, tossing the money to charity and saying, "Maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlord." We called up Jace Lasek, who is married to bandmate Olga Goreas, to ask him about his synchronistic album art, Canadian music, UFOs, and his mixing console that might've once belonged to Led Zeppelin.

Up on the Sun: Hey, Jace, great to be talking with you. I know you're on tour. Where are you now? Jace Lasek: Spokane. We'll be in Seattle tomorrow.

Where are you playing? Crocodile.

The new album [Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO] is really great. I'm a big fan of texture, these drawn-out spirals that are really rewarding. I feel a lot of bands can kind of make it routine, but you guys are seemingly doing something that keeps it refreshing. Thanks, man.

Your album title comes from a French Google-translated article, but I'm still curious: Have you ever seen a UFO or had a close encounter? No, I haven't, but Kevin [Laing] our drummer saw a UFO. It's weird, every time we make a record, like with Dark Horse, there was a bunch of weird shit that happened just before it came out. When Roaring Night came out, we'd just finished painting the cover of the album, with the flames, and Kevin got third-degree burns on his face while he was cooking.

It was a month before this album [Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO] came out. He was sitting out on his deck in Montreal and looks up into the sky, and he saw three yellow-orange globes floating on the horizon line. He said he watched them for half an hour, just sitting there.

A few other people in Montreal ended up seeing it as well, but I was like, "You're full of shit! There's no fucking way. We're about to release this record called Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO and he fucking saw a UFO. He was like, "Dude, I didn't even want to tell you, but that's exactly what I saw." So we posted it on Facebook and Twitter.

I think most people were like, "What a bunch of fucking idiots." That's not true, but [Kevin] says he still looks up in the sky hoping he's gonna see them again.

That's awesome. I know that your first album, Volume 1, features the Princeton Similkameen Funeral Services home, the owner of which was charged in 2007 with fraud and giving the wrong ashes to families. But since your album came out four years before that was made public, how did it make you feel to suddenly learn your album cover was suddenly kind of controversial and creepy? I dunno, when shit like that happens, I kind of jump for joy in a weird way. It's nice to have all these strange phenomenon happening. Of course, we never expected it -- how can you predict something like that? A friend of mine sent me the article when it actually happened and again, it was the same way for me, I was like, "You're full of shit, you made this article up. There's no way." But, yeah, it's true. It adds a really cool mystique to the band.

I guess we consider ourselves lucky for weirdness.

Do you attract a lot of this weird stuff when you're on tour? Weird events or weird characters or anything like that? Yeah, yeah. There's weird shit that goes on. For example, two nights ago, we were at a hotel room and we pulled up -- it was in Montana -- and my wife Olga [Goreas] has this kind of weird sixth sense about sketchy situations and said this was a really sketchy hotel. It wasn't. It was really nice and there was nothing to insinuate that it was anything other than a normal hotel in the middle of nowhere. And she was like, "Nope, there's something weird about this place." We woke up in the morning to leave and they had been robbed.

Wait, who was robbed? The hotel lobby. They keep deposits and cash deposits. We're in Montana, in a small town, so everything is kinda kept in an old-school filing system. Just a file folder on the office counter. And somebody had run in, and we had given them $200 cash as a deposit, and we were gonna get it back when we left, and they were like, "Well, your money's been stolen." They ended up paying us out of pocket, but this shit fucking happens to us all the time. It's kind of funny.

I hope it doesn't happen to you in Phoenix. For your third album, you used a mixing console that was, according to rumor, used to record parts of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. Yeah, that's the rumor.

Does using equipment that might have a kind of history impact how you approach recording? No, not really. I know people were asking me that a lot, like if it had that aura about it, where you wanted to make more of a heavier rock record because Led Zeppelin's pubic hair was all over it. But to tell you the truth, I really wasn't thinking that much about it. We tell people that's the story, but we've been trying for years to prove that it actually was this console. Oddly enough, people don't keep records of where these consoles used to sit or their history, so it's really tough to figure out where this console was. It was built in 1968 in England and then it somehow ended up in New York City. We've traced it back to about 1980 and before that, we had a hard time figuring out where it's coming from.

You've been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize three times now -- once with your album that included a collaboration with Godspeed You! Black Emperor members, who won the prize this year. But they didn't accept it, right? They accepted it, but then they're giving the money away to charity. They wrote a kind of statement about how they feel about award ceremonies in general, which they're not really into.

Yeah. How do you feel to see your friends diss an award like that? Honestly, they can feel however they want to feel about that. Their mandate is their mandate and that's what their cause is all about. That's actually one of the things I really admire about them -- you know, they have the balls to say and do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want.

That's kind of how they've done things the entire time. On the other side of it, I find Godspeed to be probably one of the most important bands to come out of Canada, in my era anyway. I think they've influenced the Montreal scene and I think they've single-handedly put Montreal and Canadian bands on the map. It allowed people to actually understand it. They could be recognized internationally for their music.

If anybody's gonna win an award, even though they don't want the award, I think they should be getting the first of every award.

Yeah. I like the Polaris Prize as an idea because it does seem to give more emphasis on actually innovative and progressive rock bands. Yeah -- and Polaris, if there's going to be any sort of good award system, they're at least trying to do it as fair as possible. They don't look at album sales, they just talk to random journalists and artists and just try to actually make it so the people get nominated. It's obviously based on merit. In that sense, it's not so bad.

Besnard Lakes are scheduled to perform tonight at Pub Rock in Scottsdale.

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