There’s a certain connotation with the music that Montreal’s Besnard Lakes make. The Polaris Music Prize-nominated rock band are often described as ‘psychedelic’ or ‘trippy,’ and their latest album, "Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO", hasn’t escaped such categorizations.
When asked if he sees a cultural connection between his music and the ingestion of mind-altering substances, Besnard Lakes vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and founder Jace Lasek is quite candid.
“I hope so,” he says over the phone. “I’m calling to that altered state of mind. Those times when I was young and listening to music in an altered state probably were the moments that made me realize that I wanted or needed to make music. They were life-changing moments for me and I still call to those moments and have a real romantic notion about it.
“When you’re in an altered state, it doesn’t matter what you’re listening to; you just get completely blown away by anything because your mind is just whirling around,” he continues. “So, I’m calling to arms people in altered states to disappear from the world for 45 minutes. That’s why we make albums; everything’s based on the idea of sitting down, putting it on and listening to it from front to back and getting lost in the world. You don’t even really need to be high to do it but it maybe helps.”
In spite of his desire to conjure the mood or feel of an ‘altered state,’ Lasek admits that he cannot actually make music himself while high on drugs.
“I’m mostly just talking about LSD specifically and I stopped doing that eons ago,” he admits. “But those moments when I was doing it, you’re hallucinating and when you close your eyes, you’re still seeing things floating across your vision, if you can even call it your vision anymore. There’s a heightened sense where you can dig into music and hear things you’ve never heard before. Anybody can do it; you don’t have to be altered to hear things you’ve never heard before. But maybe it happens more immediately. You don’t have to listen to something three or four times to be able to dig in and go, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve never heard that guitar part before.’
“When I first listening to music while I was on acid, it was like ‘I can’t believe the things coming out of these speakers right now.’ You can feel the textures and there’s a curiosity there, at least for me. I wanted to figure out how to make that happen and that’s why I started recording. I grew up in Regina and there weren’t a lot of places I could go to make records sounds like what I was listening to. I motivated myself to figure it out and do it myself. And then I just stopped doing those drugs.”
After hearing Lasek speak so vividly and passionately about his days experimenting with acid, it begs the question: why stop? Why inhibit one’s self from experiencing something that was so formative?
“Because I don’t want to get locked in it for eight hours,” he explains. “That kind of drug, LSD, is a young person’s drug. It can go both ways. You can have an amazing experience. I don’t think I had a bad trip but I knew people who just went down the rabbit hole and it just got ugly. You’re lost in it for five or six hours. You can’t just say, ‘I’m not gonna be high anymore.’ It takes you over. Once you start getting older and you have real life problems where you can’t make your rent or you need insurance—stupid, every day, normal things—those things will enter your brain and completely ruin your trip.“
“So, it’s a young person’s thing. My experiences were from like 18 to 23 years old when I was going to art school and just barely going through the motions but really doing a lot of acid without a care in the world. I lived at home and didn’t have to worry about rent. Once you start to have real life problems, it’s like I don’t want to be involved in that anymore. It’s just too much.”
Lasek says that, in making records with the Besnard Lakes, he’s hoping to create a 45 minute altered state that you can leave at any point but that “it’s always going to be a nice, enjoyable, uplifting, enchanting experience” He describes it as “a mini-acid trip” that you don’t have to you don’t have to lose your mind over.
“I don’t really have any desire to do it anymore,” he says of LSD. “Maybe the music has helped me with that. I get little bits of sensation on-stage, playing the songs live. There’s a correlation there. You do get a sense of euphoria when you’re playing and pushing all this loud, sonic texture into a room at 110, 115 decibels where people are experiencing what you’re throwing at them. That’s a really special moment and I’m never going to take that for granted.
“Some of the greatest euphoric moments are looking out into the crowd and seeing people standing there with their eyes closed. When their eyes are closed, I know that they’re getting it. That’s exactly what I want from people; I want them to lose themselves in it. That’s the ticket!”
You can listen to this entire interview on the Kreative Kontrol with Vish Khanna podcast.