Medicine

Second Dose

Nov 06, 2013 Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMT
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As recently as 2011, Brad Laner, guitarist and leader of the seminal Los Angeles shoegaze act Medicine, was saying that he would rather have a root canal than reform the band that split up acrimoniously in 1995.

"That's definitely how I felt for many, many years," Laner says, laughing. "We'd all been stuck in a van with each other for three years. We'd probably had a few lifetimes' worth of each other. But never say never, what can I say?"

Obviously, his feelings changed. Last year, the band's first and second albums1992's Shot Forth Self Living and 1993's The Buried Life­received expanded, archival reissues from Captured Tracks. When copies of the deluxe vinyl editions arrived from the label, Laner invited Jim Goodall and Beth Thompson, the other two members of the trio's classic lineup, to his home to divvy up the goods. They found themselves jamming almost immediately, and over the next year they would write and record To the Happy Few, the first Medicine album from the original lineup in 18 years.

"For it to be Medicine, it needs to have Jim and Beth's imprint on it," Laner says. "When we started this album I was afraid it might sound like one of my solo albums, but it really doesn't. Having Beth's voice and Jim on drums makes a huge difference. It gives it a different identity."

When Medicine disbanded, they were on a major label and part of a very different music industry. They've returned as an indie rock band, and Laner prefers the creative control that it's given them.

"On the original albums, we'd make demos at home and try to recreate them in the studios; these were $1,000 a day studios, recording on two-inch tape, and working with an engineer," he says. "I've always wanted to get rid of the middle-man and take control of the recording, and that's what I've been doing since the band broke up: learning how to play the computer, basically. With the album coming out now, I actually have to re-learn how to play the guitar."

Just as the technology has developed since the band's first run, so have the band's aesthetics.

"We used to never care about the singing," he says. "That was the classic dreampop/shoegaze stance, where the singing was just something muttered underneath it. In the meantime, I've been completely obsessed with vocals and vocal harmonies. The vocal aspect of the new album is in a completely different universe than the old albums."

Their new focus can be heard in songs such as album opener "Long As the Sun," which alternates between abrasive guitars and mellow vocals, or "Burn It," where the voices are wrapped in a weird, wet electronic groove like something from a vintage Eno production.

When Medicine split up, interest in shoegaze music was waning; they have returned to an indie scene where intense, palpable waves of guitar noise are again embraced.

"It feels like we can pick up where we left off, rather than have to start fresh, because of that legacy and because people's minds are open to this particular sound," Laner says. "I feel like it's a fortunate turn of events. I felt like we were at odds with the universe during our first run, so if we could be well-timed culturally now, that's great."



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