The Dears on “Times Infinity Volume Two”

This is Being Alive

Sep 26, 2017 Photography by Richmond Lam Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear
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There's a moment, midstream through "1998," where you can hear Murray Lightburn's heartbeat. "This is being alive," The Dears' frontman sings over and over on the central track on Times Infinity Volume Two. It's a buoyant, even bouncing, moment where the rest of the band frolics musically around Lightburn and his musical partner and wife Natalia Yanchak. It's also about as happy as you'll hear Lightburn.

Such a moment is an authentic one for The Dears, a duo who are deeply committed to their craft, who come alive when making music. Even as mainstream attention has eluded them despite the critical acclaim and Polaris Prize nominations for albums like 2003's No Cities Left, 2006's Gang of Losers, 2008's Missiles, and 2011's Degeneration Street, The Dears press onward, almost as if it's all they know to do.

"I've definitely committed myself to making [The Dears] live for as long as possible," says Yanchak. "This is something that I do with Murray. The two of us don't think that The Dears will ever go away, which makes this sort of a strange project. It's more of a concept that's bigger than either of us, in a weird way. We're just like the custodians. We just have to make sure it carries on."

In recent years, the band seemed to take some time away before resurfacing with Times Infinity Volume One in 2015. (The new Volume Two is the darker set of songs from those recording sessions.) During that span, Lightburn released a solo album, Yanchak wrote a book, and they also had their second child. As Degeneration Street faded in the rearview mirror, Yanchak says they never once considered setting The Dears aside.

"I think when we went away to do those things, it was never a question of The Dears being finished or that our work with The Dears being over," she says. "We just have to make sure that it carries on, and there's a spirit and an energy there that's captured by what we create together, along with the other musicians that we bring in to work on the projects. We're just going to keep it real. We're being real."

"If I could get a gig doing something else interesting, I would, but I've dedicated my life to making music," says Lightburn. "Do I want to do something else? Fucking absolutely, but I can't deny what's in front of me. I hear music all the time."

Armed with a new album, The Dears continue to garner further acclaim for the music Lightburn hears, even as Yanchak insists that she believes it's "dumb" to do what the duo is doing.

"I always say that being in a band is dumb," she says. "It's so dumb. It's naïve to think, especially in today's world, that you can convince six people to sacrifice their actual lives to be in a band while making zero money. It's dumb. Yet it's also meaningful and important."

"Because of how art is tied to showbiz and therefore tied to measureable success, there's a reason that you'll see a band come and go quickly," says Lightburn. "That's a trap The Dears never fell into. We know there will always be ups and downs. There will tough times and great times. I never let either of them dictate my relationship to The Dears, and I think it's much easier to have a relationship with the band on that level."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Summer 2017 Issue (July/August/September 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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