“I love going to the studio, and when you walk out at the end of the day, there’s something that didn’t exist before.”
For the first time in over a decade, Vancouver alt-rock group Limblifter are readying themselves for the release of their fourth studio album Pacific Milk. To discuss writing fresh material, juggling roles, vintage gear, and the importance of ear plugs. A Music Blog, Yea? recently called our friend and Limblifter frontman Ryan Dahle! Dive into our interview below. Pacific Milk is scheduled for release on April 7th via We Are Busy Bodies.
AMBY: As always, thanks so much for taking the time to have a chat. I’m so stoked about this new release!
Limblifter: Thanks for being excited about it – I appreciate it.
AMBY: It’s my pleasure. So, speaking of the record, Limblifter’s fourth album Pacific Milk features thirteen new tracks and will be released this coming April. This is the first Limblifter release in over a decade. I know we spoke about this briefly over the summer, but what inspired you to reform the band after so many years?
Limblifter: Well, the whole idea of this band has really been the songs that I write on my own. It was just a collection of songs that I had that just seemed to sound like I was making another Limblifter record. People around me kept telling me how it sounds like a Limblifter record, so it sort of took that shape, you know? Based on the excitement that people had over the demos, it really made me think… As I was finishing and taking the songs from demo stage to releasable stage, it just kind of made sense. The solo record I did back in 2009, it was kind of obviously not a Limblifter record. There was one song on there that sounded like Limblifter, which was Chop Chop, but the rest of the record didn’t sound like Limblifter at all. That did start off as a Limblifter record, but as it progressed, it just sounded different. People around me kept saying, “if you’re ever going to make a solo record, this is what it should sound like”, so that’s what it became.
AMBY: One thing I’m really curious about is why you decided to release this record under the Limblifter name, rather than starting a new band or releasing another solo album. What is it about the name Limblifter which affirmed the fact that you had to release it as this band?
Limblifter: I feel a lot of responsibility for that name and a lot of ownership of that name. I feel like when I went out and played as a solo band, a lot of people wanted to hear those songs that I’d written as Limblifter and as we kept playing and got up to speed as a band again, I wanted to play them. I have this back catalogue of songs, and I wrote a lot of songs with Age of Electric as well, but they’re ones I can’t really play because they don’t sound right because it’s not my voice. I can’t really play those songs that I wrote from that era and make it sound great. That’s a whole era of my life that’s kind of wiped off the table as far as material I can play. With Limblifter, it still sounds right when I play it. I think that over the years, if you still are excited about your instrument and singing, I think that playing the old Limblifter songs feels right. I thought “why not?”. Nobody else is going to play them!
AMBY and Limblifter: [laughs]
Limblifter: It’s a lot nicer to have a back catalogue to fall on so every time you release a record, you’re not just playing that one record. It’s great to be able to play some of the songs that you’ve written throughout your life. It’s a good feeling to me.
AMBY: You’ve been working on other records, producing, and mastering in between the release of Irrational Anthems and the making of Pacific Milk. Where did the new songs come from? Are they fairly recent or when did you construct them?
Limblifter: Mostly right after the Irrational Anthems record, I started writing really hard again. Then with the re-release of the Limblifter record, Eric Warner called me out of the blue and said how he really wanted to release this Limblifter record. You know, when I look at his catalogue with We Are Busy Bodies, I didn’t see reissues. I kept thinking “why would you want to release this record?” since it seemed like he only released fresh music. Then he said he felt like it was an important record. I’ll take that. I’ll take that as a compliment [laughs]. I was really excited about it. Once we played a few shows as Limblifter again, after that rerelease, I felt another jolt of excitement of this kind of music and playing the music again. It felt right. I think that I’m happy with where these songs came from because they came out of non-premeditated writing method – writing songs which ended up sounding like my past catalogue. Hm. It was a long-winded answer, but that’s that!
AMBY and Limblifter: [laughs]
AMBY: Have you ever found it difficult to balance all of these different roles – the producer, songwriter, vocalist, guitarist?
Limblifter: I do find it difficult. I don’t find it difficult in the actual act of it, but in the job of making a website or something, I always think to myself “shit, what do I make a website for?” [laughs]. What aspect of what I do would people want to visit a website about? Actually managing the actual task, I do enjoy. I like developing skills and I really love learning. I started mastering records in 1999 and producing came in a way where I’d help a friend make a record and then all of a sudden I’m producing. From there, I kind of spiraled out of control and started gathering all of this vintage equipment and trying to keep going so I can make my records and make other people’s records. It’s just what I like doing. I love going to the studio, and when you walk out at the end of the day, there’s something that didn’t exist before.
AMBY: I love that. You mentioned vintage gear there! I’ve been trying to figure this out for a bit… for the record’s front cover, what’s the significance behind those headphones, vases, gear, and the statue?
Limblifter: I think that’s for people to kind of interpret themselves. The artwork was done by my friend Steven Shearer and I don’t know why he was generous enough to lend me his artwork, but he did, which is incredible because he’s never lent it to a musical artist. He’s an incredible artist that I learn from all of the time as an artist. When he said we could use an image and he gave me that image to use, I was pretty honoured. What it means is up to whoever’s looking at it [laughs]. I’m always trying to figure it all out. I’m kind of in the same boat.
AMBY: Come March, you’ll embark on a tour across Canada which includes a date in Toronto which I really look forward to catching. You’ve obviously done a lot of touring before, but this will be the first time you’re playing the new Limblifter material. Which songs do you look forward to performing the most?
Limblifter: It’s a different feeling for sure. When people hear the old catalogue, they’re super excited to be hearing it because a lot of people show up and say how they thought they’d never be able to see us. There’s a feeling you get from being stoked, and then there’s a feeling you get from the new material which makes me a bit more excited because it’s fresh.
AMBY: How about the old stuff?
Limblifter: The old stuff, you’re brain can go elsewhere while you’re playing. The new stuff, you’re concentrating and it’s a good challenge. I think that challenge is important for me – I need to feel like it’s not easy.
AMBY: When it comes to packing for a tour, what are some quintessential items you must bring along with you?
Limblifter: [laughs] Good question!
AMBY: Thank you.
Limblifter: Earplugs are the most important thing. I hear my voice through my head because I come from a very loud environment… coming up with Age of Electric, my brother always demanded that I wore Sony earplugs to protect my ears. That’s kind of been my saving grace for being able to go on with studio stuff. Since we started in the late eighties, I’ve been wearing earplugs since I had older brothers who made me do so. It makes you immune from any of the danger of something blowing up in your ear. I can hear everything perfectly and I can hear my voice perfectly. You know, you set your monitors at soundcheck and you have all of these other bands soundcheck afterwards, and by the time you play your monitor doesn’t sound the same. So I’m kind of well known for unplugging my monitor since I’d rather not stand there and say “hey, can I have some of this in my monitor?”.
AMBY and Limblifter: [laughs]
Limblifter: I come from that kind of rock and roll place where it’s not a safe zone on stage; there’s danger there [laughs]. So protecting myself is the most important thing. Anything I bring can possibly get destroyed.
AMBY: What about the amps and gear that you use?
Limblifter: I do have a fascination with old amplifiers. I don’t think that you can get the same sound with something new, so I prefer late sixties/early seventies Marshalls and Fenders. I don’t, for the most part, try to use new amplifiers because there’s almost zero that are made or mass produced that are worth listening to. I think when people come to see my band, they want to hear the guitar that sounds like it’s on the record. It’s those old amplifiers. Those are important to me and I’m always trying to find the right ones. I don’t want to play on some shitty Long and Mcquade rental or something.
AMBY: [laughs] That’s great. Well, to wrap things up here Ryan, what do you feel is the best part of being in Limblifter?
Limblifter: The best part… I’m not sure what the band part is! I like travelling and playing for people – that’s a great thing. I like that there’s people who can use the music and how people talk about it and enjoy it years later. It’s pretty rewarding. It’s not about me or ego, it’s about providing a service. I feel like the blue collar guy who can do that.
Thank you Limblifter, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout