Local pop outfit Lab Coast let out some ‘Ayr’

If the first thing people tend to do when describing your band is paint a scene — most often some type of whimsical nostalgia for the film of life — then in today’s pop landscape you’re probably doing okay. People like to think visually and while I don’t want to call Lab Coast an “Instagram” band (that would just be rude not to mention lazy) parallels can be drawn: short songs evoking any number of passing visuals like flipping through photographs in an album. Causing a rush of memory however imaginary is still a neat trick.

The last time I hung out with Lab Coast for one of these articles I wrote of beer-fuelled camaraderie and creative spontaneity: the scattershot first-thought-best-thought 4-track tapestry of Guided by Voices as filtered through a group of friends recording new songs on a weekly basis. Walking on Ayr which finally sees a vinyl release this week continues this trend but it’s also the band’s most welcoming and accomplished collection of work to date.

“It was always meant to be on two sides” says percussionist Chris Dadge of Walking on Ayr which was issued on CD last year. “If we could have done the record and the CD at the same time last year we probably would have but the resources just weren’t there. We wanted to get the CD out in time to go to England…. But now we have the LP and that’s the sort of ‘definitive’ version of the release.”

For a band that has made itself known via relatively ephemeral means (e.g. constant live performances releases on tapes and CD-Rs) the step up to a more permanent format helps show off the elevation of their craft. Dadge who some might recognize as a lynchpin of Calgary’s experimental scene with his Bug Incision concert series and CD-R label recognizes this.

“I’ve always liked doing cassettes and CD-Rs when I do experimental music because I think it works for the type of music it is… a hitting of record and a hitting of stop. Whereas a pop record is something that’s slaved over to some extent — there’s a lot of work put into it and I feel those should be documented in a more permanent fashion. [ Ayr is] a ‘full statement’ — not that it’s ‘saying anything’ but it’s more like a meal not a snack.”

“It’s a meal with a couple side dishes” vocalist David Laing pipes in.

Of course given both Lab Coast’s prolific songwriting and the time it takes to put out an LP the band had plenty of new material to play before our interview — songs that perhaps weren’t ready for live performance but much like Walking on Ayr and the tapes preceding it marked a clear step forward in the band’s overall sound.

“I think [ Ayr ] marks the end of a certain type of recording style and a move into a new one” explains Dadge who recently acquired a Tascam 388 8-track mixer. “Almost everything on Walking on Ayr was done with mostly one Tascam 4-track and now we have a machine that is basically double that machine.”

“You might notice the fidelity is changing but the recording discipline remains as a participant in the songwriting structure” bassist Shawn Dicey adds. “I think recording remains an element of songwriting in the band. It happens in various stages but you take it to a point and then recording takes it to the next point no matter how that goes off.”

Walking on Ayr was already a great record and the band is only getting better — with a tour looming as well as the steady amount of tape being fed through the 8-track just you wait until the next one.