One is the loneliest number. Five may be the noisiest.
And while Lucien Lahey is comfortable with the former, he’s become somewhat enamoured with the latter.
“It makes me sound like a disagreeable person, but I’ve never been one who works as easily with other people when it comes to music,” says the songwriter known predominantly for his pretty, intricate and intimate one-man act Conversations With Bears.
“So my solo project has always been something that I’ve focussed on, it’s very much an insular thing, it’s very much a control thing for me … This is my first time in a long time playing in a band like this and working with a group of people and bouncing ideas off of each other and just having it flow so, so naturally. It’s great.”
And it is the shoegaze, wall of wonderful known as Calgary quintet High Parade.
On Friday, Nov. 2, at the King Eddy they’ll release their debut The Ocean, an album that weaves a vapour trail of guitar spray through a black metallic bombast of percussion and adds vocals that, just like honey, lingers.
It’s as fully formed a first-time-out as you’ll find on a local level — certain of its sound and direction, music created with an intent and understanding of what it is, who they are and where they want to take the listener. Which is perhaps surprising only in that High Parade were cemented as their current lineup for just over a year.
That said, Lahey notes the band has actually been a “few years in the running,” the seed buried and watered when he met guitarist and local scene vet Aaron Smelski (Hot Little Rocket, Sky Suspended) through mutual friends.
“I knew who he was,” says Lahey, who moved to this part of the nation from the East Coast several years ago. “I was a little bit removed from the Hot Little Rocket era in Calgary, but I had heard of him. He’s really talented and I got to see him play in a few of his other projects and was really blown away by his guitar playing.
“We just started jamming like really casually and realizing that we — I’ve never worked so easily with someone else musically where … one guy’s right side of his brain is working and the other guy’s got the left side and they just jibe perfectly every time. I can play a riff for him and he can just answer back with something immediately and vice versa.”
But while those casual musical interactions were enjoyable, they weren’t entirely fruitful. It was only when Smelski sent Lahey some demos, a design and a direction, did things begin to take shape.
“And the day of the first practise, the singer that Aaron had been working with quit,” Lahey says and laughs.
Still with a path forward the pair and an ever-changing group of players — including at times Matthew Swann, of Astral Swans fame — they kept building the sound into something. And although things were formally, sonically and magnificently set with the additions of percussive powerhouses, drummer Jonathan Pynn and bassist Jesse McWilliams, there was still that missing ingredient.
Smelski, Lahey says, was insistent that there be “female representation … a strong female lead,” so they put out an ad on Kijiji and hoped for the best.
They got that with Sheila Lacey, whose strong but vulnerable vocals sit so soundly and profoundly in the mix, with the singer providing the face, mouth and messages that High Parade were proud to collectively call their own.
“The first few times we practised, Aaron and I tend to play really loud, so we were drowning her out a lot,” says Lahey. “I could hear that she sung beautifully, but I didn’t know what she was singing. And then one day she sent me the lyrics, when we started to be more comfortable with each other and were ready to sing together, and I was just blown away by some of the subject matter and how well written the lyrics are — the places she can take you and the images she’s able to portray.”
From there, it took a little time to get things to where the entire package — the sound, the look, the attitude — was a “strong representation of the band … a solid idea,” before they were ready to hit the stage and, finally, Arch Audio studio with producer Lorrie Matheson for sessions that would produce The Ocean.
Those, too, went smoothly, with Lahey saying the only real hurdle was getting the balance right, he and Smelski needing to pull back in order to make things less “soupy” so the rest of the members and their considerable skills shone in the mix — which they did and they do.
And now, with the album’s release, Lahey, while admitting his oneness isn’t entirely something he’s put aside for good, he’s also proud to be loud, proud to be part of this group, and involved in something that’s an easy and natural high.
“I don’t know that any of us really expected it to get to the point where it did,” he says. “The chemistry is so easy. It’s just been phenomenal.”
High Parade release their debut The Ocean on Friday, Nov. 2 at the King Eddy. For tickets please click here.