Though Lake of Violet is a new name within the experimental/heavy/”difficult” music communities, those involved with the project are no strangers to making forward-thinking tunes. Comprised of musicians who have spent time with the likes of Locrian, Minsk, Kwaidan and more, Lake of Violet presents a new side to these songwriters seldom seen before. The quartet craft these massive, dense and free-flowing compositions that touch upon elements of post-rock and progressive rock, but are too unique to be pigeonholed into one genre or another. Svbterranean recently caught up with guitarist André Foisey and guitarist/vocalist/synth master Neil Jendon to talk about their debut release, The Startling Testimony of Plumb Lines, its construction and other topics
Hello, could you please introduce yourself and your role in Lake of Violet?
André: André, I organized the musicians and played guitar and electronics on the album.
Neil: I played synths and guitar and vocals
How did Lake of Violet come into fruition?
André: Initially I was working on the next Eolomea album, a project that I do with David Reed. I invited Anthony Michael Couri in to add percussion. Eolomea’s music is more abstract and amorphous. Some of the music that Anthony and I created sounded more like songs and didn’t really fit in with what I think of as the Eolomea sound.
Once we recorded the skeletons of a few tracks, I invited Jake [Essak, bass] and Neil in to flesh out the tracks.
Neil: André asked me initially to bring my synths to a recording session, and things expanded from there. I started adding guitar to the tracks that André and Anthony recorded; then I wrote some lyrics. Then no one else would sing them, so I did.
Was there a particular goal you wanted to achieve with the band?
André: This project came out really intuitively. I saw the focus of the group being more song-focused and we wanted the vocals to be sung rather than screamed.
Neil: I’m no good at screaming.
How do you feel like your time with your other projects influenced the sound of Lake of Violet?
André: Whenever I play with different people it challenges me to play differently and to find different approaches. I wanted this album to be more like songs and not an entirely bleak and challenging experience. I was thinking that sounding like a darker Pink Floyd would be great.
Neil: I’ve done a fair amount of improvising with André and Jake in other settings, so it was cool and challenging to work on songs with them for a change. It’s a different context, so I think we managed to surprise each other at moments.
What can you tell us about the creation of the new record, The Startling Testimony of Plumb Lines?
André: I’m really happy that I got to play with some amazing musicians, to use Anthony Dunn’s artwork, and to work with Gilead Media on releasing the album.
Neil: The whole process has been very gratifying from beginning to end. Like I mentioned before, I’ve played with Jake and André before, and I’ve worked with Greg Norman before, too, but always in a more improvised setting. Recording something in the moment is one thing; you listen and decide if you can live with it or not. Recording songs and going in deep into the details of the things that make a song is another task completely. Some collaborations just aren’t cut out for that kind of work. I feel we lucked out in that regard.
A lot of the songs reportedly started off as free jams that evolved into more structured compositions over time. What were the challenges in giving structure to these songs?
André: You’d have to ask Neil and Jake that question since they really completed those tracks.
Neil: For most of the songs, the structure was already there but hidden, it just needed to be highlighted a bit with verses and details. The more acoustic songs that close out each side are a little more traditionally written out with a verse and chorus.
In general, how has constructing this album pushed you as a musician?
André: I realized that sometimes things turn out much better if they aren’t rushed and if you work on things in batches.
Neil: I wasn’t too confident my vocals would go over too well with the other guys. They don’t sound anything like any of their other projects. I figured they’d be dismissed as old-fashioned or safe. I’m glad their response was positive.
What is the title of the record derived from?
Neil: The title came from an article published in the late 19th Century that supposedly provided evidence for the hollow earth theory. I’m fascinated by that Victorian fashion for Secret Knowledge. There’s foolish optimism to it that just can’t be replicated today.
What are some of the themes explored on the record?
Neil: Dystopian sci-fi and bad relationships.
How do you think the artwork ties into the album, thematically speaking?
Neil: There’s nothing direct or obvious. Anthony heard the record and took it from there.
How would you describe Lake of Violet to someone who hasn’t heard it?
André: I describe it has one of my projects with a heavy Pink Floyd vibe and more song oriented than my other project.
Neil: It’s a rock band.
What is next for Lake of Violet or any of your other musical endeavors?
André: Neil, Jake and I recorded a collaboration with Insect Ark that I’d like to finish.
I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next musically. I recently moved to Blacksburg, VA and I’m just getting settled in here. I intend to get my equipment set up soon and to start writing some music. I could be more specific about my plans in a few months.
Neil: I’ve been to busy with dumb things lately and need to get back to work on music. No big plans; just getting deeper into music and working on it more. If I learned anything from this project, it’s that the work will tell you what to do. You can’t fight it.
Any parting words of wisdom?
André: Thanks for your interest and talking with us.
Neil: Seconded. Thank you!
The Startling Testimony of Plumb Lines is available now via Gilead Media.