Guelph’s merry math rock jesters talk about their brand spanking new record
Dan Loughrin, Troy LaFontaine, and Jake Cadieux are Baby Labour, Guelph’s finest math rock band. They’ve got a new album called Full Legal Stop coming out pretty soon. Jake and Dan are also in Softside, who I previously interviewed on this site, and who recently wound up killing a bunch of bees by accident on a Maritime tour. To fund the album (and make up for the senseless bee death), they’re playing three sets at the Jimmy Jazz TONIGHT (April 27, 2018). You can’t make this stuff up. Bee there or bee square. I got to hang out at a Baby Labour practice a month and a bit ago. This is what I saw and heard (plus some photos from their gig with Weaves at Guelph Concert Theatre).
Will Wellington: So you guys have got a new record coming out.
Dan Loughrin: Yes.
Jake Cadieux: [Laughter] “Yes!”
DL: It’s not fake. It’s real.
WW: What’s the story of the new album?
JC: It’s less riffy than our last one. I think it’s more cohesive as a record.
DL: You think so?
JC: I think so, yeah.
DL: Yeah, I mean, maybe there are two ways to think about records. One, as a representation of a live show, and two, as a studio project. We were really, really show-tight when we did the last record. Like we were preparing for a tour and we had played — Troy’s got the numbers somewhere…
Troy LaFontaine: I do. [Laughter]
DL: Do you have them here for this interview?
TL: I don’t.
DL: Of course not. Great. We played lots of shows.
TL: We played like 873 shows—
DL: There you go.
JC: That’s not true.
TL: Dan wrote the album on the tour.
JC: This is on the record, dude. Keep it chill!
TL: Is it? Everything that I say is off the record.
JC: We did probably play about 100 shows.
DL: I think it was like sixty or seventy. But it’s more than we did in preparation for this record.
WW: This is the “studio album.”
DL: I think so.
JC: There are some interludes, there are some samples.
DL: There’s a lot of great sample material.
TL: But it’s more representative of the live band.
DL: This is?
JC: I think so.
DL: I don’t think so.
JC: There’s more improvisation on this record.
DL: So is it both? It’s the “studio record” and the “live record?” I guess it came from the concept of wanting to do something that was more live feeling than our last record. We did that in a real studio with a good friend of mine that I’ve been working with for a very long time — who’s going to master this record — Michael Fong. I play in a band with him too. Great dude. And that record sounds really good. But it also just sounds like a record that you go into a studio and make. So, this one, because I’m an idiot and I’m doing the whole thing, just kind of sounds different, which is nice.
JC: Well, it’s a learning curve. First of all, we did the last record in three days — less than that — straight. Like 12 hours a day, not even leaving the studio.
DL: We had a sub I think, one day.
JC: And on this record, it’s been a few months.
TL: This one’s more like The Wall, Will. Pink Floyd? The Wall?
DL: Oh my God…. So I don’t know. It’s a pretty convoluted process as to how we got here. We recorded the record twice, purely because I was not stoked on [the first version]. I was stoked on it, but not enough. So I convinced these guys to redo the whole fucking thing. And thank God. It didn’t take too much convincing. But it sounds better this time around, right?
JC: Yeah, I agree.
TL: Him wanting to do it a second time gave us the opportunity to be honest about the fact that it sounded like shit the first time.
JC: No, that’s not true.
TL: That’s not true. That’s not true. [Laughter]
JC: If you’re going to do it a second time, you might as well do the best take you can, you know what I mean? At least for drums, I would get a take I was comfortable with and then see if I could top it. Because once I know I have a take I can use, then I can relax.
TL: As soon as we heard the playback of the second set of recordings, it was obvious that it was the right thing to do because the sound is just this much better.
DL: And there were a bunch of reasons as to why I thought we could do it better — mic placement, where the drums are in the room, the fact that we had about $20,000 worth of gear that sort of fell into our laps. We’d be dumb not to.
WW: Is the kind of material different from the first record?
JC: We’re growing as a band, I think. Like the last record has some — “321NUN” is really just one riff for the whole song, and then a one-and-a-half-minute guitar solo. This record is not like that at all.
DL: There’s still some big guitar solos.
JC: There’s some big guitar solos, but everything’s stitched together [better]. I think it’s a little more heady, to be honest.
DL: Yeah, there’s more weird shit going on, that’s for sure.
TL: [Whispering] It’s a drug record.
DL: That was actually one of the reasons why I needed to stop the mixing process on the [first version,] because I did my yearly “I’m going to smoke weed and remember why I don’t smoke weed” night. And then I listened to the last mix that I did of “Lobsters.” And I was like, “Oh my God, this is so trash, fuck….” But really I could’ve been listening to anything and been like, “I hate this!” Because I just can’t smoke weed.
WW: So is the Gun Black Tape on the new record?
DL: Those two songs are.
JC: Superior versions of them. I think.
DL: Nothing wrong with what Tyson [Brinacombe] did, but that was a pretty stupid move for a band. One of my favourite guitar players Nick Reinhert plays in this band with Zach Hill who’s probably one of all of our favourite drummers. They play in this band called Bygones and they put out this first record that was fucking gnarly and then three weeks later they put out a five-track, super punk rock EP that’s like eleven minutes long — we have a drinking game that’s grown out of that record.
JC: The game is you drink as many beers as you can in eleven minutes. Dan always wins. And loses. [Laughter]
DL: That was the impetus for wanting to put out a tape immediately after putting out a record that was really meticulously thought out and recorded really well.
JC: We made seven copies of it. Sold out. First run.
DL: Sent one to Georgia. That guy in Georgia was so pissed. He was like, “Why’d you send me this piece of shit!”
JC: You wanted it!
DL: Yeah! You fucking hounded us!
TL: He was pissed it was only two songs.
WW: What’s the plan for the new record?
DL: It’s going to be released as a cassette and as a ten- or twelve-page comic book. I’m using that phrase super loosely. It’s just a book of drawings.
JC: A visual accompaniment.
DL: The original idea was to write a book called How to Make a Record Album, which was just a step-by-step list of what I was going to do for recording this record, salt-and-peppered with some stuff about my personal life that was in the *thbpbpthpt!* I took lines from that step-by-step thing and set them to my friend Scott Shields, who’s a really good illustrator.
JC: He did the cover for Aruban Sandwich.
DL: Yeah, and he’s done a t-shirt for us before too. We really like the work that he does.
JC: It suits the band.
DL: Proportions are all a bit wonky. So that guy’s going to do like a booklet that accompanies the release with a download code in it.
JC: I think we agreed you can’t buy them separately. If you’re going to buy the record, you’re going to get the comic book.
DL: It’s going be like ninety bucks.
WW: How did Baby Labour start and what was the original vision for the group?
DL: I played in a band called Bill Killionaire with my friend Scott Haynes and Jake was working at The Beat Goes On with Scott. Our drummer couldn’t make it one night so Jake came to fill in. I saw Jake play, and I was like, “That guy’s a really good drummer — he hits hard, and is accurate with his playing. I’m going to start a band at some point with that dude.” Years later we [started] as a two piece.
JC: We did what, a two-year run as a two piece?
DL: Year and a bit. And the original thought process for me when we started the band was to be a hardline cut between free improv and rigidly composed music. And that has fallen by the wayside.
JC: There are still elements of improv.
DL: There are yeah. I don’t talk to you guys about this stuff, but with my playing in the band, I’ve been thinking about this idea of micro improvisation where there are very, very tiny pockets [of improvisation]. That’s more in line with what the band’s doing now, this idea of micro improv.
JC: Troy and I were playing in a hardcore band and it broke up and Troy wanted to join a band. We told him he could play bass.
DL: He showed up with a guitar.
JC: The rest is history.
TL: Yeah, but if I showed up with a bass…
JC: The band wouldn’t be the same, yeah.
TL: You’re welcome. [Laughter]
WW: On the track you shared with me, you featured a clip from a Chris Gethard standup special. What do you like about Chris Gethard, or why’d you include that clip?
JC: Yeah, talk to us about the source material for the record, Dan. [Laughter]
DL: There are a couple reasons why the Chris Gethard one is important to me. One, because I think we all enjoy it and it’s a fun break from listening to music in the van when we go out and drive places.
JC: Funny 820.
DL: Yeah, Funny 820. That’s good stuff.
JC: That’s our late night, driving-home-from-Windsor saving grace.
TL: Turned me into a David Cross fan.
DL: People always talk about podcasts — we listen to standup comedy. We have a large well to choose from if we were going to put any dumb standup comedy on the record. And then, two, the bit that that part of the Chris Gethard special comes from is this long diatribe about him doing ecstasy — like a lot — at Bonnaroo one year, and accidentally speaking into existence that he doesn’t want to be with his current girlfriend of nine years or something. And then he goes on to talk about how his entire life just sort of fell apart from that moment on, and not in a bad way — in a good way. He was doing all this weird stuff. Moved away from the apartment where he lived for eight years. Went and got a Morrissey tattoo when he was thirty-something years old — [although] he already had a Morrissey tattoo. And then the culmination is him talking about … going to [The Standard Hotel above the High Line in New York City] and … engaging.
DL: I appreciate that story from a personal point of view, because it’s about transformation. But then also the punchline is this really odd current state of affairs. I don’t know why eating ass is a popular thing to do these days.
JC: Millennials, man.
DL: Or maybe it’s not! I don’t know anyone who has told me they like to get their butthole licked, and I don’t know anyone who likes to lick butt … except for me.
JC: Nah, I like it.
DL: Cool. Right on.
TL: Which one?
JC: That’s for me to know and for you to find out.
Ba dum, tss!
Excerpts from this interview previously appeared in The Ontarion: “Baby Labour maybe get their act together”
Photos by Will Wellington