Limblifter Gets User-Friendly

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When Limblifter leader Ryan Dahle drops by the Straight office for an interview, it’s almost as if he knows more folks at the paper than I do. While fixing himself a cuppa joe in the kitchen, Dahle runs into the paper’s effervescent promo queen Christine MacKay, who he apparently knows well enough to address by the nickname 13. Entering the editorial department, he veers off for an impromptu chat with the high sheriff of the music section, Mike Usinger, and they converse about photographer Rebecca Blissett. Later on, Dahle pauses midinterview to wave over Doug Sarti, who is not only the Straight‘s ad-services supervisor but a rockin’ bass player to boot.

“He’s a friend of mine,” points out Dahle. “He has a scooter too. He’s a Vespa man.”

It’s no big surprise, then, to find that Dahle’s music is a lot like him: accessible and easy to like. And on Limblifter’s new I/O CD, he put a lot of stock in the opinions of friends and colleagues. “On this record we ended up choosing the songs that really resonated with other people,” he says, “because people would always have my demos, or they’d come by the house and hear stuff. So I would say, ‘Okay, I’ll go with that’ to the songs that really seemed to get a response from people.”

Dahle wrote all the words and music on I/O, which he coproduced with John Maclean at Vancouver’s Factory Studios. Like Limblifter’s self-titled 1996 debut and 2000’s Bellaclava, it’s loaded with undeniably infectious pop-rock ditties, many sporting lyrics that aren’t easy to pin down. Take the bouncy leadoff track, “Get Money”, for instance.

“They think they own the sun,” croons Dahle in the opening verse, “my wish list has all these fuckers sorted out, I couldn’t disagree more with them/And it worked this wrong address, they eat shit and brains…” The singer isn’t about to disclose just exactly who the despised poo-chompers are, though.

“I don’t really feel that things need to make sense,” he relates, “because the songs that pretend to make sense don’t really resonate with me a lotta times. So I like colourful words and things that you can always pull a meaning out of, that are user-friendly.”

Although Dahle’s lyrical approach keeps things open to interpretation, he took a much more direct tack with I/O‘s aural presentation. The music was recorded on two-inch analogue tape, the performances mostly unedited. “I talk to people that work with producers who basically record the verse once and the chorus once,” he says, “then just chop it up into little bits and pieces and quantize everything. And that’s fine, you know. But I think kids are used to hearing that on the radio now, so when they hear looser performances, it’s almost like a breath of fresh air. That’s why there are certain bands right now that are doing really well just based on the way their record sounds.”

The current Limblifter lineup includes, besides Dahle on guitar and lead vocals, guitarist David Paterson, bassist Meegee Bradfield, and drummer Brent “Burento” Follett. But all the drumming on I/O was actually performed by Pat “The Chairman” Steward, widely regarded among Vancouver’s rock cognoscenti as the city’s top timekeeper for hire. Prior to Steward, Limblifter’s righteous beats were supplied on its first two albums by Dahle’s brother Kurt, who has since gone on to form local supergroup the New Pornographers.

Before that, in the mid-’90s, the Dahles were members of Age of Electric, a gold-selling quartet (“Ugly”) that included another set of brothers: vocalist Todd and bassist John Kerns. Singer Kerns was among the handful of local rockers–including Matthew Good, former Pure frontman Jordy Birch, and the Yoko Casionos–who contributed backup vocals to I/O. So does the fact that Kerns and Dahle are working together again bode well for a possible AOE reunion?

“It’s not out of the question,” relates the 33-year-old Dahle. “I think maybe I’ve been the guy holdin’ that up for years, ’cause, you know, since Todd and I have been talking quite a bit lately, he’s been gung ho to do that. But now John lives in Toronto, so that kinda makes it difficult. And also, I only want to do it if it’s current; I don’t want to do it if it’s nostalgia-based.”

In the meantime, the ’70s rock-styled Kerns is basking in the glow of his own new solo album, Go Time!, and Dahle’s busy enough with his Limblifter commitments. After a show with Matthew Good and Auf der Maur at the Vogue on Sunday (October 10), the three acts head off on a cross-country Canadian tour. Dahle says he’s thrilled at the prospect of visiting the Maritimes, and also hyped about renting an RV for the trip. He hopes to spend a lot of time behind the wheel.

“I haven’t driven an RV yet,” he explains, “but I’ve driven a big, 15-passenger van for years. It won’t be the mundane routine of hotel rooms every night–we’ll also go camping and stay at people’s houses–so I’m excited about the idea.”


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