ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 4, 1996
Most rockers would be happy being in one major-label recording band, touring around the country and heading into the studio when the time is right to make another album. But after spending seven years in Age of Electric, and getting signed to MCA Records in Canada and Mercury in the States, Vancouver-based brothers Ryan and Kurt Dahle still weren’t feeling fulfilled, so they started up another band and called it Limblifter. Now they’ve got two touring/recording acts on the go.
That should keep them busy for a while.
In Age of Electric, 26-year-old Ryan Dahle plays guitar and his older bro handles drums; they’re joined in the group by another pair of brothers, bassist John and vocalist Todd Kerns. According to Ryan, it was the desire to carry their own tunes that led the Dahles to branch out with bassist Ian Somers and form Limblifter last year.
“We had these songs and we just felt like singing,” explains the younger Dahle, calling from Toronto during rehearsals for a Limblifter tour that will result in both bands playing the Plaza of Nations as part of the upcoming Foxfest show (July 19-21). “It basically came from a four-track tape that we’d made that everybody got turned on to. I guess that’s kind of a corny way to say it, but everybody just really liked it—our management, and the A&R people at the record companies, and all of our friends—and that’s why it came about. Then we just went into the studio and recorded it as quick as we could, and it turned into a Limblifter album.”
Released in January, the Limblifter disc follows a slightly poppier route than the hard-rockin’ Age of Electric release of last year. Tunes such as the debut single, “Screwed It Up”, have a hummable, get-under-your-skin vibe that bodes well for the commercial potency of the band—and that also sounds great in the car. Fortunately for the Dahles, the Kerns aren’t the type to start a family feud over their bandmates’ having 20 fingers in two pies.
“That’d be kinda stupid,” asserts Dahle. “A lot of people ask about that, and I just think it’s ridiculous. Maybe it’s because of the way we are and our situation—we’ve been together seven years, and everybody has a hobby or something they do. And being in one band is really not enough for me. I try to do it as much as I can, you know, ’cause I want to get better at writing songs and playing in bands and stuff.
“Whatever we’re doing at the time takes precedence,” he adds, “but you try to do things for both bands at the same time. Like today for instance, the Age of Electric record is getting mastered at Bob Ludwig’s place in Portland [Maine], and at the same time we’re rehearsing for this [Limblifter] tour, so there’s always something going on. At first everybody was asking us, ‘How can you have two bands? Why are you doing that?’ We just do it, and now people around us have come to believe that it’s an okay thing to have two bands.”
The Age of Electric members moved to Vancouver from Regina five years ago, and though the band has made some local industry contacts in the intervening years—and befriended members of such Foxfest participants as Mudgirl, Rymes with Orange, and the Odds (who share a stage with Limblifter on July 19)—Dahle says it was an uphill battle to get the group established.
“Vancouver’s weird for us,” he says. “We know a few people here and there, but we’ve never really felt at home there. And I don’t think it’s a very receptive atmosphere for new bands. It’s really hard to get noticed, I think, maybe because of the amount of recording acts and bigger bands that come up from Seattle to play. I think it kinda dilutes it for the local bands.”
Dahle does admit that both his bands have received strong support on the local radio front from CFOX. And Age of Electric—which joins the likes of Colin James and Big Sugar at Foxfest on July 21—also got a financial nudge from veteran Vancouver rocker and producer-to-the-stars Bob Rock, who basically lent it the keys to the now-defunct Little Mountain Sound for two months back in ’92.
“He was just a fan of the band,” reports Dahle, “and he had a bunch of his gear sitting around and not being used, so he said, ‘Why don’t you guys record something?’ So we went into this little room and took his gear with us and out we came with a record.”
That became The Ugly EP, an independent release, two tracks from which were remastered and included on Age of Electric’s 1995 major-label debut. One of those was the Ryan Dahle–penned “Ugly”, a rousing number that garnered impressive radio and video play in Canada. It’s a good bet that AOE’s next batch of tunes—slated for release in October—will be getting a hefty promotional push from each of its North American labels, as well as the Invasion Group Ltd., the New York–based management team that handles both of Dahle’s bands. According to him, Age of Electric—and subsequently Limblifter as well—hooked up with American management because the band members couldn’t find anyone in Canada that they liked or trusted enough to handle their affairs.
“It does get tough with communication sometimes,” he says of the long-distance partnership, “but I think the pros outweigh the cons. When you’re working with people you trust, who are into it and have power within the music industry, it helps a lot.”
With committed management in the Big Apple, two albums out on two major labels, and another one in the can, you might think the Dahle brothers’ double vision has them sitting in the lap of luxury. But being in twice as many bands doesn’t necessarily result in twice as much money.
“If you’re only playing half as much with each band then it’s kinda tough,” says Dahle. “We’re pretty broke right now—both bands—so it’s definitely not something that you get into for the money. Even bands that are much more successful than us, we talk to them and it’s like, ‘Well, you don’t make money at this, kid.’ I mean, once you break even, then I suppose you start to make money.”