D//E Interviews: Lungbutter

Montréal experimental noise rock trio, Lungbutter, put out their terrific first full length, Honey, last year to much acclaim, and ever since its release, they have paired the album to a triplet of engaging visuals, created for some of its standout tracks. They had to cancel their planned series of European shows due to the pandemic, but as they reveal themselves, their plans to continue creating new music are very much alive.

Ky, Kaity and Joni talk to D//E about the album, their influences, their creative process and much more in the interview which follows.

How did Lungbutter start, and how has the band developed over the years?

Ky: In terms of how we got started, Kaity and I were in an 8-person punk band called The Femmaggots, and when that band broke up we wanted to keep playing together. (Femmaggots put out one album- I can’t listen to it because it makes me feel too precarious and tender.) Anyway, Joni seemed like the most bad-ass drummer in town so we asked her to jam, she had just moved from Ottawa to start working at community radio station CKUT. We gelled really fast and that was that. In terms of how we’ve developed- any project that sees so many years of life is going to change a lot I think. We’ve all gone from being in our early/mid 20s to being in our early 30s and our tastes and skills have grown and transformed, and so the music we make together has also changed. When we first started playing, and when we put out our first EP (win some/lose most, in 2014) we were doing something kind of more straightforwardly punk but also with more recognizable drone-metal influences- like a lot of slow burn and choppy fast. But how that looks has morphed over and over again, we’ve gone through a couple of different phases. I think we’ve gotten noisier and learned not to do anything that feels too comfortable.

The visual accompaniments of Honey have been very impressive, with all videos thus far looking very creative and much different from each other. How important is the visual part to the music?

Ky: Honestly Kaity is the visual mastermind behind our music videos. I’m possibly the least visual person ever.

Kaity: Okay, okay “visual mastermind” is a bit of a stretch! And also Ky should take a bit more credit here because they are the person who coordinated the Maryland video with Adrien / “ashplains”/ “ahundredhuevos” - who also did the album art for our Extractor tape several years ago. I will say that, for me, having the opportunity to commission and/or make the music videos has been one of the most exciting aspects of releasing Honey. Initially the concept of a Lungbutter music video really freaked me (maybe us?) out because I assumed it would involve me having to try and air-guitar in an outfit that is way cooler than what I would normally wear and not feel like a little worm. I want to make it clear that I think that this is a very genuinely cool thing to be able to do, but the thought of me trying to pull it off still fills me with an overwhelming sense of dread! However, at some point we realized that the videos could be approached as opportunities to collaborate with and learn from some really talented friends! This is also probably why all the videos have felt so distinct from each other. We haven’t really established any curatorial parameters for the videos outside of working with people that we admire, and wanting to make things that we can look back on a couple decades from now and think “yes, we were in a band and we released some cool videos”. I have always been a huge fan of Jordan Minkoff’s video work as “DR.COOL”, so it was essentially a dream come true to have him make something for “Veneer”. For “Curtain”, Clayton Beugeling and I developed the concept together. I feel eternally grateful to them because I basically just got to play around with a hot glue gun while they made the actual production happen. Same goes for Tom McNamara (the cinematographer), Laura Jeffrey and Claude Labrèche-Lemay (the dancers/choreographers) and Sine Kundargi Girard (who made most of the masks and helped style everyone on-set). I feel like I essentially just got to bring a group of friends together, and then admire them while they did the really impressive thing that they each do for a living - which basically sums up how I’ve felt about each video.

Does your creative process lean more on the methodical side or is it spontaneous?

Ky: A few years ago I think I would have said it was totally spontaneous, and there are definitely elements of our collaborative process that are just instant and surprising- but to be honest we put a lot of time into figuring out every new song, reworking and reworking. We’re pretty fast to come up with ideas but then really slow deciding if they’re good enough, optimizing, and ironing out details.

Kaity: I would also add that I think that part of our creative process is determined by the fact that we each come up with our respective contributions to a song through really different means. Ky’s ability to come up with ideas through improvisation is totally mind-blowing, inspiring, and low-key enraging to me as someone who needs to sit down alone and play for hours before coming up with something that feels like an idea. Joni also has a really impressive ability to improvise. She is able to both develop ideas quite spontaneously and can quickly offer support to and nurture those that other people bring to the table. However, after years of trying to play improvised music, I only recently realized that I absolutely cannot jam! I think this is partially why we have developed a system that is so rooted in letting ideas simmer over longer stretches of time, and continually reworking them.

How would you describe Lungbutter as a live act?

Ky: Loud, obviously. We have a lot of fun and can get pretty silly. But also maybe a little scary?

Joni: Playing live is a blast. We really enjoy it and hope the audience does too.

Kaity: Sound-wise I think things are a little more minimalist, severe, and topsy-turvey than they are on the record, if that makes sense! In terms of stage presence though I am not sure. I have been told that while we are playing we “all look like [we] are from California and want to give each other high-fives”.

Ky: OMG that’s quite true. Who am I kidding, ‘a little scary’.

How do you see things going for live shows after the pandemic? Do you think normalcy will return as before?

Ky: Probably not. Without rent relief, cultural spaces of all kinds are suffering. A lot of small venues will go under during the coming year(s), or get bought out by / replaced by larger agglomerates like Live Nation who are able to weather the financial hardship more easily. I also doubt touring will resume wholesale until at least 2022, or that we’ll see the same kinds of crowds at large live music events in the next few years - it’s just a lot of risk. At my most cynical I would say that as a musician and as a FOH engineer, I expect to see much more competition for even fewer jobs in an already-precarious and saturated industry. But I also hope that in this moment of flux some new projects are able to grow a little and make space for themselves, especially those outside the mindset of scarcity and profit-seeking that defines so much of the music industry.

Kaity: In general I am having a hard time anticipating what day-to-day life is going to look like after this pandemic. I think that there was a massive global economic recession already on its way before COVID-19, and that the pandemic is going to very rapidly intensify the scale and magnitude of that recession on working people’s lives. I am also worried that capitalist governments are going to continue to try and strong-arm reality into submission by re-opening businesses and getting more people killed. So I guess in the face of the mass grief and trauma engendered by many capitalist governments’ really grossly negligent responses to this pandemic, it is hard to imagine that we are going to return to any kind of pre-COVID version of normal. However, as always, I am feeling inspired by people’s responses to the shit circumstances that they have been put in, and I feel strongly that whatever happens in the future, people will find a way to organize and hopefully make that future look much different, and much more hopeful, than the past! And I am sure that people will still put on shows and make music throughout that process, even if it takes a very different form than the music industry that preceded it!

Are there any tough to detect influences which have defined Lungbutter's sound? Things that go beyond the boundaries of alternative and noise rock?

Ky: There’s so many. I’m pretty into minimal music and modern classical (nebulous and potentially snotty-sounding genres, sorry), which I think probably comes through a bit in terms of how the vocals are placed in the songs. We all love pop music a lot. Certainly we listen to a lot of pop music in ‘the van’.

Joni: Pop music in the van is essential for any Lungbutter tour. Personally speaking, jazz has also been pretty influential for me. I was listening to a lot of jazz when I first started playing the drums, and it’s definitely shaped the way I think about rhythm and dynamics. It probably doesn’t come through much in the way I play in Lungbutter, though.

Kaity: I mean this isn’t an influence per-se, but I know that we are open to  “cheese” in all of its many forms! There are a couple songs on Honey where we were trying very hard to make something that sounded like it could be the background music on the Price is Right.

How about your non-musical influences?

Ky: I’m a big sci-fi nerd. That’s huge for me. I read a lot of poetry (although I’m by no means very knowledgeable about it) and I think that’s also a pretty defining element just form-wise and in terms of how I think about using words.

Joni: I feel like I’m influenced by people in my community more than anything. Outside of music, there are so many people working on amazing initiatives and bringing their ideas to life. Seeing people succeed in projects they care about – whether it’s visual art, cooking, writing, whatever – always drives me to put more energy into my own creative work.

Ky: Joni, yes, totally, could not agree more! Art-making is meaningless without context.

Although Honey spans a six-year time frame (2013-2018), it is a relatively concise record. Is there more material from this period we should be expecting to hear from you at some point?

Ky: Probably not. We made it about halfway through recording another album in 2016 before deciding we weren’t happy with the material at all. I’m sure there are songs there that people saw us play live a bunch of times but they can just stay as stuff we played live - we’re all glad we scrapped it. We have a ‘secret album’ on our Bandcamp with one otherwise unreleased track on it and some slightly different versions of a few tracks from Honey, but you’d have to ask us in person for a download code to hear it.

What are some of the themes you haven't tackled as musicians about which you'd be interesting to write?

Ky: Sound-wise we’ve been toying with incorporating electronics into our music for a while so that may be a fun direction. But thematically I think we’ll have to see where our lives are at when we are able to play music together again, since that tends to be the greatest influence. I’ve been writing a lot about solitude and planets and geology and scale, so maybe that will be something to work with? But I’m sure we’ll turn any preconceived ideas on their head as soon as we actually meet up.

What comes next for the band?

Joni: Before the pandemic kicked in, we had been gearing up to write some new material ahead of our April EU/UK tour. Obviously that plan changed. We’ve all been isolating for the past couple months, so we haven’t actually practiced together since… late February? What is time anymore? Anyhow, once it’s safe to do so, I think we’re all looking forward to just playing together again and working on new songs. It would be amazing to reschedule the tour once the risks around gatherings and travel subside, but any future live performances hinge on the ability to ensure that it’s safe for the audience, the venue staff, and all artists to participate.

Ky: What I would give to go to a concert, let alone play one, right now… sigh. I agree with Joni, I think in our immediate future I’m just looking forward to getting to practice together again and work on new material. It’s fine making music alone but it’s not the same at all.

Band photo by Aaron Vansintjan

Lungbutter Facebook | Instagram


Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form