Year of Glad lies somewhere at the crossing of folk and drone, distant falsetto and heavy effects burying their free-form rumblings of guitar and drums. Now based in Montreal, singer/guitarist Alexandre Bergeron and drummer Nick Laugher have been friends since middle school, growing up outside of Halifax and playing together in a punk band called The Broom Handles.
Eventually, they started playing together again in Montreal, putting out the 7" Fave/Drawbackdoors themselves in 2012.
“I was playing glockenspiel for a while, we were working on these weird fucking Casio keyboard beats. And then [Alexandre] got a jam space downtown,” says Laugher.
His first show on drums (ever) was at Brasserie Beaubien for POP Montreal in 2012.
“It was kind of a trial by fire really. We play so many shows, and the learning curve is intense,” says Bergeron.
Nick would mess around on the kit when they were in bands, but never owned his own. But eventually he wound up drums with Alexandre after hanging out with him on a solo East Coast tour.
“I’m not a drummer, I don’t know how to dominate and do that,” says Laugher, joking that he can’t play a straight beat.
Their earthy, self-described 'wall of oil' (they also love puns) sound builds and recedes slowly, fitting right into Montreal's growing drone scene.
“It’s fortunate that a lot of our peers in the scene are involved in this drone element that’s coming out of Montreal big time," says Bergeron. "The Plant especially is a huge epicentre for that.”
It’s a return to the kind of slow-burning intensity that Montreal was known for a decade ago, when Godspeed You! Black Emperor was in the middle of defining a genre.
“Music was the main reason that I came here. Godspeed was at the forefront of that for me in terms of their ideology and style of music. We were punk rockers growing up, and Godspeed had that punk rock spirit without the musical convention,” says Bergeron.
“I think Year of Glad kind of pushes that punk rock mindset.”
The result is less delicate, and can transform live into a 12-minute take on one of their songs. And the stuff is only getting longer as they become more comfortable as a two piece – inspired by their hometown heroes, Cousins.
“More recently we’ve been doing a more improvisational style, feeding off one another,” says Nick. “Everyone else we’ve played with has felt kind of alienated almost by that.”
“It’s an emotional basis that we’re going on, give and take all the time,” says Bergeron. “It’s really conducive to a drums, guitar and voice scenario because we can improvise so easily without having to know what scale we’re playing in.”
They’re not opposed to collaboration though. Their last show before Sled Island featured David Switchenko from Saxsyndrumimprovising lines the whole way through. And they’ve played several shows in Montreal this month already, before heading to Calgary tomorrow for their opening set for Chelsea Wolfe.
"People sometimes say ‘maybe you shouldn’t play so much,’ and maybe we agree with them, but it’s fun,” says Bergeron.
And given the improv style, Year of Glad is defined live in that moment; their fleeting jams becoming real for the crowd watching on.
“It can be a little dicier when there are all these other variables in a live setting, but sometimes it’s the best we’ll ever play, feeding off the energy of the room,” says Bergeron.
The two produce their records themselves, inviting friends to record and collaborate on their Cereal Bowl Collective label. Passing the recording back and forth, they slowly crafted their dense, ghost-like sound on Old Growth, the LP they put out in April.
“The first track that was kind of the catalyst for the whole project we recorded at McGill live off the floor, and it ended up being 200 tracks,” says Bergeron.
The track is album-opener “Deth.” They worked on the song over the course of two years as their live lineup morphed.
”It bears no resemblance to the actual bed tracks of that session," says Bergeron. "It’s all just experimentation. Laugher and I are always just trading back and forth.”
“Add some gloss, do some things and send it back,” says Laugher.
“This whole timeline is apparent to the track for me. It’s this weird sculpture that you’re chipping away at for so long that it takes this bizarre ambient form,” says Bergeron.
The result is a recorded version very different from what you’ll hear live. But now as a two-piece, that’s likely to change.
“I think the next project will be more of the live thing, more of what we’ve developing recently. There was such a long timeline for that last record. The next record we’ll try to make it quicker, more spontaneous,” says Bergeron.
As a two-piece they're free to play shows three times a week and change their sound, onstage or in studio, whenever they please.
“It’s not like fuck those guys they couldn’t hack it, it’s just that we work probably too much on it,” says Laugher. “That’s why it took so long for it to come together."
“We’re not a conventional project, it’s mostly unspoken things that are dissolved or created," adds Bergeron. "I think that’s reflected in the recordings, that decay and building.”
Year of Glad plays Sled Island June 19 at the Commonwealth Bar & Stage w/ Chelsea Wolfe at 10 p.m., and Containr June 20 at 4 p.m.