Catching up with Limblifter's Ryan Dahle and Meegee Bradfield in Toronto, it's remarkable to see that the pair doesn't look all that tired.
They are, after all, on their way home to Vancouver after finishing up the cross-Canada "Put Out Your Lights" tour, where they shared the stage with Matthew Good and Auf Der Maur. Although they do admit to a few sleepless nights on tour - Dahle confesses that he was the bus driver as well, so nights of only three or four hours of sleep were common. Still, he puts a bright side on it. "Sleep deprivation can be an invigorating thing. It's almost like drugs sometimes."
It's been four years since we last heard from Limblifter with their 2000 release Bellaclava. And while radio stations were still echoing past hits like "Tinfoil" and "Ariel vs. Lotus," Limblifter was lying low, going through a number of lineup shifts, and eventually pulling together enough time, material and money to release their new rock album I/O. Though it wasn't an easy task, according to Dahle.
"People on the Internet have said stuff like, 'Why was it four years between albums?'" Dahle comments, sounding mildly exasperated. "Well, I wrote most of these songs three years ago. 'Jumbo Jet Headache,' the new single, was written in mid-2001. So why wasn't there a next record? Well, you need money to record a record, and mix it, and master it, and do artwork, and take photos, and then manufacture it. When you have to fund everything yourself, it's difficult."
In fact, it almost seemed like Limblifter was done for good at one point, as the original lineup fell apart to leave frontman Dahle as the only consistent member. So why bring the band back with a new lineup under the same name?
Dahle shifts in his seat slightly - he later admits to not being very good at interviews, but he also seems rather self-effacing, so he did fine - but his answer is firm. "Limblifter was my band; it was my songs from the very beginning. My brother played drums, and we had a revolving door of bass players, but it was always my band. I named it, I created it, and those were my songs. So I thought, why am I turning my back on this?"
Especially when the public wasn't so eager to let Limblifter go. "Every time we'd play, people would scream out Limblifter songs, and a lot of people thought we should call it Limblifter because it sounded like Limblifter. It just reverted back to the name, and that's when it began. I put together the people I thought were the most into it, and were the best musicians that I knew of."
Among these musicians is Bradfield, a pretty blonde bass player with an extensive background in classical symphony, as well as playing bass for the Salteens. "For me, coming into this band was a total step up," she remarks. "I think we all get along in this band now - we're all really easy-going people. We had fun on this tour."
Though that apparently wasn't always the case with past Limblifter lineups, particularly when Dahle's brother Kurt was behind the drum kit. When asked if there were any harsh feelings after his brother's departure from the band, Dahle's answer is immediate, lengthy and surprisingly candid. "Oh, sure. At that time, we'd worked together for so many years, and when Age Of Electric split, it was sort of my fault. I was the one who said, 'okay, this is enough.' It was a nervous breakdown because I was in the middle of everything - I managed, I wrote the songs, I did everything. Finally I just pulled the plug and said I'm not gonna do it anymore. And ever since Limblifter became the focus, Kurt wasn't really as into it anymore, because I think he felt it should be a side thing."
There's barely a pause for breath as Dahle continues his story. "Making the second Limblifter record [Bellaclava] was difficult financially and mentally, because I was sort of blamed for the breakup of Age Of Electric, and so Universal thought that they should put a few hundred thousand dollars into Todd's band Static In Stereo. So without support financially, or any support morally from Kurt, I thought making the second record was against all odds." A brief shrug. "We didn't get along for a lot of reasons. I was kind of a control freak, but it was a two-way street." He finally halts to sip his coffee and to conclude, "We get along great now, though. Now that we don't play together, we get along famously."
Yet even with all the hardships that come with being an independent musician, neither would want to trade it in for an ordinary life. In fact, they both admit that they wouldn't be able to keep occupations outside the music trade. "I do other things like produce records, and mix records a lot, and I rent out my gear. So it always has to do with music - I've done this all my adult life," Dahle says. "I've had a few jobs for about a month each, but other than that, I've made a living from making music. That seems to be where I survive."
And Bradfield sums up the feelings of musicians everywhere: "Playing music is way better than any other job. There's no reason to give it up. Never give it up."
Writer: Caitlin Hotchkiss