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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

UPCOMING! Lheppe at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine | Friday, April 12th

LHEPPE  | FREQUINOX

Psychedelic Shoegaze and Long Jams: Lheppe’s Ever-Evolving Take on Music

Local rock act Lheppe’s first ever live performance took place at Battle of the Bands. As per the tradition, they were given about 20 minutes to play a few songs of their repertoire. They got up on stage, and started delivering their art to the judges.

They played one song. One 20-minute song.

“We were really into progressive rock at the time, and we decided, ‘OK, let’s write a 20-minute song!’ So we did!” says lead singer and guitarist Pete Warning. In fact, it seems like trying new things is kind of Lheppe’s trademark. Case in point: after releasing a first record that airs on the alternative hard rock side of things a few years ago, the band came up with Across the Pineapple last July, a double album full of ethereal ambiances and psychedelic journeys (you can download it for free on Lheppe’s SoundCloud page). From a 90s-sounding heavy aesthetic, they moved to an aerial 70s-sounding one.

Besides the fact that they lost a member and were thus tempted to look in different directions, that switch in atmosphere has a lot to do with a habit the unit started developing: improvised jamming. When they hash out things in the immediacy of the present moment, that sort of floating acid rock is what they have the most fun doing, and so that’s exactly what came out of what one could call “The Pineapple Sessions”.

Such sessions were numerous. During the majority of the two years during which the album was recorded, the trio lived in the same apartment, and jammed in a room devoted to that noisy occupation. Needless to say, moments of spontaneous musical creation started being more and more frequent, hence the sheer amount of songs recorded, and vibes covered. “We used to have a calculated approach, a more calculated one anyway, especially with the heavier stuff [i.e. the stuff from the first record],” says Warning, “but we found it was kind of always losing its magic. Nothing against it, but we felt better when we jammed; we had more flow, we got into the groove better.” Drummer Jeff Lo expands: “This is our subconscious talking, we’re elaborating. We’re not talking to each other verbally, communicating, but we’re playing instruments, and grabbing on to that flow together.”

The result of such a creative process proves convincing: hovering vocals full of reverb, fuzzy electric guitar solos, innovative drum patterns, moments of bluesy longing, dashes of surf here and there, lyrics that are at times funny, at times poetic and critical of the status quo, slow-moving synths, instrumental parts featuring trumpet, piano and cello, crystalline percussions; there’s event a waltz thrown in the blend for good measure. Lots of things can happen in the space of two years, and lots of them are likely to influence a crew that is so open to change and evolution. Unsurprisingly, the album reflects just that.

That openness also makes the band prone to get away from the traditional show-going experience, and head towards a multi-sensorial take on the whole idea. Besides enjoying being teamed up with electronic music acts and DJs, the band is also known to feature other types of artistic expression in their live performances, such as Day-Glo painters (an idea that apparently came from Tom Wolfe’s classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), various circus acts (including a guy who made a giant ring wobble on the floor while he was sprawled on the inside, holding on to it), dancers… At first, these collaborative efforts were not intended and were more the result of decisions made by the promoters of the events, but rapidly, the band started enjoying the idea a lot. It even started influencing the live jams that took place. “It’s fun to merge all the talents. It’s what attracted me the most,” keyboardist and bassist Jimmy Vegas remarks. “The dude with the ring… What was cool is that I realized that, whenever he was performing, we toned down and made sure that the song went with what he was doing.” This take on things is a great demonstration of the band’s ability to forge an atmosphere around pretty much anything spontaneity sends their way.

Even though the members of Lheppe were interested in the ghostly and unearthly vibe of shoegaze and dreampop even before discovering psychedelism, they found themselves very inspired by the concept, and grew found of it quickly. To them, it goes way further than the drugs. The idea is based in very focused contemplation, whether it’s drug-induced or not. “I remember the first time we played, nobody fu**ing moved!” Vegas recalls. “Then, we went outside, and everybody propped us up. So we were asking questions: ‘Did you guys like the music and everything?’ and they answered ‘Of course, dude, we were just fu**ing hypnotized!’” To Lo, this kind of appreciation is the most amazing form of reward. “I think that’s the best way to manifest yourself: intellectually, instead of physically,” he states. “I’d rather have someone getting lost in the song. If I see that, it’s mission accomplished for me.”

Enough said. If you wish to experience what Lheppe is capable of offering in tangible fashion, simply attend their event at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine this coming Friday. It is aptly named Frequinox, and it shall feature DJs spinning different genres of electronic music, as well as trapezists and painters. Anyone who is into the psychedelic realm of things, from Grateful Dead fans to psytrance heads, should not miss it.

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