BioIf you want all the facts, then yes, the story of The Dears did begin in Montreal in 1995, spurred on by cigarettes, pints and too many nights of overanalyzing Smiths records. But that was so very long ago. Friends come and go, formative influences are outgrown like a hand-me-down iron-on T-shirt, idols must be killed.
If you want the real story, then we must start in April 2000, when the one original Dear, Murray Lightburn, hit the stage at Lee's Palace in Toronto flanked by a band of new recruits and welcomed us into his world - a place that, like his native Montreal, is built on romance and timeless beauty but scarred with reminders of a golden age that is long gone. Just as the band's orchestral crescendos threatened to collapse the stage, Lightburn dropped to his knees and screamed "There's no such thing as love!" - a dead-serious declaration whose pathos was further intensified by the fact only 20 of us were there to hear it. The band had just released its debut album, END OF A HOLLYWOOD BEDTIME STORY, and while few were on hand that night to heed the message, it still reverberates to this day: it's time to get real, to get to the heart of the matter by fearlessly addressing matters of the heart.
The next time The Dears played Lee's Palace, in June 2001, the crowd of 20 had turned to fire-code-defying throng of 700, with hundreds more turned away at the door; in the interim, The Dears had taken the gospel across Canada, stealing hearts and blowing minds, and racking up enough drool-drenched critical notices to firmly enshrine HOLLYWOOD as one of the most ambitious and acclaimed debuts in Canadian indie lore. But even as the rest of the country began to take notice of the band's cinematic pop symphonettes, The Dears - featuring Lightburn, keyboardist Natalia Yanchak, bassist Martin Pelland and drummer George Donoso III - were already on a different program. Onstage, the orchestral elegance of HOLLYWOOD had given way to raucous new material that exploded into anarchic feedback fury, while Lightburn's darkly romantic vision assumed increasingly apocalyptic intimations. The second Dears album promised to be a truly seismic event that, if not the stuff of pop-radio countdowns, would at least chart on the Richter Scale.
Like any well-seasoned lovers, they teased us with two EP releases: 2001's ORCHESTRAL POP NOIR ROMANTIQUE, a perfect balance of pure-pop immediacy and sinister symphonics; and 2002's PROTEST, a harrowing mini-concept-album that rolled operatic hysteria, ominous post-punk rumbling and cosmic Christmas music into a soundtrack to the end of the world. The only thing more unnerving than hearing Lightburn solemnly intone that there was "no hope before destruction" was the knowledge that all this was merely the set-up for what was to come.