LANTERN IS THE BEST BAND IN PHILADELPHIA
Lantern is one Canuck transplant and two Americans who are exploring the crazier side of early rock and roll. As far as I'm concerned, they are one of the only garage rock bands in the United States of America that don't just repackage the Nuggets comp and sing about paisley daydreams and chocolate alarm clocks. They take it all the way back to Hasil Atkins, Link Wray, and Bo Diddley—and they make rock and roll sound scary again. After receiving a degrees in music, the members of Lantern started a cool rock band instead of teaching elementary school kids how to use Xylophones, or whatever you do with a music degree.
A couple of weeks ago I got a copy of their new cassette, Stranger I Come. Stranger I Leave, from the Night People label. It's awesome. I gave them a call to discuss serial killers, their lives, and how to cook burgers.
Vice: You just moved to Philly from Montreal. Can you tell me about the city?
Zach: Daivd Lynch once said "Philadelphia is beautiful for its violence, hate, and filth." We live in Kensington, which is the area that originally inspired the film Eraserhead. He spent some time in Philly in the 60s when he went to the U of Arts school.
Do you see violence, hate, and filth every morning?
Not every morning, but certainly some. Probably more at night. We recently had a serial killer in our neighborhood called "The Kensington Strangler," who was just a kid. We had a jam space that was right around where he was stalking.
What the strangler's story?
Emily: He was a young guy who succeeded in raping and strangling several young women and then got caught stealing. He was 19 years old.
Zach: He has a pending court date. I guess there's a rich history of serial killers in Philadelphia.
Yikes. When I think of Philadelphia I think of Boyz 2 Men and Philly cheesesteaks, not serial killers..
I mean, I don't want to paint the picture that it is the wild west or something.
Emily: Definitely Montreal is way safer, but you see more ridiculous things happening on the subway here.
Zach: You see a lot of "parenting."
Emily: Yeah I get really upset on the subway everyday because I see mother's hitting their kids.
I read somewhere that the concept behind Lantern was to create "American Music." What does that mean to you?
Zach: We're huge Rolling Stones fans. They played American music from an outsider perspective. I'm Canadian, and a lot of the music I listen to is American. Early rock and roll, 60's psychedelia, American punk rock, American experimental music, depression-era folk music, Elvis. Reading the Keith Richards book, he talks about having Americans come up to him and thanking him for reintroducing American music to them. I think our concept is something like that.
You also seem to dig 10 - 15 years deeper than most garage rock bands—back to Hasil Adkins and Bo Diddley.
That type of music works well with the immediacy of our live recordings. I didn't really know how to overdub on my 4-track so for a while we never used more than four tracks. We love Elvis. All those sun records recordings only had 1 mic in a room. Those recordings are super minimal, super striped, super off the floor. They're direct and dry, as opposed to reverb-laden.
Can you tell me what it's like to be someone with a degree in music who plays really raw, fucked up rock and roll?
I have a degree in composition. I got out of a high school and didn't really know what to do. I got into this program that would probably except anyone. I really didn't like it at first: I didn't like classical guitar lessons and all of that. Thankfully, I did have was one really cool composition teacher who was really open to all sorts of music. He saw something in me and I liked him. He started exposing me to more experimental music, so I kind of worked backwards. From Le Monte Young I found out about The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. These days I don't make much experimental music any more. I'm solely focused on making rock and roll music; I'm not really into the academic realms as much.
But a few years ago you played with Rhys Chatham in his guitar orchestra. Which seems to be of that world.
Yeah I messaged him on Myspace and applied for the 200 person guitar orchestra he held in Lincoln center. It was an outdoors concert in a giant amphitheater in old Manhattan. Liquid Liquid played after. It was really cool. He uses the four different sections of the 200 person guitar orchestra to play single notes, which means you have to restring your guitar to play the music. He was a really nice guy and a total sweetheart. It was a good experience. I met a lot of people and it's always fun to hang out in New York for a week.
Didn't you guys meet in that academic world?
Emily: Well, we met in a music class. We didn't get to know each other very well that year, but we kept in touch. Basically we started a relationship through letters and by sending each other music in the mail. I lived in Philadelphia while Zach was still going to school in Halifax. I didn't plan on living with him in Montreal: I originally just asked if I could stay for a week, but I ended up staying for the whole year. It was pretty funny and pretty crazy. It was a full house.
Zach: It was like a sitcom. We were living with my grandmother and my uncle Tom who takes care of my grandmother and we would all go on family outings. We had a family dog and we would all go to museums together.
Emily: Once while everyone else went away for the Winter and we were house sitting, we cleared out the living room so we could jam. When Uncle Tom came home and caught us one day he got sort of mad.
Zach: I don't think Lantern is ever going to perform for family again. Before we left Montreal, Emily and I did a two person version of Lantern. We were playing my Aunt's birthday. She was like "come on over I have a garage. I cleared it with all my neighbors except one. It should be no problem." We played for literally one minute before the neighbor came over screaming saying "Fuck you! This is too loud!" Uncle Tom was like "You've always been a fucking asshole." After they had that interaction, someone closed the garage door, which was a bummer since we had Jackie LaChance doing visual projections. After their fight everybody just left, so basically we just played to the dog who probably didn't enjoy the psychedelic light show. That's when I decided never to play for family ever again.
I was talking to someone about you this morning and they said "You absolutely have to ask Zach about his Hamburger recipe!" I guess it's legendary. What's your secret?
I like fast food and hamburgers shamelessly. My burger recipe is: get good ground beef, mash in some garlic and onions, use a lot of pepper and salt, toss in some eggs, add some breads crumbs to dry it up a bit, and then cook it medium rare. I like to do it on the BBQ.
That sounds like a pretty normal recipe. You recently posted a song on your blog called "We're the best band in Philadelphia." That's a pretty bold statement. Are you the best band in Philadelphia?
Zach: We think so. I mean, we like Purling Hiss. They are definitely a good band. But you have to believe in your product. So, yeah, I would say we are the best band in Philadelphia. There is not a lot of rock and roll. It's mostly indie-rock: the post-Animal Collective train. I'm just not digging that.
Emily: It's like when you asked us earlier the differences between Philly and Montreal. I would say Montreal is way more punk rock.
Lantern - "I Don't Know"
PHOTO BY GARET EDWARDS