The band tours in and around big cities to help inspire musicians from small towns
Prepare yourself to be blasted to the past when you listen to what Dany Laj and The Looks have in store. The Montreal-based band is releasing the album Word on the Street on May 5, and are offering Montrealers a CD release at Les Katacombes bar on April 30.
Dany Lajeunesse, known as Dany Laj, grew up in Northern Ontario, in a small mining town called Kirkland Lake. He explained that, when he started playing music, there was a scene in Kirkland. He started out in his hometown, but didn’t stay still for very long.
“When I was 18 or 19, I went to the big city—thought I’d give it a shot. I stayed in Toronto for three or four years, went back to Kirkland Lake after that and worked for about a year. I started a band there, and moved to Ottawa briefly. I then went to North Bay, where I played with a band called Intesteens. We toured the country, put out a record. I then wound-up in Sudbury with a band called the Old Youth, toured the country, put out a record. After that, I was back in Kirkland Lake again for about eight months, and then ended-up in Toronto again,” Laj said.
The artist first came to Montreal in 2012, after he had to move out of his Toronto apartment due to the record shop underneath him closing. “We moved to Montreal because it was easier and cheaper at the time than finding a place in Toronto. We weren’t sure if we were going to live in Montreal very long, but we really liked it. It worked for us,” he said, referring to himself and his bassist, Jeanette Dowling. The Looks, his backup band, are composed of three people: his bassist Dowling, drummer Alexandre Bigras, and new addition to the band, keyboard and sax player, Alexandre Fecteau.
Their sound is the perfect unpretentious harmony of ‘60s Brit Pop, ‘80s soft rock and ‘90s grunge. Their musical arrangements and lyrics are simple—no muss, no fuss. The simplicity and clarity of their lyrics and riffs is what gives the band that British feel and soft-rock cool factor. Laj’s voice is similar to Lou Reed’s; an artist who never tried too hard with vocals. An artist who, in other words, didn’t “oversing.” For Laj, keeping the rawness and edge to his voice works perfectly with the band’s laid back feel.
Some of Laj’s musical influences can be guessed or deducted due to their familiar style. Bands like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Paul Collins, all hold a presence in Dany Laj and The Looks, whether it be in the even pop rhythm of the guitar, in the quirky lyrics, or in Laj’s vocal technique. “I think I was about nine years old when I first heard The Beatles, and it changed my life. It has everything to do with everything I do,” said Laj.
His band has toured the country, but refuses to pick favourite cities. “It’s hard to pick a favourite place to tour. We’re a band that goes around small towns a lot. We don’t consider ourselves higher-up or that kind of thing. We feel it’s just as important to play a small town as it is to play a big city,” said Laj. The fact that the artist is from a small town makes it even more important for him to stop by places like Kirkland Lake—places that don’t necessarily get visited by musicians who hit the “big city.”
“I think, because I’m from a small town, I understand the importance of having artists coming to town once in a blue moon to give a show. It gives inspiration to people from small towns to hopefully do what I’m doing, y’know?” Laj said.
Touring a lot has allowed Laj to live through some incredible and surprising adventures. “One of my best adventures on tour was when we played at a castle in Moncton last year. That was pretty amazing. We had heard that this castle was up for sale at the price of a house in Toronto. We thought it was great so we based our whole tour around it,” Laj said. “We called our tour ‘Sell the Castle Tour.’ We ended up getting hold of the realtors who found the castle, and they ended up coming to our show. We were doing a bunch of press stuff at that point, and we wound up on the six o’clock news and television and radio. ‘Rock and roll band trying to sell castle’ was their headline. So, yeah, it was good times!”
If this Brit pop-rock band who sells castles and constantly moves around the country has sparked an interest, be sure to check out and rock out on April 30 at Les Katacombes for their album release.
Erratum: An earlier version of this piece published on the The Concordian’s print edition in Issue 22 incorrectly mentioned the band name “The Intesteens”, and that the album release will be in April, not in March. We regret the error. – O.E.