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Q&A: PATRICK KRIEF

Plenty of songs feature a protagonist literally or figuratively crying in his or her beer. However, that doesn’t automatically mean being in that state of mind was necessary when actually coming up with the material.

“That is a dangerous and toxic misconception for any writer to buy into,” says Patrick Krief. “Letting your guard down is the ticket, and my belief is that you should express the highs and lows in order to do so. Sometimes it’s a lot harder to express joy than sadness.”

Krief expresses a range of emotions on his latest album, Dovetale, due June 7 via Rock Ridge Music. Married for two years, the Montreal-based Krief says he wrote and recorded the songs during what he calls a good period in his life, yet the end result isn’t entirely positive.

“I’d say it’s a good balance of love songs and the usual brand of gloom I bring to the table,” the former Dears guitarist explains. “If you think about songs like ‘Idols,’ [the single] ‘Take the Night,’ ‘Dovetale’ and even ‘Bless Modern Love,’ they’re all quite dark in their nature.”

Krief recently checked in to discuss making Dovetale, the sister EP Line Stepper and more.

Medleyville.us: Dovetale was written during a period of domestic bliss, as your website puts it. Was this the first time you’d been in such a frame of mind while working on an album?
Patrick Krief:Willie Nelson said it best: ‘You can’t make a record if you ain’t got nothing to say.’ As has been the case for all my records, it’s more about having something to say. Positive, negative, happy, sad, angry: Whatever the case may be, I find it important to deal with my emotions by expressing them through music. Music is my escape from the circus in my mind. But then I put the music out there, and the circus comes to life.”

Great music comes from and is often about heartbreak, sadness and turmoil. Did you fear that being on the opposite end of those feelings/experiences for the most part would result in material that people couldn’t relate to because it was maybe too positive?
Krief: 
“I think love is relatable to anyone. I think most great music speaks of love in one way or another. I think being transparent about your feelings — whether positive or negative — is also relatable. While the album was written during a good time in my life, it is far from being an entirely positive record. I wasn’t skipping along down the road when I wrote it: I just happened to be in a stable relationship and experiencing new and genuine love.

“A lot of insecurities, fears and anger are echoed throughout the record. When you have love, you worry about losing it. When you express love, it comes with fear. When you suffer from anxiety and depression the way I do, no amount of anything can easily take that darkness away. It’s a lifelong task to work through it and handle it with care. My method has always been to manage my mental health through music. So despite domestic bliss, my responsibility to myself and those around me is to work through my issues and express myself through music, so I can be less shitty to be around (laughs).”

When did you record Dovetale? And what did you like most about playing many of the instruments yourself?
Krief: “The album was recorded in the fall of 2017. Playing all the instruments is something I really enjoy. Some might think it’s daunting, or too much to take on, but I see it as an absolute joy. There are moments of extreme frustration, and of course, failure — I had to have a drummer come in and redo two of the tracks I wasn’t satisfied with my performance on, for instance — but overall, it’s a great experience, and I get to do things exactly as I hear them in my mind.”

Did you come up with the songs for the Line Stepper EP while working on Dovetale, or did they come after?
Krief: “There was a clear separation in the batch of songs I was writing. I am a huge fan of the ‘album’ and respecting a ‘vibe.’ Probably the hardest part in my process is pacing the record. I want it to be an experience start to finish. … I debated making another double album [a la 2016’s Automanic]. But ultimately I decided the EP and album would be the strongest statement.”

When we spoke in 2013, you talked about your album Hundred Thousand Pieces and some of the anxieties you had dealt with at age 30. As you close in on 40, do you have new concerns that might possibly make their way into an album down the road?
Krief: “Well, the short answer is yes.  The longer answer is that those anxieties I felt turning 30 have never fully subsided — they just lurk around and make an appearance once in a while, and I feel 40 might be a good time for them to make a volcanic-style eruption. Maybe I’ll write a midlife-crisis death-metal record. Who knows?”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Photo by Marc Etienne Mongrain

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