Lab Partners - Interview:
Impact Weekly - Dayton, OH
Dayton's Lab Partners
take the long road home with the release of their first full-length
album, Daystar, on Big Beef Records. Their lofty, space-bound indie
sounds reflect Coldplay and The Doves, while offering something special
all of their own.
"I don't know
what people call it now, but when you say space rock most kids know
what you're talking about-a bit of sonic noise with up-front vocal melodies,"
said guitarist and vocalist Mike Smith. Joined by Mike Volk on guitar,
Ian Kaplan on drums and Amy Smith on keyboards, the current line-up
proves permanence though the band began as a
reminds me a lot of The Verve or Spiritualized, but then again, it's
eclectic enough to take on all sorts of identities," said Kaplan.
Their new album, Daystar, is complete with numerous 8-minute long songs featuring top-notch melodies with a mellow air of sophistication that clings to the ear like the warm dew of steam. With the majority of lyrics written by Mike Smith, the Lab Partners share songwriting duties.
will have a guitar, keyboard or sequencer part and we'll all just build
up the song around that," said Amy Smith. As for the vocals, Mike
Smith said that when they write a song at practice "whatever comes
out of (his) mouth the first couple of times sticks, and (he) usually
goes back to the recording of that practice and rearranges the words
to make more sense. (. . .) If a song just doesn't happen in time it
just slowly fades away."
Having worked closely
with Andy Valeri of Dayton's Big Beef Records to record the album, the
Lab Partners are following in the footsteps of other bands, including
The Mulchmen, Cage, John Shough, Real Lu Lu, Ultra Vega, Morella's Forest
and Pure Plastic Tree, who also recorded albums with him.
getting to work with him. He's been in the business since '78. I personally
think that Andy is very under-exposed. For all the stuff he's been doing
in the Dayton area he deserves more recognition," said Mike Smith.
"Big Beef Records is great. The name is kind of comical since we're
all pretty much vegetarians. People like to tease us about that."
The Lab Partner's previous albums include a self-titled EP released in 1998 and another EP, Turn it On, released in 2000. Daystar expands on their earlier musical tastes and expresses a deep respect for quality, not quantity, in songwriting. According to Mike Smith, crowd favorites include the songs "Magnify," "Sensations," "Daystar" and "Still Shine On."
have plenty of new songs," he said. "We like to test them
out at our shows to see how they work in a live setting. Then as time
goes on we can re-work them." Each song on the album was carefully
crafted and exposes the beautiful sides of the musicians
very influenced by the bands that were labeled as 'shoegazers,'"
said Mike Smith. In his earlier days, he listened to bands such as the
Verve and My Bloody Valentine. "I still hear those styles in today's
music, like Radiohead or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or even Coldplay,"
he added. "I like that feeling and attitude those bands presented.
I guess that was most evident in even earlier bands like Spacemen 3
or further back like the Velvet Underground."
For Mike Smith,
his musical journey started when he got his first 4-track. "Playing
guitar came naturally," he said. "My mother plays and writes
folk music.... Singing developed over time and was very bad at first.
Most of the bands I've been in I never sang in. I'm much
Volk's first love
affair with music was initiated after "some trashmen gave (him)
an old beat up guitar off the back of their truck when (he) was 8-years-old."
"Dad made me an amp and I've been playing ever since," he
As for Kaplan, he's "been playing drums since (he) was a little kid, so (his) earliest memories were recording nonsense with (his) brother after (he) got (his) first drumset and getting into fistfights with him about how parts should go." "Mike and I have not yet had a fistfight, thankfully. I think he could end me," added Kaplan.
According to the
band, their favorite live show experience took place in St. Louis at
Mississippi Nights when they performed with the Black Rebel Motorcycle
Club and The Warlocks.
"The food was catered and free, and they gave Mike Volk and I a 12-pack of our choice. Amy got free mugs-yes, mugs-of gin and tonics. I think that night Mike Volk tried to sleep in the hotel closet," said Mike Smith.
"I can't stand
how much people love to promote and praise pop rock when all these great
indie bands, who really shape culture and musical styles, go unrecognized,"
said Mike Smith. "I don't know how many times I've heard people
question 'how does crap make it on the radio?.'"
His answer? "Money and politics." No worries here, though. The Lab Partners are the real deal. They have not compromised themselves for the sake of art; they have poured their memories and desires into their art-breathing life into it.