When the poet Walt Whitman declared that “the art of art and the glory of expression [ . . . ] is simplicity,” he was, of course, talking about heavy metal. Indeed, the genre’s appeal lies not in all its bombast, but in its simplest, most essential, elements — the teeth-tightening guitar riff and the breathlessly brutal back beat. Local instrumental metal trio L’viv, being enlightened young men of modest taste, know this.
“To date we have kept things simple. We try not to over-think or over-complicate the songwriting process. We don’t really write epics,” says Neil Bazan of his band’s stripped-down riffs-and-drums approach. Fellow L’viv co-founder and multi-instrumentalist Craig Boychuk agrees, saying that musical economy has definite benefits.
“Fewer ingredients mean it’s easier to organize, that’s for sure. I always aim for ease of operation,” he says. “The trade-off, I suppose, is that each part is under more scrutiny. We just concentrate on trying to make everything good enough that it can stand on its own.”
L’viv has been around since at least 2005, but Boychuk says the band only recently started getting their shit together enough to nail down a permanent line-up and bang out a record. The forthcoming Compare and Decide — the trio’s long-awaited debut — will be composed of material recorded throughout the band’s history and should be surfacing soon.
“We’re going to start with a digital release [for the record] because it is something we can easily do ourselves, and will make the album available to a large audience,” Boychuk said. “At this point, I just want people to be able to hear it. It would be nice to have the support of a label, but these days it seems like the best way to get things to happen is to just go ahead and do it.”
Whenever — and however — listeners do encounter Compare and Decide, they can undoubtedly expect a veritable shit-ton of riffs and beats, all jammed into songs so compact they could fit in a child’s backpack.
“Musically, it’s heavy without being angry. Melodic with lots of dense chords. There is a big emphasis on rhythm. I want it to be catchy to the average listener, but also interesting to accomplished musicians,” Boychuk says.
Bassist and recent L’viv recruit, Cam Popham, is decidedly more abstract in his interpretation of the album. He describes Boychuk’s compositions as “metal pastoral,” and Bazan’s — in a particularly tantalizing flight of whimsy — as “more of a dialogue between light and dark.” In sum, Compare and Decide promises to showcase a band whose overall sound far outstrips any limitations inherent in its minimalist approach.
“We are heavy enough, melodic enough, crafty enough to spark interest. Not too fast not too slow. We have all been around the block and played various styles of music, so I definitely think a wide range of music lovers can appreciate what we are doing,” Bazan promises.
With members hailing from bands like Under Pressure, Head Hits Concrete and Breaking Syntax, amongst others, L’viv has definitely “been around the block” locally. In fact, the band credits Winnipeg’s particularly vibrant musical community with engendering its existence.
“The great thing about the scene [in Winnipeg] is that you basically just have to participate to fit in,” remarks Boychuk. “People are generally very receptive and encouraging. It’s pretty inclusive, which can allow for some really interesting ideas to flourish. I’ve always been proud of the quality and diversity of the music made in this city.”
L’viv plays The Albert on Jan. 8 with Brothers. Compare and Decide will be available soon” on the band’s website, Lviv.cbaudio.com.