“Gold and shadow is the music of Dane Letourneau and friends…it is also an arbutus in the blazing glory of the afternoon, the contrast of pavement and path…. Sun melting into everything you see, or warm earth between your fingers,” writes Dane Letourneau of Gold and Shadow on the band’s website. The Nanaimo based band is made up of Matthew Fast, Jesse Janzen, Jordan Stringer, and Dane Letourneau, who is (most of the time) the band’s lead singer.
When performing live, Gold and Shadow’s sound often careens from soft melody to the unfettered screaming (usually Janzen’s) that punctuates some of the bands performances. The music, though difficult to categorize, can at times be described as ambient; at other times it borders on metal. Letourneau describes it as “art rock from Vancouver Island.” Nearly always though, regardless of type or tempo, it is storytelling through sound and lyric, and usually draws on images and soundscapes inspired by the natural world.
Each band member has his own musical heroes, and between the four of them, these influences span across most of the established musical genres. “I’d have to think of three or four bands that I’d have to blend together to get what our genre is,” says Janzen.
But it is this unlikely grouping together of music (and personal) difference that allows Gold and Shadow their unique sound. “I’ve always desired intimate collaboration. We have to be best friends to have written everything we’ve written,” says Letourneau.
The band members first came together in “The Meeting Place”, a Nanaimo non-denominational church. After that, plans for future songs and shows would often be brewed alongside the coffee on the floor above—The Buzz Coffee Shop—where a spacious room and cozy fireplace provided the atmosphere for the four to share ideas for future art.
“When I first met Dane…totally different animal,” says Stringer. All four of them laugh. “He would barely say anything: I would have to say ‘OK Dane: you’re going to turn up your amp now’.”
Letourneau’s current animated personality, and seemingly boundless ability to speak coherently reveal a person far different from the withdrawn young musician that Stringer describes his initial meeting with.
Letourneau still disputes the title of leader, and says, “Jordan [Stringer] is the kicking off point for me as a musician,” but then says, “I feel honored to have Jordan playing for me. He was a musical mentor.”
Despite his past timidity, and current protests (“I’m not really the one in charge of things”) it is Letourneau who does often provide much of the artistic direction for the venture. “What I really do,” he says, “I see the pieces and I put them together.” Letourneau also sings and plays guitar, but neither he nor any of the other band members view their musical role within Gold and Shadow as being strongly attached to a particular instrument.
“So many artists I like play everything,” says Letourneau. “My passion is not a single instrument. My true passion is to provide the overall vision, and to sequence sound, and sequence silence.”
When a sound falls on the right ears (those that are for instance transmitting to what Letourneau would call “a sound obsessed mind”) any aural imposition can be spun into music.
“I remember Dane walking with an iphone one day,” says Stringer. “He was following me around recording me…I didn’t even know it. Things like me opening the car door…. And then there’s that one lane bridge in Vic. If you hang out there, you’ll know the sound.”
The sound Stringer refers to is the visceral twanging whir of cars speeding over a metal structure.
“And Jesse [Janzen] was recording the ocean,“ says Fast.
The mechanical sound of machinery-stressed steel contrasted with the dreamy quality of the sonic seaside, captured and layered together, is representative of Gold and Shadows signature sound where echoes of the natural world often intertwine with modern ones.
“Driving home from Campbell River Alone” is a gentle instrumental song from the bands first full length release, Castles Will Burn. Letourneau says, “the title itself exposes what I’m influenced by most.” The song very specifically places the listener in an exact geographical location in the natural world: somewhere between two small cities in west coast British Columbia, alone with rain and blacktop.
“Hopefully other people that drive home from Campbell River will think of it [the song]… Its full circle. Its life,” says Stringer.
Letourneau describes how many of the ideas for Gold and Shadow’s music can be traced back to the simple and absolute is-ness of early childhood experience. As an example, he tells of a memory both broken and vivid that he has from his childhood; riding back up island, towards home, from Victoria, on a thanksgiving night. He drifted in and out of sleep, and intermittently watched the moving light reflections made by street lamps illuminating patches of ink black pavement. This experience became Letourneau’s “Glitter of the Shadows”, which he since recorded as part of a side project.
On February 26 of this year, the band released another album, this one titled a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, and a tempest. The album was released both through Gold and Shadow’s website and in hard copy. The website refers to the compilation as “Gold and Shadow’s first album,” which Letourneau explains is because every member contributed equally to all of the five songs—something that was not true of the music from Castles Will Burn. Several of the songs from the new release were also video-recorded as “naked jams”; acoustic performances which in this case took place on Cameron Island at the Nanaimo waterfront. Gold and Shadow showed up for their performance not only with “regular”, full size musical instruments, but with a toy keyboard.
The inclusion of toy instruments in the band’s repertoire (and the fact that they make it work) speaks again of the band’s strong connection to mystery and imagination. Philosopher Thèodule Ribot, who was known for his theories on creativity and memory once wrote on the intrinsic importance of imagination to living, saying: “all objects used in everyday life, including the simplest and most ordinary are, so to speak, crystallized imagination”; and “every invention, whether large or small, before being implemented, was held by the imagination”.
Letourneau was home schooled in Nanoose Bay for much of his early life. The experience gave him the chance to spend time with the forest, and beaches of the area, and for imagination; that universal container of all things, to run wild. “My home schooling was a decision of my parents,” he says; “ I probably have a better connection to my family than a lot of people who are just going to school everyday have. [My parents] home schooling me, and then putting me into music lessons; they set me up for what I am today.” He acknowledges that homeschooling can be a controversial decision for a parent to make, and says, “the controversy is that a lot of folks think the social element is not there for home schoolers when in fact I think you’re just able to build deeper friendships,”.
As for the band’s future, being able to make music full time is always a possibility, and one that they hope to be moving towards. For now, the creative form which is Gold and Shadow finds expression in between mid terms, and day jobs. This summer, Letourneau will be working in a chemistry lab. Stringer, managing to dedicate much of his time to music in some form has opened his own recording studio, Cabin Fever Studios, and will often be absorbed in the technical aspects of helping others crystallize their aural visions.
In between work and deadlines come performances, and the chance to come together as a group to share common vision. These are the moments when the “glitter of the shadows” wrestled out from the corners of the mundane are caught, and then revealed through music for others to enjoy.
“Love of the words, you’re so invincible/Fantasy then can be a cornerstone/Moved to where there are no obstacles/Mystery then can be a boulevard”, write Gold and Shadow in “Fiction”, a song from the latest release.
It is often stressful trying to juggle the demands of making music with all the other demands of being alive. “It’s one of the first things your parents ever tell you; don’t do art for a living,” laughs Letourneau. However, “it would certainly be far fetched to hope that anywhere else I could find this level of connection,” he says. “Some of my favourite bands have had the same line-ups going throughout. It’s a testimonial to friendship. Instead of thinking of band members as disposable instruments: I need a new bass player, a new drummer. As long as we’re good friends we’ll always be making music.”
Lia Light is a freelance writer and a keen observer of the world around her.