National Dust: perfect soundscapes

By Laura Glick

Few bands can satisfy your every musical desire the first time you see them live. Every song is new, yet hauntingly familiar and nestles its way into your body.

A National Dust live show can do just that. With wandering pop melodies delicately wrapped in a country-influenced ribbon, they manage to strike each nerve and set it on fire. Conjuring images from an unknown movie to dance in your head, each track fits seamlessly into the fictitious film.

There are songs which float quietly as the camera pans across endless wheat fields, songs that resonate in your ribcage as you see a lone individual drive away from the source of all their misery, and songs playing during a normal day.

Creating all the soundscapes is not an easy task. In fact, it sometimes torments lead singer and guitarist Lorrie Matheson (formerly of Fire Engine Red) and leads to sleepless nights.

"The only reason I can’t sleep is because I’m thinking of ‘What can I do to this song?’ It’s this ethereal thing. ‘How do I make that bridge work better?’ When you’re laying in bed, you don’t have a guitar or keyboard or anything to work it out, so you’re trying to think it out and it never works," he shares.

"There are tonnes of songs that I have thrown out because I feel they aren’t good enough to present in any sort of finished form to a public audience."

Emerging more than two years ago from a string of "accidents," National Dust grew together as a band and a month later were recording their first album, Blind Luck Ain’t No Luck At All.

"We were going to go in and do a four song demo," Matheson begins. "We ended up doing 10 [songs] the first night and instead of mixing it, we decided to go back in and put a few bells and whistles on it."

Matheson is rounded out by Peter Clarke on bass, Tim Leacock on guitar and Ross Watson on drums, and the final product is dozens of years of experience coming together and releasing solid, well-constructed tracks with high degrees of sincerity.

"There are not a lot of bands around that sound like us in town, which I think is probably a good thing. It’s good to stand on your own, but most bands will tell you they stand on their own," he says.

National Dust undoubtedly stand out in a less-populated crowd when it comes to image-emphasis in bands. You know the type: the pants on the bassist are more intriguing than any song performed.

"I find that there’s kind of an art school mentality about lots of bands, not just Calgary bands, where they take the word performance to mean that you have to give people something to look at," starts Matheson. "[They think] you have to have something to visually capture the crowd’s attention. When it comes to music, it doesn’t matter to me what it looks like. I don’t want to worry about it."

Relying solely on their music has been, to date, enough to receive warm receptions and accolades. The future includes shows and plans to record in late spring, with an album released before the year ends.

In the meantime, you can catch National Dust live Sat., Mar. 11 at the Night Gallery with Straight and Great Uncle Bull.