“It’s crazy, everybody’s calling! Rolling Stone and The Guardian just called, Anderson Cooper was just here. He drinks decaf, which is super weird,” Steven Lambke tells me. “No, you know. I’m just joking.”
On October 30, the guitarist of Can-rock classics The Constantines and the lead of his own band Baby Eagle and The Proud Mothers, releases a new full-length, Days of Heaven. On it, he shed the monikers; it’ll be his first release as Steven Lambke.
“I pulled a Snailhouse,” he says of using his name, the way Canadian musician Michael Feuerstack did recently after performing under the Snailhouse moniker for years. “I pulled a Grey Kingdom, I pulled a Smog. But I think, in every way, my name was the last decision I made about this record. It’s not a conceptual marketing thing. These songs are just different. I just straight-up didn’t write any songs like I did with Proud Mothers.”
Opening with warm whispers and building on voices song by song, Days of Heaven is unlike any other Lambke album to date.
“I had hoped for it to be non-rock completely,” he says. “There’s a little bit in there, but it’s just much more intimate.” Written in every season and recorded last winter, Lambke felt privileged to have Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station) involved. “She’s an amazing singer. I’m a super weird singer, [but] there’s a nice thing that happens with our voices together.” There are also important contributions from Ian Kehoe (Marine Dreams), Darcy Hancock (Ladyhawk), and Richard Laviolette. Lambke says the 11 tracks came together intuitively. “We used ribbon mics, those soft, warm sounding mics, which gave that warm, close sound, but it wasn’t a decisive thing exactly. You’re just fitting into the pieces that already exist in some way.”
There were efforts, however, to create a cohesion, which is a diversion from his previous albums. “I feel my last couple records suffered from throwing in a punk rock tune or a super quiet one when least expected, and that’s not a regret, but we definitely made technical sonic recording choices to keep a certain mood,” he says.
The mood on Days of Heaven is sombre if not melancholic, hushed but powerful, inviting the listener in with lyrics that draw from Lambke’s philosophical perspectives. “It’s a super personal, super intimate record, but it’s not supposed to rub your face in what it’s like to be Steve,” he says. “Some element of universality should always be the goal with art. And sometimes really specific things can be universally interesting.”
That interest is found in the space between language and the metaphors of human experiences.
“‘You Know Me Well’ is about being in a relationship,” he says as an example. “The first verse is that swaggering statement like, you know, I’m such a badass, and the second verse is kind of acknowledging your own faults or failings. ‘You know me well, as I am and as I wish to be,'” he continues. “What you are and what you aspire to be is a self-examination, through the eyes of another. But that’s all beyond language, too. In some of the songs, that’s God or whatever, the spirit or something. There are things you just can’t talk about through language. Some experiences or emotions just escape words. Sex is definitely one of those things, as well.”
This leads us to the album’s cover, which features the sculpture of two lovers by Shary Boyle (a visual reminder of physical intimacy), positioned just below the moon (a source of gravity that’s called upon throughout Days of Heaven).
“I called it Days of Heaven based on the idea that you’re feeling some sort of grace in that moment of acknowledging your complete ignorance,” he says. “And how do you talk about things that can’t be talked about? That’s the question, but not one that needs an answer. There are some really direct statements in the lyrics, and that directness is an answer to that thing you can’t talk about in roundabout or poetic ways. You just go straight for it. That’s why I don’t shy away from repeating images in different songs. It helps draw connections between things.” More than not, this album is a form of conversation.
Days of Heaven will be released on Lambke’s label, You’ve Changed Records, which has a lineup of additional exciting releases in the works—Shotgun Jimmie’s new one, the new addition of Sackville punk band Partner, and Halifax’s Nap Eyes. Lambke will be touring with the label’s co-founder Daniel Romano over the next few weeks. “I’m actually opening for Dan so I’m curious about how it will go,” Lambke admits. “His band is fuckin’ rippin’, so there will be moments that’ll feel like a challenge to present this to a bar, but at this point my job is to revisit the songs. I’m excited. I’m playing some of my old tunes, too. The goal is just to be really present. I’ll be a folk musician with my folks songs and I’ll see what happens.”