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First Play and Q&A: Long Branch, Found the Setting Sun

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Andrea Warner

Dreamy twang one minute, driving folk-rock the next, followed by flawless forays into underground punk-psychedelia and blissed-out, guitar-fuzz ballads. There’s nothing quite like Found the Setting Sun, the first record from Toronto/Honey Harbour, Ont., supergroup Long Branch.

The band’s members hail from a mixture of beloved Canadian music acts and niche favourites, and it’s this wealth of experience that makes Found the Setting Sun so complete and fully realized. This isn't a group with any veneers or artifice, and it's refreshing to hear the decades of experience in its sound. From the stellar album opener — the rollicking alt-folk track "Lilacs" — to the gentle harmonies of the final song "Wheels," there's a stoic sort of throughline to the record. There's resolve that hints at an ache but ultimately illuminates the act of survival, the lingering glow, perhaps, of basking in that setting sun.

You can listen to Found the Setting Sun a week before its release in the CBC Music player. Pre-order the album here.

Found the Setting Sun is a wildly accomplished debut, and yet little is known about the band as a whole, so CBC Music invited Long Branch to answer some questions via email to help tell the world everything from who they are and where they came from to their karaoke jams and secret talents.

Please list all the band members and what they play and all their former and current bands.

Don Pyle (drums)

Current: Long Branch, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the Filthy Gaze of Europe, Black Heel Marks, Phono-Comb
Past: King Cobb Steelie, Fifth Column, Greek Buck, Crash Kills Five

Laura Pitkanen (guitar, vocals)

Current: Long Branch, Adaptor 45

Lisa Myers (guitar, vocals)

Current: Long Branch, Adaptor 45
Past: Kops for Christ, Chicken Milk, Venus Cures All

D'arcy Good (violin, acoustic guitar, vocals)

Current: Long Branch, the Good Family, Blurry Pickers
Past: Cowboy Crashing

Sally Lee (bass, vocals)

Current: Long Branch
Past: Chicken Milk, Venus Cures All, Third Line Butterfly (Korea), The Magnetars, The Holyfields

How did you all come together and form Long Branch?

The first time Laura saw Lisa, it was the late '90s, and Lisa was onstage at the former 360 Club in Toronto, playing in a reunion of the original lineup of her all-girl punk band Chicken Milk. Laura remembers seeing this totally wicked guitar player with killer tone and thought, "Who is she? I have to play with her. I just know we'd be good together." The first time Lisa saw Laura, Laura was onstage at Ted's Collision in Toronto, getting ready to play bass in a one-night appearance with the band Angela Recommendae in a benefit launch for the “Revolution Girl Style” issue of Fireweed. Lisa thought, "Who is she?" and went over to the stage pre-show and helped Laura set up.

Lisa left Toronto to be closer to her Indigenous community and lived three towns over from Laura's brother. So Laura started going to the country often to see her and Lisa would come down to Toronto. They ended up living together in a cabin near Honey Harbour — and still split their time between this place and Toronto. They became fast friends, then bandmates, then girlfriends, then life partners.

Laura and Lisa first saw D'Arcy onstage in a music event at an Indigenous organization where Lisa worked. D'Arcy's traditional and folk roots from the Good Family really complemented the rock guitars and their voices layered together so sweetly. The trio played music together for about a year before D'Arcy moved away. The idea for Long Branch first formed when Lisa and Laura ran into D'Arcy again in Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood. They knew they had to play together again, and quickly revived the layered guitars and harmonies that have come to characterize the Long Branch sound.

In deciding to put together a full band with rhythm section, it seemed right to ask Don Pyle to join. They all knew Don from Toronto's art and music scene. Lisa also knew it had to be Sally Lee on bass — her former bandmate and friend from Venus Cures All and Chicken Milk. Turns out, Sally also knew Don: they had already bonded when they lived in some pre-gentrification lofts in Parkdale in the early '90s and fought an evil landlord together.

If you had to Breakfast Club yourselves, what would be your archetypes?

Pyle: Emilio Estevez, because we are both the son of Martin Sheen.

Pitkanen: Queer punk rock loner.

Lee: Goody-two-shoes achiever yearning to f--k shit up.

What's your go-to karaoke song?

Pyle: I’ve never sung karaoke.

Pitkanen: I'm too shy for karaoke.

Lee: I lived in Korea for five years, so developed a bit of an oldies repertoire there: "Oh! Darling," "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "The Letter," "Purple Rain," "Little Red Corvette," "Hotel California," "Honesty."

Could you talk a bit about the songs on the record that took the most work?

The moody, haunting song "Phone is Ringing" called for a different sort of listening: letting go and sinking into the rhythm of it, to hear the possibilities of what could be. Then those ghostly voices emerged, then we dreamed of a guitar breaking away before bringing us home again. Gavin Brown and his team at Noble Street Studios were also key in helping Long Branch to realize these possibilities and bring them into being. The recorded version is very different than the one we had originally brought into the studio.

What are your secret talents?

Pyle: Finding the right screwdriver.

Pitkanen: I am a wood carver. I make Finnish juniper knives.

Lee: Able to fall asleep anywhere. Can eat a full three-course meal, lipstick fully intact.

Pre-order Found the Setting Sun.

Find me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner


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