“Being creative, it’s easy to feel counter to the current,” says Yves Jarvis, one half of the esoteric Canadian folk-rock duo Lightman Jarvis Ecstatic Band. That is certainly the approach he and bandmate/partner Romy Lightman took when they resided at Tree Museum, an outdoor art gallery about a two-hour drive north of Toronto, where they wrote and recorded the songs that ended up on Banned, their debut album (released on June 25 via ANTI- Records).
The museum was, Jarvis says, a “pretty isolated spot, and we were able to integrate a lot of that landscape into the work – trying to break the boundaries of the studio and really integrate life into the recording.”
Joining the same conference call, Lightman points out that this isolation was actually self-imposed, unlike what many people experienced during the past year and a half. “The conditions, they weren’t entirely pandemic-related,” she says. “We’ve been living on and off in the woods for the last two or three years. This means, Jarvis adds, that when COVID-related lockdowns came, “We were primed to go inward. We’ve been primed for a long time.”
Lightman and Jarvis each come to this new band with extensive music experience (he has released several solo albums, while she’s been a member of the band Tasseomancy). Still, they admit that when they first became a couple more than three years ago, forming a band wasn’t even on their minds.
“We listened to a lot of music together and smoked a lot of weed and really talked,” says Lightman. “There were many, many hours where we spoke about music and the things that we both felt invigorated by or that we felt were lacking.”
Over time, it became clear that they should expand their relationship to include musical collaboration alongside the romantic aspect. “Our intentions were so aligned that it seemed inevitable,” Jarvis says.
Fortunately, once they started working together on music, it became clear that they would be good partners in this regard, as well. “It was the easiest collaboration that I’ve ever had,” Lightman says. “I think that had to do with having a shared ideology before the music even began. Like, a really deep understanding of each other. The first note, it really felt ecstatic for me. It really hit.”
Jarvis agrees that their pre-band relationship has been crucial to their current creativity: “It was so important for us to meet each other on every level, aside from the work, in order to have the same end in mind so that the parameters could be erased, musically speaking, so that we could approach the task at hand from a place of synergy. Not a cognitive exercise. Not a theoretical exercise. Not even an exercise in songcraft.”
This free-form approach resulted in Banned’s distinctive folk-rock vibe, which is at once abstract and engaging. The music seems geared toward helping listeners take an introspective musical journey, though Jarvis says that wasn’t intentional. “We’re not trying to be heavy-handed in any respect, and we’re not trying to even make any kind of statement,” he says. “We’re not trying to hit the nail on the head.”
Lightman takes the sentiment ever further: “I love when art is misunderstood,” she says. “I feel like there’s something that can really be gained from that, because then it’s like we almost offer the ability to be a mirror, or a portal to whatever trip that person is on.”
They are willing to explain one element, though: titling the album Banned. “It is supposed to represent how explicit our intentions were – how far we were putting our hearts on our sleeves,” says Jarvis. “I feel like we live in a time now where earnestness and sincerity, it’s ridiculed. It’s not taken seriously.” Lightman says they’re fine with making themselves vulnerable in this way: “There’s a risk there, but I think that the risk is inherent to life.”
It’s an intriguing dichotomy: a band that is at once extremely open and earnest, yet utterly mysterious. It should be interesting to see where their partnership takes them next.
Photo credit: Jeff Bierk