It’s a typical Montreal summer night, meaning I’m hanging out with the members of Lightbulb Alley behind a dumpster in the Mile End and we’ve got a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, half gone.
Drummer Martin Barrette is going through a pile of shirts in his suitcase that has DYLAN and SONIC YOUTH written on it in Sharpie. Their guitar player and vocalist, Alexandre Ferrara, hasn’t shown up yet so to kill time, front man Allister Booth is improvising Irish tunes for me, something about pretty lasses and being drunk. They tell me they’ve been drinking since noon. I try to catch up.
“This isn’t going to be a walk in the park, is it,” Booth says. “More like a walk on the moon.”
The night may have ended in tragedy (we wound up at Rockette, as you do, watching the cool kids dry hump to a DJ’s version of 80’s pop) but it began at The Helm. Or, rather, the alleyway behind The Helm. And before we all got blind drunk and started running down the street, singing Irish tunes and picking up chicks, I had a chat with Lightbulb Alley about their label, their tunes, and the threesome they plan on having in Switzerland:
Caile Donaldson: Tell me your darkest secrets. Let’s go. Right now.
Allister Booth: My darkest secret is that I always wanted to be a banker and cut my hair.
Martin Barrette: When I was younger, I tried to have sex with my babysitter. But it was awkward because she was a friend of my mother’s.
Alexandre Ferrera: For me, I have fucked up dreams. All the time.
CD: What are you, a Pisces?
AF: No. A lion and a Cancer. Split.
CD: Cool. So who does what? What do you guys play?
AB: I play the tambourine and the triangle. And I tap dance. I’m one of the better triangle players in the country. I’ve won awards. My name is Allister.
MB: I play drums. And I want to sing, someday.
AF: I play guitar and I sing.
CD: Why Montreal? Why are you guys here making music, you know, as opposed to another city?
AB: Montreal is just another fork in the road. It’s a place where a lot of cool musicians are, and the women are cool too. You can’t deny that. Come on, everyone knows it.
CD: You two are from Montreal, right? (Barette and Ferrera. Booth hails from Yellowknife.)
AF: Yeah. [Montreal] is also a good place to play. You have a lot of venues.
AB: We play a lot of different places, a lot of nooks and crannies.
CD: What do you all love about being in Montreal then? What’s your favorite part?
AF: I think it’s the people.
AB: Yeah, the people are pretty rock n’ roll. Pretty happy to dance. It’s such a good feeling when you see people dancing and having a good time. It’s like a boomerang of energy.
MB: The cool thing about playing in Montreal is [that it is] a really European city. You have the style [of that] when you play [here]. People understand what you try to do, what kind of vibe you want to put into your show.
CD: What’s been the weirdest show you guys have ever played?
AB: We were on psychedelics…It was a poison night.
CD: A poison night?
AB: The main manager of [Cabaret Playhouse] was like attacking us, trying to say we were fucked up. And I said, “No, you’re fucked up. We’re bringing people to your venue, and whether you wanna book us or not, fuck you.”
CD: Okay, but what made it weird, just the fact that he was in your face?
AB: Everyone was dancing, everyone was having a good time, but we were out of tune, we were drunk, maybe something else…We just were having too good of a time.
AF: Strings broke, the amps were too loud…
AB: We were smashing the guitars…
MB: But people like us, so, you know…
CD: You guys play a lot of shows here in Montreal, I’ve noticed. Why?
AB: I think that generally a lot of people have a fear of playing too many shows, but we play a lot because we want to always be available to our fan base and we tend to not have that fear, which is a status quo. It’s like a rule for a lot of [bands] to only have a show a month, but we have a lot of fun and people come to our shows because it’s like a party. One friend told me that he comes to our shows because he always gets laid every time he comes.
CD: I know I get laid every time I come to your shows.
CD: Do you guys spend a lot of time in the studio too, or does most of your time go into performances?
AB: We play more shows than we practice, but when we play, that is just like practice.
MB: That’s why we want to do so many shows: to get people that we don’t know [to come] and also to practice.
CD: Let’s talk about your label.
AB: Well, we have a record label in Montreal who we had our first album with, it’s called Ricochet Sound [and is] the same label that The Gruesomes [are signed to]; they’re one of the most popular garage punk bands in Canada. Period…kind of the coolest guys ever.
CD: Who is? You are the coolest or they are?
AB: Oh, we are. The Gruesomes are overrated. Ah, I’m just joking. But yeah, we have a record label in Nottingham, No Way Out Records, and…
CD: Wait, who are you signed with though?
AB: Ricochet Sound.
CD: How did that happen? Tell me about that.
AB: Originally, Ray Biffin [from Ricochet Sound] came down [to our show] and bought us a bunch of beer and one of our albums. He was really cool and he said, “I just wanna sign you guys.” This was at Crobar. It was like in the movies.
CD: How do you guys write songs? How does it work between you?
AF: First, it’s Allister that starts with the riff and the song, and I have my songs too, but we play more of Allister’s songs because he’s spent seven years writing them…
AB: Yeah, Lightbulb Alley has been around for seven years. I think, overall, it’s best to do a little heroin and write a song, you know. The thing is, Alex has really cool songs, Martin has really cool songs, I have like, mediocre songs, and we’ve become a band. One of us will play a song and if the other members like it, we’ll go with it. We write alone and then bring it to the band.
CD: Let’s talk about Anachronik Music Festival. Was this your first year playing the festival?
AB: It was our first year [playing] with this formation of Lightbulb Alley.
CD: How was the experience?
AB: It was like any other show, in a way, but it was kind of exciting [because] there were a lot of people there who we really respect in the Montreal music scene, like our friend David Hener from The Cheap Thrills, and a bunch of other people, like the band Deluxe, another band we’ll be playing with…
AF: And it was cool because people were skateboarding around…
CD: Oh, you played at TRH-Bar?
AF: Yeah, TRH-Bar.
AB: It’s just nice to know that you have respect from people that you really look up to, and all these musicians are coming to our show…it’s nice.
CD: You guys think you’ll play Anachronik next year?
AF: We’d like that.
AB: Well, you know, we’re moving onto bigger things. Lollapalooza is our first priority. I’m just joking. We’d love to play [Anachronik]. We’ll always play it.
CD: What are you listening to right now? Today.
AF: Today? Rolling Stones.
CD: The Stones? Seriously? Which album?
AF: Sticky Fingers.
AB: I listen to absolutely nothing. But sometimes I listen to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly soundtrack.
CD: Nice, I love that soundtrack.
AB: Yeah, I always listen to that.
MB: Me, I listen to the album by Tiny Tim called God Bless Tiny Tim.
MB: I just make food and cook to this music. It’s amazing. I love it.
CD: Very therapeutic, I’m sure. Alright, so if you guys could jam with any musician today, like a current musician, who would you want to jam with?
AF: Charles Manson.
CD: Good choice.
AB: I would jam with Paul Butterfield. But he’s dead.
CD: Well, then you fucked up. You have to pick someone who’s not dead.
AB: I’d like to jam with Paul Butterfield’s ghost.
CD: And Martin?
MB: I’ll jam with…
CD: No more ghosts.
MB: Okay, seriously, I’d jam with Roger Waters. Or Barack Obama. At the White House.
CD: I didn’t know he was a musician.
AB: How about Robin Williams?
CD: No, man, leave him alone. May he rest in peace. What’s your favorite music festival in Montreal right now?
AB: Little Italy Festival.
AF: Montreal Psych Fest.
MB: Yeah, I say the psych fest, too.
AB: They do a good job. We played there one time.
CD: Oh yeah? Which year?
AB: The first one.
CD: You guys playing this year?
AB: Nah. But [Montreal Psych Fest] books good bands and they try really hard. And [the festival] is kind of a grassroots sort of development. I really like what they’re trying to do.
CD: Definitely. What’s happening in the next little while for you guys?
MB: I really want to have a threesome.
AF: I think we have to continue to do shows, put out the album, and it’s going to work.
AB: We’re going to New York and we’re playing shows with bands like Quitty and the Don’ts, and the Recordettes, and we also want to go to Switzerland and France…
CD: So specific. Why Switzerland?
AB: There were some people asking us to play in Switzerland. And have a threesome. So we’re ready to go.
CD: Nice. So you’re coming out with a new album?
AB: Yeah, at Christmastime. For the family to enjoy under the Christmas tree.
CD: What’s with the band name? Lightbulb Alley? Why?
AB: Lightbulb is our inspiration. And Alley is our desperation. Lightbulb is life. Alley is death.
AF: For me, it’s when you die…
AF: …and you’re walking over the next elevation…
AF: …to the next brand new world!
MB: For me, it’s sexual.
CD: Amazing. Thank you, boys.
Photos by Caile Donaldson.