Scene & Heard

Leif Vollebekk’s Twin Solitudes, a track-by-track journey through space, time, and Florida

Leif Vollebekk now calls the Plateau in Montreal home, but he’s originally an Ottawa boy. He was born at the old Grace Hospital, and went to De La Salle and Charlotte-Lemieux before finishing an honours BA in philosophy at the U of O. We tracked him down as he was about to embark on a 40-city European and North American tour that includes a stop in Ottawa on April 14 at First Baptist Church. (Details via Facebook).

Given all this touring, it seems apropos to dive into the 10 lush-but-understated tracks that explore places and spaces both physical and sonic on his third album Twin Solitude, released in February on Secret City Records. It’s full of road-tale vignettes with floating atmospheric sounds, craggy textures, and Vollebekk’s voice high up in the mix.

Vancouver Time
“What I like about Vancouver is how close Portland and Seattle are; it’s this openness. The air is amazing. I think about the whole Pacific Northwest when I’m out there. Every city has its own feel and we all know it, but if you try to peg it down it kind of evades you.”

All Night Sedans
“I like hanging out in Florida sometimes. It’s where I used to go when I was a kid. I feel like it’s not that foreign, yet it is because I know I don’t belong. There was a car on the highway with a sign that said All Night Sedans, it was some kind of delivery company. It sounded so cool. I felt an affinity. I don’t know their plight, I really don’t, but I know that the truck drivers are putting in many hours and so am I. When you drive as much as I do, you kind of enjoy being alone with your thoughts.”

Elegy
“I liked that ‘All Night Sedans’ and ‘Elegy’ are in A flat; it’s special key. It’s got a lot going on and when you play in A flat, you can’t help but feel things. These songs had to be sequenced back to back to kind of ground it.”

Into the Ether
“There are no places in that song. It happens nowhere and has no grounding whatsoever. Lyrically, I’ve never written anything like it. It’s a roll of the dice that anyone could connect with it. It’s a strange song to me.”

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Big Sky Country
“For me, this is like a palate cleanser. It kind of came on its own when I was out doing a festival years ago in Winnipeg and I saw a red-winged blackbird on a cat-tail end and I said to the guy with me, ‘what kind of bird is that?’ I am a city boy. I was like ‘wow, that’s the nicest thing I could ever see.’ For this song, I borrowed the ride cymbal from Andrew Barr of the Barr Brothers and it’s so big that I wanted to play it throughout the whole song. It sounds so good. It’s not really a song, but something that lets you listen to this ride cymbal. It takes you to this headspace.”

Michigan
“I was about to go to bed, then I picked up the guitar, and it was in a weird tuning. When you travel, you have to detune your guitar strings so they don’t snap and I picked it up and it had this strange tuning and strange resonance. I wrote it quickly.”

Road to Venus
“Do you know the painter Christopher Pratt? He has a painting called Driving to Venus that I saw years ago with my mom as a teen. It’s a beautiful painting. It’s a highway with Venus in the distance. I always loved it, but hated the title and thought it should be called Road to Venus.”

East of Eden
“A couple of years back, I read my first Steinbeck. Three people recommended it to me. If I had read it earlier, I wouldn’t have gotten it. I was just in love with the book; it felt like it was written from a deep place. You can’t ask for more from a book. Between the lines, there’s almost a spirituality to that book for me. I was so afraid that it was going to end. That feeling came back at some point: the feeling of knowing something had to end and not wanting it to end and trying to slow it down and knowing it’s not possible to hold on to everything.”

Telluride
“Never been. I didn’t know they had a festival. I was playing a show in Colorado and I heard some people talking about going to a show at Telluride. A few months later, I had this melody in my head. There was no pressure. I wrote the song in five minutes. It’s the most free-sounding song on the record because it has no weight to it. That one has really grown on me. It’s kind of wild. It opens up with the newspaper hitting the steps and closes like that too. I was surprised how easily one can write a song when you don’t try.”

Rest
“I remember being at the piano with that one line. It just kind of goes down some roads and some memories for me that are quite vivid. My mom heard it and was like, ‘was that that time you were seven?’ And I was like’ yeah.’ It’s kind of wild. I like that I don’t feel time when I play this song. I didn’t think ‘Rest’ would make the record; it’s an eight-and-half-minute minute song and it’s like a weird dream sequence with no drums, but for a record with a backbeat all throughout, it seemed like a great way to end the album.”