The former guitarist for The Dears has a heartfelt record of his own, and it all happened at home.
Patrick Krief of Canadian alternative rock band Krief works in layers. A cassette recorder was his favorite toy as a 12-year-old, and 20 years later, he’s still hooked on the dreaminess that comes with layering track after track after track. Krief wrote, recorded, and produced the band's 2012 record Hundred Thousand Pieces entirely on his own. Its big, orchestral moments hint at his earlier work as guitarist for six-piece Canadian pop rock band The Dears, and yet the intimate lyrics, lush choruses, and intricate guitar work are distinctly his own. Krief plays Circle Bar on Sunday night.
What were you writing about on Hundred Thousand Pieces?
When I started writing these songs, I had just entered into my 30s. Everybody tells you that you’re going to freak out when you turn 30. That’s exactly what happened to me. I’d moved in to a new place and things were questionable with The Dears. I was starting to write this album, and income was low. I had hit a point where I was asking, “Who am I? Am I going to be a guy who goes and gets a job and hates his life because he’s not playing music? Or am I going to be an artist that’s okay with not having anything?” I chose the artist.
When building a song, where do you start?
Usually I build these demos with a drum machine playing the drum part, and I layer all of the instruments over it. Then I’ll go into the studio, mute the electronic drums, and play real drums over that. I’ll start redoing everything from there, one instrument at a time to match and lock it into the drum performance.
When did you start getting into the recording side?
When I was 12, I would play with tape recorders. I would record a guitar track on one cassette, and then I would play that tape recorder back. I’d play along with it, record that onto another tape recorder, and I’d have two tracks to bounce back and forth between. I’d build it until I’d have a 15 or 16 multi-track thing going on.
Were you writing lyrics at that point, too?
I wasn’t confident enough as a singer then. I thought about it. I would write lyrics and melodies, but I would never show anybody. I would always work with other singers instead.
When you were in The Dears, were you writing lyrics for them?
Sometimes I’d come in with lyrics and Murray, the singer, would say, “I love these lyrics, but I’ve got to change this part.” And that was fine. Usually in that band, I wouldn’t write much of the lyrics.
Did you come out of The Dears any different of a musician versus when you joined?
All of the touring with a six-piece band changed the way I thought about arrangements and the sum of all parts. When I was younger, I would try to play as many notes as possible and keep the guitar really busy. But every musician doesn’t have to be busy and playing all sorts of stuff. It doesn’t matter what everybody plays, as long as the sound we make as a whole is great and large. Sometimes the guitar part can be really simple but in combination with the other things, it sounds huge.
How did that process carry over into the making of Hundred Thousand Pieces?
Whatever melodic idea I had, I would just record it. I didn’t worry about how to reproduce it live. There’s an orchestra on one song. There’s 90 tracks on another song. That never bothered me. It surprisingly turned out to make a great live show. I wanted to be as minimalist as possible for touring. I don’t like having a circus on stage and didn’t want 20 people. I see bands like that and I think that they’re pointlessly overstaffed. I started with the minimum and worked up. A four-piece didn’t work, so we added a fifth person and that sounded great. Five is the magic number.
My Spilt Milk Presents Boat and Patrick Krief Sunday night at the Circle Bar. We're giving away a pair of tickets to the show. To win, register here.