It’s Friday evening at the Gateway Festival in Bengough. The sun is setting in the next field over, and a moderately-sized crowd has gathered to watch Limblifter launch into the song “Ariel vs. Lotus” from their album Bellaclava.
Back in the day, when the ’90s turned over into the new millennium, you couldn’t turn on the radio or MuchMusic without hearing this song.
“This is the cure…”
It’s been at least eight years since the Vancouver-based four-piece has played in their native province of Saskatchewan. Despite the absenteeism, there are lots of people singing along. And dancing.
“This is the cure…”
Earlier that day, I am part of the festival volunteer team charged with cargoing the band to the remote southern prairies town. An hour outside of Regina, surrounded by crisp farmland and abandoned houses, it seems like the perfect time to ask Limblifter front man Ryan Dahle for interview…
Dahle, who was from Regina, grew up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. In 1989, he, along with his brother Kurt and Todd and John Kerns, formed Age of Electric. The group rehearsed in Lanigan for a month before leaving, but still very much identified with Saskatchewan.
“Two guys were from Lanigan and two were living in Regina,” says Dahle. “So we always knew where we were from, but we would go where people were willing to hire us. Eventually we went to Vancouver to record so we became a west coast band, which was really natural at the time in the ‘90s. Maybe that’s not really as much of a truth anymore.”
Having driven through the town en route to Winnipeg, it seems doubtful there was much for an aspiring musician there back in the ‘80s – it should be noted, however, that Lanigan did spawn several NHL-worthy hockey players.
Age of Electric independently released an EP in 1993 called Ugly, which was a highly melodic version of the music going down back then: lots of gritty guitars, solos and soaring choruses. And suddenly the band blew up via several hit songs, including a video for the song “Ugly”, which was all over the TV.
And then Limblifter happened.
The band, which formed as a side-project for the Dahle brothers, recorded their debut self-titled album after practicing 10 times. More hit songs followed.
And then Big Shiny Tunes happened.
A series of compilations released by MuchMusic, every kid in Canada back then owned at least several of these. And still do. It was a pretty big deal.
And as a musician, it seemed like being asked to be on Big Shiny Tunes was like getting picked up in a limo while hitchhiking along a deserted stretch of highway.
Or maybe not.
“We didn’t really know how much it was going to do for us until it was in retrospect,” says Dahle on the triple platinum-selling compilation. “I had a song with Age of Electric on the second Big Shiny Tunes and that one went diamond (over 1 million units sold). Which is cool. But back then people would just ask you to be on all these compilations. We didn’t realize until three or four years later how many people had come up to us and said how Big Shiny Tunes had changed what they listened to.
“I mean, there are a lot of songs on there that I wouldn’t listen to. But it’s cool that people liked it. There is some real shit on it, but there is also some good stuff and it gave those bands some exposure and brought them more into the mainstream for those people who only buy two or three albums a year.”
After returning to Age of Electric for another album and staying with them until that group’s demise, Dahle revived Limblifter. The group released two more albums, both of which deviated from the standard alterna-rock fare of the day – Dahle thankfully never lost the roaring guitar sound that he carried with him throughout his career.
And, having released their last album in 2004, Limblifter is releasing a new album a decade later, says Dahle.
“We’re working on a new record. We recorded a bunch of songs and we are mixing right now. We still need to finish recording the songs but it’s for sure going to happen – we have a FACTOR grant,” he laughs.
“The last album we did together was actually a solo album, but we started it thinking that it was a Limblifter record. And then we felt like there wasn’t any attraction to the name – things go in phases. But it holds up to the catalogue of other records.
“And our newer songs sound even closer to the older songs. The more you write the more you diversify as a writer. But if you write enough songs you come back to what you used to do, which is what I think what we are doing right now. Those songs really worked for the band.”
So does this mean that the band is going to another eight years to return to their native Saskatchewan? Likely not, says Dahle.
“We are motivated to play right now,” he says. “We are just taking the shows that work with our schedule, because we are all busy with other projects and bands. We want to play more, but it has to be the right show and the right motivation.
“We want to have fun when we play, because that’s just how it is when you first start playing in bands.”
Ghost Town, Saskatchewan: We Took Limblifter to visit a Ghost House
South of Regina, en route to Bengough, there isn’t a whole lot to look at other than endless prairie fields. Except for the occasional ghost house.
After seeing a dozen bombed out, graffitied farm houses, we finally relented for a bit of abandoned abode adventuring. The results, of course, are creepy as all hell.