Amber Webber and Joshua Wells of Lightning Dust are sitting composed, cooly picking apart a grilled cheese at Kafka Cafe, a bustling establishment near the corner of Main and Broadway, one of Vancouver’s most popular intersections.
Webber, dressed head to toe in black, makes an unlikely dining companion to Wells who is wearing a striped purple T-shirt, shorts and bright red, shin-high socks. Nevertheless, despite their superficial differences, Webber and Wells are both driven by the same, all-consuming addiction to music.
“We cannot live without sound,” says Wells. “Sound and the way that sound makes a mental picture and colour in your mind. It’s the most compelling thing in my life.”
Former members of psychedelic rock band Black Mountain, Webber and Wells have officially been honourably discharged from Stephen McBean’s rock and roll army and are now diving into experimental waters with the release of their newest album, Spectre. Dubbed ‘doom folk’ by Webber, the moody, melodramatic electronic album has a cosmic quality to it that is moving and evocative. The band’s rich instrumentation, filled with space and punctuated by Webber’s crystallized vocals, mirrors the pent up potential of a gloomy storm before lighting hits.
“With our music, we are definitely going for intense emotion,” says Webber. “I want to give the audience all the emotion I’ve got. I want to take you out of the monotony of the day and spark alive all those neural pathways that have been shut down.”
Born in Haney, a small, agricultural town 30-minutes outside Vancouver, the compulsion to create music infected Webber at a young age. Describing herself as a misfit, Webber and her twin sister would mix recorded vocals on a tape player until, one Christmas, they cashed in ‘Club Z Points’ and got a free karaoke machine from the Zellers catalogue. Armed with her karaoke machine and empowered by what she calls the ‘fuck you attitude’ of punk music, Webber had the tools to fully explore her compulsion, emotions and, by extension, herself.
“I’ve been writing music since I was five years old,” she says. “And there was absolutely no purpose but just a compulsion. I just had to do it.”
Also a self-described misfit, Wells grew up listening to Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, and The Cure as he roamed across North America with his father, an American draft dodger, and his mother, a free spirit who met his father in an Indian ashram. After living in Chicago, Victoria, Alberta and Toronto, Wells finally moved to Vancouver at 15 where he dived into the punk scene, studied at Vancouver Theatre College and moonlighted in a jazz quartet.
Needless to say, Webber and Wells are entrenched veterans in the music scene and this informs their masterfully produced sound. Yet, beyond their music, what is striking about Webber and Wells is their humility, confidence and self assurance. Focused on their sandwiches and hardly noticing the bustling traffic of commuters grasping for coffee, the twosome are wholly constant in themselves. Perhaps it is this remove from the everyday and this disregard for the mess of the world around them that informs a constantly evolving, wonderfully spacious and unapologetically genuine sound.
“We create music where you can just shut off your mind and float through the ether,” said Webber. “That’s what’s most important.”