A new tide at Black Diamond Bay

Patrick Krief’s latest gig is back with a big sound, a new name and a reinvigorated search for an audience of their own

Formerly of The Dears, Patrick Krief formed a new project called Black Diamond Bay who’ll be performing on Friday September 12 with Spiral Beach.
Formerly of The Dears, Patrick Krief formed a new project called Black Diamond Bay who’ll be performing on Friday September 12 with Spiral Beach.
Supplied photo by Marieve Petitpa

In his cozy, un-air-conditioned Montreal studio, which neighbours the recording space of friends Sam Roberts and The Stills, Patrick Krief can often be found on the balcony, guitar in hand, composing or simply strumming his favourite Led Zeppelin tune.

The former lead guitarist of The Dears, Krief began writing and touring his own music—some of which was tested on that very balcony—in 2007, eventually leaving the group for a brief career as a solo artist under the name of Krief.

After enlisting a band to perform his own songs, he found himself creating differently, catering to the sounds of the group, and forgoing his individual brand. The one-man show needed to be redefined, if only by name, so Krief and company set their creative juices to work.

Now, under the banner of Black Diamond Bay, and with a robust, instrumentally diverse sound, the group is proudly preparing for the release of their self-titled debut album.

But the road to recording had its fair share of debut obstacles.

“We went for months and months trying to find a name. It was misery, harder than writing a record,” Krief told the Journal in a telephone interview from the comfort of his studio balcony.

“The reason it was taking so long is because I was dead focused on something that had meaning, and I was out for drinks with Liam [O’Neil of The Stills], and then he told me, in plain language, ‘first find something that sounds good and then find the meaning.’”

After ruminating over a catchy, meaningful title and considering the potential marketing consequences of a new name, the band sought inspiration from the song titles of artists they admired—from Elvis to Zeppelin to Bob Dylan.

“When I saw Black Diamond Bay, I said ‘I love that story and the name. Those are the three things we want to sound like.’” Laborious name changes may be the mark of a fresh start but they’re also, by virtue of their redefinition, a sign of new barriers and impediments—a detail Krief acknowledges but feels equipped to overcome.

“Right now, the way the industry is, the biggest obstacle is having someone to develop you as an artist because the industry seems wounded and it was always a risky move signing a band and now it’s even riskier,” he said.

“Everything is changing so quickly. ... Maybe the industry is starting to change, maybe it’s sticking its tail between its legs, maybe it’s starting to re-exist on a new platform and no one is really sure what is happening. No one is signing a record deal, but there is a lot of stuff going on. In a way, I think this download thing is going to be a good thing in the end, like the damage is done, but we’re just caught in the crossfire.”

But in this regard, Krief is adamant that being Canadian is an asset. Since the millennium, the gradual increase in international exposure for Canadian indie rock—from the Arcade Fire to Tegan and Sara to Krief’s former band The Dears—has been a marketable tool for homegrown acts.

“A lot of people around the world are going, ‘What’s happening in Canada? What’s going on there? Why is there this movement coming out?’” Krief said.

Now it seems to be that labels are signing bands for the world, from Canada.”

Krief attributes much of Black Diamond Bay’s sound, and the sound of local English acts at large, to his own roots in Montreal, a city that has bred many internationally-acclaimed acts.

“It’s the theory that somebody laid on me once that the English indie rock music scene [in Montreal] was years and years ago, way before our time, and that these people were just making music that had no chance for radio,” he said.

“So the production wasn’t catered to any kind of standard and that’s what made it weird or unique. You know that when you’re from Quebec and writing English music you’re probably not going to get much Quebec love in terms of radio play. I think a lot of the English bands just do whatever.

“But there’s a vibe of the city which obviously affects everyone who lives here. I don’t know anybody who lives here who doesn’t get seriously moody in the winter. Montreal is so cultural, there are so many hot-blooded people who shouldn’t be in sub-zero weather. You can feel that there is an energy in this city when you walk down the street.”

Although Krief does admit that the idea of being a success within French Canada is appealing, his ambitions, for the moment, are more simple.  “We just want to pay our rent and play music, if it gets any more than that we’ll be happy. I think any true artist’s goal is to have an audience. Our plan is to play as much as possible and to generate a following—an audience on our own.”

Black Diamond Bay play at BarNone Friday September 12 with Spiral Beach and PS I Love You. Tickets are $15

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