By Colin Gallant
CALGARY — Texture & Light aren’t exactly a new band. Their album, The Hard Problem of Consciousness, is nearly two years old. Yet the band as it exists today is an altogether fresh culmination of the past eight years of songwriter Trevor Refix (née Mervyn)’s journey from house music DJ to solo “electronic dream rock” recording artist to bandleader.
“The band came into existence towards the tail end of 2013. For the first album, I’d been working on off and on for about five years just on my own,” says Refix of Texture & Light’s start.
There’s no set precedent for the length an artistic work should take to complete. A masterpiece might take a lifetime; a punk record might take a weekend. Yet Refix is conscious of the LP’s timeline and is able to pinpoint the root of the sprawling process.
“I used to live in Vancouver so [the writing and recording] was always whenever I had the time and the energy. I found it very challenging, living in city, finding a balance between working enough to live in the most expensive city in North America and being able to have the time to relax and create music. I thought that was normal until I left,” he shares.
Heading north of Vancouver to the small coastal town of Powell River, Refix found something beyond the peace and quiet he sought—a sense of community. The quiet town is “full of artists and just really inspirational people,” he says, and after five years of working in city, he “basically re-wrote and re-recorded the whole album” in a period of just three months after the relocation.
With a background performing as a DJ, it made all the sense in the world for Refix to tackle the album on his own. What he had when he finished, however, would require more than just one person to come to life onstage.
“It seemed kind of unfair to just burn it to CD and then just DJ it when you’ve spent so much time integrating real instruments and hands on stuff into it. Performing outside of DJing… it was just another unknown,” he remembers.
For the first time, Refix sought outside help to realize what he had envisioned and put aside his computer as an instrument.
His wife, Clare Mervyn, decided to take a role in the live incarnation of Refix’s output and learned to play bass. From there, the pair found it “remarkably easy to find people who were interested in joining the band.”
While contributors were easy to find, the newly five-piece Texture & Light didn’t pan out. Commitment levels among members were different and the logistics of each member’s schedule was a burden. After rethinking his entire process in the context of five members, Refix again had to change it up and settled on a line-up of three.
It took about three months to settle in to an effective working dynamic. Refix already had an ally in Mervyn, but learned the value of a cool distance in the role of drummer and engineer Lyell Woloschuk.
“I’m self-taught in all my music but there’s a benefit to that which is that my creativity isn’t stifled by being ‘in the box.’ Lyell is kind of the opposite. He’s got a degree in recording engineering and a performance degree in drumming,” he explains.
Refix is impassioned in our conversation, speaking at a rapid fire pace about the equally breakneck tempo at which his band is able to adjust and reconfigure its identity based on experimentation and human trial and error.
“The thing that I only realized in the last month or so getting ready for this tour is that… It’s like it never ends. Even though I thought we had already learned how to play the older songs, we actually really need to relearn them for the fourth time.”
So, on their first major tour, Texture & Light continue to learn and relearn how to perform, express and ultimately understand their own musical ideals. The live shows along the way will see a band grown from one-man laptop act to full-fledged live force redefined from Refix’s days toiling on his own. This will include a stop at Kispiox Valley Music Festival where the group will perform in addition to giving a workshop on performing live electronic music without the aid of a laptop.
Texture & Light play at Broken City on July 22nd.AB, Alberta, Broken City, Texture & Light