Mar 10, 2023
By Mark Redfern
Photography by Richmond Lam
Murray A. Lightburn, frontman of Montréal’s The Dears, has composed the music for the new film, I Like Movies. Both the film and soundtrack are out today and you can stream the soundtrack here. Listen below, followed by the trailer for I Like Movies.
Chandler Levack directed the movie, which is her directorial debut. It’s also Lightburn’s first feature film score. He recorded it in his Montreal studio, Murmajesty, from August 2021 to February 2022. The film is based on Levack’s experiences working at a Blockbuster video store in the early 2000s in Burlington, Ontario.
“A key piece in this process was ‘So Your Mom Told Me About Your Dad,’” says Lightburn in a press release. “I woke up one morning with that melody in my head and immediately hummed it into a recorder. I went to the studio and worked with the scene where I heard the piece. I was able to see how this theme was telling the story of Alana and Lawrence and got to work. Chandler and I would have regular Zoom meetings with me playing feeds direct from the console in the studio with rough cuts of the film. I was eager to show her that piece and I think we both knew it was working. By the end, Chandler was in the studio with me, contributing musical ideas that really put a button on that particular scene in the parking lot. It was truly fun and wonderful collaboration like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”
Levack had this to say: “Murray has crafted the greatest score in Canadian cinematic history for I Like Movies. When thinking about who could best articulate the emotional landscape of an angsty teenaged Blockbuster employee, I turned to the musician who got me through high school. Growing up in Burlington, Ontario, the 2003 album No Cities Left by The Dears was the only thing that helped me survive. The emotional intensity of Murray’s songwriting and sweeping orchestral configurations that turned Montreal ennui into perfect indie rock healed my soul and gave me some indication of what my future could look like. I was so honored when Murray agreed to score my first feature film. We had an incredible collaboration when he wrote an original rock song for my first short film We Forgot to Break Up and working with him on my first feature was an equal joy. The soundtrack to I Like Movies is quirky and heartbreaking with iconic earworms that give the Ontario suburbs their first-ever cinematic close-up. I’m so grateful to Murray for creating such a beautiful score and so excited for audiences to get to experience it.”
Lightburn is also releasing a new solo album, Once Upon a Time In Montréal, on March 31 via Dangerbird.
Previously Lightburn shared the album’s first single, “Dumpster Gold,” via a music video. “Dumpster Gold” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared its second single, title track “Once Upon a Time In Montréal,” via a music video. The song features a rousing saxophone solo by Frank Lozano. “Once Upon a Time In Montréal” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
Once Upon a Time In Montréal is inspired by the 2020 death of Lightburn’s father, who was previously a jazz saxophonist before finding religion. Lightburn’s father was originally from Belize and moved to Montréal to reconnect with his childhood sweetheart. Lightburn’s parents were married for 56 years, until his father passed away in April 2020 in a Quebec nursing home (he had been living with Alzheimer’s for a while).
Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, The Weather Station, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) produced Once Upon a Time in Montréal, which a previous press release said finds Lightburn in “full crooner mode, distilling the passion and intensity of The Dears into gentle arrangements that feature an orchestral section, drawing on late-’60s, early-’70s folk/jazz/pop: Dionne Warwick, Nick Drake, Bill Withers, Serge Gainsbourg, Al Green, etc. While the influences might be obvious, the end result is singular and without peer.”
Once Upon a Time in Montréal features Dears drummer Jeff Luciani and some Montréal jazz players, chief among them is Frank Lozano. Lightburn says Lozano’s sax solo on the title track would especially please his late father. “I knew it was a 400-foot home run,” says Lightburn on his reaction upon hearing the solo. “I knew it was something that would hold. I knew also at that moment how much my dad would love this record. Even if he never told me, I know that it would be on repeat in his car if he was still with us and driving around. That was my motivation—to make something I know he would love. It’s not indie rock, you know?”
Lightburn’s previous solo album, Hear Me Out, came out in 2019 via Dangerbird. The Dears’ last album, Lovers Rock, came out in 2020 via Dangerbird. The band are led by Lightburn and his wife Natalia Yanchak.