Medicine’s Brad Laner Talks Captured Tracks Partnership, New Album ‘To the Happy Few’
Ladies and gentleman, we're floating in a golden age of noise. Need proof? Earlier this year, My Bloody Valentine shocked the indie world by dropping the long-gestating sequel to their 1991 masterwork 'Loveless' at midnight on a Saturday, and even that might not be the year's best shoegaze comeback.
Challenging MBV's 'MBV' for that honor is the brand-new 'To the Happy Few,' the first new dose of Medicine since 1995. Formed in 1990 by multi-instrumentalist Brad Laner, the L.A. trio released three albums -- all on Rick Rubin's American Recordings label -- before calling it quits in 1995, and while their only real brush with mainstream success was landing a cameo in 'The Crow,' they've become cult heroes to a generation of pedal-stomping nu-gazers.
Rediscovering Medicine became even easier in 2012, when the Brooklyn label Captured Tracks -- home to more than a few Laner disciples -- reissued the band's excellent first two albums, 'Shot Forth Self Living' (1992) and 'The Buried Life' (1993). The lovingly created vinyl packages showcased the group's distinctive still-life artwork, and a deluxe box set added the 1994 'Sounds of Medicine EP' and 'Always Starting to Stop' cassette.
"I had tried repeatedly over the years to get the rights, but I lacked the business acumen to deal with the reality of it," Laner tells Diffuser.fm, answering questions via email days before heading to Brooklyn for an intimate Aug. 16 show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. "Captured was an attractive choice because they're the only ones who were willing to really get in there and fight for it a bit."
Laner admits he wasn't familiar with Captured Tracks -- founded by Blank Dogs mastermind and underground-music lifer Mike Sniper in 2008 -- when the label approached him about the reissues, but it turned out to be a natural fit. Now that he's checked out the music and even worked with the company's in-house designer, Ryan McCardle, on the box set's gorgeous packaging, Laner is a "huge fan of the whole roster."
But Captured Tracks, which celebrates its fifth anniversary with a two-day festival later this summer, has done more for Laner than simply turn him on to artists like Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing and Mac DeMarco. It also "opened the door" for a reunion he says probably wouldn't have otherwise happened.
When Laner, singer Beth Thompson and drummer James Goodall reconvened in May 2012 to divvy up copies of the box set, they let the genial mood carry them into Laner's home studio, where they laid down the basic tracks for 'Happy Few.' Released Aug. 6 via Captured Tracks, the album is, in many ways, classic Medicine -- a wonderfully jarring psych-pop jolt of Black & Decker guitar drone, booming bass grooves, industrial-strength dance beats and Thompson's vapory vocals.
And yet just as 'MBV' isn't merely 'Loveless: Redux,' 'Happy Few' is Medicine mixed up for the modern age. As Laner says, the project developed naturally, aided by familiar chemistry and a willingness to embrace newfangled gear.
"We didn't have to consciously move the sound forward; it caught up to us naturally when we decided to start up again," says Laner, a prolific solo artist and serial collaborator who's spent the last 20 years working with everyone from Brian Eno to super fan M83. "We worked on the new record freely and unencumbered by any limitations, because I know how to use the amazing and affordable technology that wasn't available 20 years ago."
After more than a year of cordial phone and email exchanges, Laner will meet Sniper for the first time this week, and should Medicine keep the reunion going, they'll likely stick with Captured Tracks.
"They remind me of Rough Trade or Creation in their heyday," Laner says. "It's a thrill to be a part of it."