Oak Island is not just the title of Nightlands’ new record. It’s also an island off the South shore of Nova Scotia, imbued with mythical proportions. First discovered in 1795, it’s home to a mysterious pit, in which explorers found strange pick markings and layers of logs. The discovery sparked rumors that the pit housed treasure, and for years afterwards, explorers sailed to Oak Island and continued to dig, hoping to unearth the pit’s secret.
These days, scientists believe the phenomenon was likely caused by a sinkhole—although excavation groups today still continue to explore. When I ask Nightlands’ Dave Hartley how the tale relates to his new record, he tells me he’s drawn to the idea of “mystery without end.” “I think mystery is important in art,” he continues, over coffee at Kensington’s Leotah’s Place. “On record, I never let my voice be alone. I always cloak it in millions of itself. Maybe that’s an attempt to keep the mystery going…because the human ear always wants to hear a single voice. And I feel like I’m always pulling it away, dangling the carrot.”
Thick, echo-y, vocal layers are one key element of Nightlands, a solo project started a few years back by Hartley, most known for his role as bassist with The War on Drugs. As Nightlands, he boasts two records of complex, moving synth pop: 2010’s Forget the Mantra, and Oak Island, out this week on Secretly Canadian.
Compared to Mantra, which felt dreamy and dense, Hartley describes Oak Island as “more confident.” “It’s an evolution,” he adds, calling it the “next step” in an ever-changing musical journey. Continue reading →