STEVE LAMBKE: CONSTANTINES/BABY EAGLE
For the better part of his ten-year tenure in the seminal Guelph, Ontario rock outfit the Constantines, Steve Lambke's vocal contributions to the group's catalogue were noteworthy not only for their stark contrast to the vocal style employed by primary lead vocalist Bry Webb, but also for their rare appearances. From sophomore album Shine a Light through to the Kensington Heights LP, Lambke's lead vocal contributions were peppered throughout the records like little gems waiting to be discovered.
However, from roughly 2006 onward, Lambke created another outlet for his material under the moniker Baby Eagle. Releasing two full-length Baby Eagle albums with Outside Music during a very active period with the Constantines, he then launched You've Changed Records in 2009 with the members of Welland, Ontario outfit Attack In Black to release the third Baby Eagle LP, Dog Weather.
This past spring saw the release of the fourth long-player in the Baby Eagle catalogue, the morbidly-titled Bone Soldiers. chorusVERSEchorus recently had the chance to ask Lambke a couple of questions about the record, as well as discuss the longevity of his once-side project, now turned full-time effort.
Bone Soldiers is the fourth album in the Baby Eagle discography, a particularly significant milestone given that your body of work as a solo recording artist is now equal to the volume of output by the Constantines. Did you imagine this kind of longevity for Baby Eagle when you released the debut album? In the beginning was it more of a side-project, or has it always been a parallel musical effort of equal significance for you?
Steve Lambke: The first album was definitely just made as a project. I wanted to try writing different kinds of songs than we were playing in the Constantines. The second one was made because I had such a fun time making the first one. I didn't have much of a chance to tour either of those records because we were still so busy with the Cons.
And also the last couple records have taken a bit of a leap; the writing is deeper, heavier, radder. They add up, and make sense as records in a way the first couple don't really. I feel like the first couple are prologue and it really starts with Dog Weather. I really should have changed the name or something.
This is the first Baby Eagle release that emphatically acknowledges your backing band, The Proud Mothers. You’ve had an array of guest collaborators on previous Baby Eagle albums, from John K. Samson to Christine Fellows to various members of Attack In Black. Do you see The Proud Mothers as your permanent backing band at this point, or do you prefer to keep your options open for potential collaborations on future Baby Eagle albums? How exactly did your musical partnership with The Proud Mothers come to be?
SL: I don't know if anything is permanent, let alone a rock and roll band. I wanted to call this one by the Proud Mothers because we were making, in my mind anyways, a rock and roll band record with loud guitars and drums and guitar solos and all that. The songs were written with that intent. And we played together for a longer time leading up to recording than I'd had the opportunity to do with any of the people I worked with before. We worked on arrangements together, and played the songs live, and Ian and I had demoed most of the songs together; all the things a band is supposed to do together before making a record. The other Baby Eagle records were made much more in the spirit of "let's get these people together and see what we can make of these songs". It was always very spontaneous.
I would love to keep making music with the Proud Mothers; they are all my dear friends and it's a great band. But everybody has their own projects going on too, so I know that will always be a struggle to get everybody together.
Besides fronting Baby Eagle, you also play an active role in the day-to-day operations of You’ve Changed Records. What was the primary motivation for you to start this recording label, and what have you noticed to be the major differences in distribution and promotion of your albums since leaving Outside Music to pursue your own label?
SL: Daniel and I started You've Changed when he and Ian and Spencer were still playing in Attack in Black. They were a very prolific band, and they were starting to think that maybe a few years down the line they'd want to have more control over their records coming out; more say in release schedules and how singles or EPs could fit in, or other projects they were thinking of working. I love those guys and I loved that band so I offered to help out. It's kind of just taken it's own path from there. At the time I didn't really have any designs to make another Baby Eagle record, and by the time we made Dog Weather the label was up and running and it just made sense to put it out ourselves. We still work closely with Outside as they are the distributor for our label.
Looking back on your lead vocal contributions to the Constantines albums, how do you feel that those songs influenced the material you have subsequently created under the Baby Eagle moniker? Similarly, I understand that “Shower of Stones” has made a few surprise appearances in the Baby Eagle live set. Are there any other songs from that era that you would like to revive with your current band?
SL: We've played "Shower of Stones" a few times, and sometimes when I play solo shows I'll play "Windy Road". I can't imagine playing any of the other songs in Baby Eagle sets, though I think maybe Jimmie and I have jammed on "Thieves" before; there may have been beers involved and it was in the privacy of the home.
I don't know if there is any great difference between those songs and the songs I'm writing now, other than they were written knowing that there'd only be 1 or 2 of my songs on those Cons records. I've since got pretty deep into writing batches of songs for the records; songs that cross-reference each other, songs that commune or have some kind of thematic coherence or shared imagery.
What is your vision for the future with Baby Eagle? Do you see this project as having any kind of set shelf life, or do you see yourself making Baby Eagle records for years to come? Is there any specific thematic territory that you want to explore next?
SL: I'm writing tunes, but I don't know at this time what they are going to be. The vision hasn't clarified yet. I don't know about the shelf life. I'm always going to be writing songs, I don't think I've got a choice, I love doing it so much. But whether or not they come out as records or what, I don't know.
What are your plans for the rest of 2012 with respect to touring and promotion of Bone Soldiers? Are you excited to take The Proud Mothers on the road and bring this new batch of songs to life for audiences to hear?
SL: We did a bunch of dates this spring when the record came out, and we have a few things this summer, and there's a tour in the works for the fall. It's great to get together with the band and play this record we made for people, to enjoy playing it and pushing those songs even further.