For Dana Moore, romance is equal parts science and song-craft.
“Whether it’s music or science I am, for the most part, approaching things in a reductionist way,” he says. “Breaking things apart and putting them back together. It’s a thoughtful process, and I apply that process to music, that scientific approach to deducing things rather than just making statements.
“In some regard it’s romantic to be a scientist but study poison,” he adds. “It seems kind of Shakespearean to me.”
Moore, 27, is the former front man of Winnipeg-based indie rock collective All Your Friends, a band that toured Canada and scored radio play locally in Manitoba and nationally on CBC. They also opened for big-ticket Canadian indie bands such as The New Pornographers, Tokyo Police Club and The Hidden Cameras when they passed through The Peg.
After three years they called it quits. Moore moved to Toronto to work toward a PhD in toxicology at the University of Guelph and rechristened his musical persona as Gt Dane, a whispery baroque pop troubadour. Though he spends most of his days researching coldwater fish for Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, he keeps busy after hours mixing a full-length debut album and prepping the release show for his new three-song EP, Mourning Yer Host, at NXNE.
Recorded in a frigid warehouse in Winnipeg this past January with a group of musicians drawn from Winnipeg’s indie scene, including his former band-mates, the EP acts as a languorous, stream-of-consciousness prologue to his forthcoming full-length, All of Your Friends Play Our Plague, Gt Dane, which he promises will be a lot more pop and rock than the slow-burning EP.
“All Of Your Friends was having a good time, but we never sat down and talked about the kind of music we wanted to make,” he says. “When we actually started to apply ourselves, we all kind of realized we wanted to do different things.”
“I approach [music] from a storytelling aspect,” he continues. “I’m more interested in making different song structures that I can draw out different nuances from rather than approach it in a progressive or technically interesting way.”
His lyrics ebb and drift in an acoustic ambiance, eschewing choruses, bridges and other hallmarks of traditional pop song structure. Though thoughtful, his songwriting process isn’t always effortful. Most songs, he says, take only an afternoon to write. The problem is finding time to record and mix them around his hectic schedule researching for school.
Moore grew up on a farm in a rural community 35 minutes north of Winnipeg. The son of a farmer and a nurse, he spent a lot of time alone as a child thinking up fun things to do, including teaching himself guitar and piano.
“The only person my age in the general vicinity was my brother, and we aren’t that close in age and we didn’t get along,” he says. “Growing up in a rural place is about knowing how to innovate and entertain yourself. Work with what you got.”
One pop artist he admires is The New Pornographers’ Neko Case for the astute lyrical portraits she paints through her songwriting. “I love her focus on the context and ambiance of songs,” he says. “Almost every lyric has a double meaning and a double entendre that is usually very playful, but dark. I find that really attractive.”
In much the same way that Neko Case’s fans must listen carefully, Moore prefers to keep the meaning of the songs on Mourning Yer Host vague, leaving his listeners to deduce meanings rather than making blunt statements. “It’s that romantic spin on science,” he says.
Gt Dane plays North by Northeast Thurs, June 16, at 8pm, Bread and Circus, 299 Augusta.