after much toil, Island of Dr. Lee releases its debut
Jaime Hansen wanted to write a metal record and tried valiantly, but it just didn’t work out that way. That’s no reason for him to hang his head, however: The outcome of this musical endeavor yielded The Island of Dr. Lee, a fearsome force of dark, crunchy alternative rock. The band recently released its debut album, Untitled, which lays down a sturdy foundation of distorted guitar supplemented by sweeping orchestrations and Hansen’s haunting voice.
The Island of Dr. Lee has been a team effort; if voices and playing techniques sound familiar, it’s probably because they are. After receiving an early stamp of approval on his music from Dave Power, Hansen slowly began amassing the talents of the remaining members of Adelyn Rose. Addie Strei helps out on guitar and sings as well, while her brother Leo is the band’s everyman. “That might be him on the vibes and/or yelling in the background, or it might not. We’ll never know for sure,” says Hansen slyly. Hannah Hebl also contributes to Untitled; most notably, she sings lead vocals on “Nope ... That’s Blood,” the album’s thundering, cacophonic centerpiece. Rounding out The Island of Dr. Lee is Matt Florence, whose unabashed bass playing adds to the grit of heavier songs like “Dig For Mice.”
“This is the record I’ve always wanted to make, and there’s no way I could have made this record anywhere but in this town, with this crew.” – Jaime Hansen of The Island of Dr. Lee
Hansen enlisted the help of local composer Davy Sumner to write horn and string arrangements that augment tracks like “Cat Foot” and “Dolphinesque.” While the parts are strictly supplemental, they are also integral to the album’s aesthetic in the sense that they add a distinct texture not always associated with meat-and-potatoes rock music. Numerous UW-Eau Claire music students and alumni turn up to play the lines on Untitled; Jeff Walk contributes his trumpet skills while the Bug’s Kateri Farrell floats the occasional flute line. To make this project truly representative of and synonymous with Eau Claire’s music scene, they holed up with engineer Neal Sipress at Justin Vernon’s April Base to record much of Untitled.
While the bulk of The Island of Dr. Lee’s ethos is clearly rooted in the gloomy shoegaze of yesteryear, subtle variances and moments of delicacy suggest a rather eclectic taste in music. Hansen perhaps sums up the band’s sound most concisely with a likening of “Led Zeppelin beating up Chris Isaak with David Bowie and Mazzy Star cheering in the front row,” but he also name-checks contrasting artists like Big Black and jazz composer Stan Kenton, alluding to the truly diverse palate that he is able to draw from. With a bit of R&B thrown in the proverbial melting pot, the nuances of each song become unpredictable; that’s what makes Untitled such a treat to listen to.
The Island of Dr. Lee embodies the camaraderie that has become so unique to the music scene in the Eau Claire area. Untitled is an example of musical passion without any hint of pretense; the band pays homage to its principal heroes in order to cultivate a very distinctive sound. “This is the record I’ve always wanted to make, and there’s no way I could have made this record anywhere but in this town, with this crew,” says Hansen.
No live performances have been scheduled for The Island of Dr. Lee in the immediate future, as the majority of the band’s members have been busy supporting Adelyn Rose’s excellent new record, Ordinary Fantasy, but Hansen is planning on recording a follow-up EP later this spring and releasing it on May 31 at the Mousetrap.