The Meligrove Band’s 2006 classic ‘Planets Conspire’ reissued by Label Obscura

The Meligrove Band
Credit: Mat Dunlap
The Meligrove Band
Credit: Mat Dunlap

Continuing its deluxe reissues of Canadian classics, Label Obscura has announced the release the definitive double LP edition of The Meligrove Band’s ‘Planets Conspire on November 10th. Originally released in 2006, this long out of print piano-driven indie-pop epic became a breakthrough for the Toronto band, leading to their signing as the first Canadian group on UK major label V2 Records.

Spread over two vinyl records and remastered, Label Obscura’s 2017 edition of ‘Planets Conspire’ sounds bigger and better than ever before, with sonic detail unheard on any previous release. A gatefold jacket features collages by frontman Jason Nunes, including song-by-song credits to (in The Meligrove Band’s words) “help you really nerd out.” Pre-orders of the album include an original double-sided tour poster printed in 2006.

The Meligrove Band’s ‘Planets Conspire’ will be released on November 10th by Label Obscura. It’s available for preorder here.

The Meligrove Band Planets Conspire

1) Isle of Yew
2) Planets Conspire
3) Grasshoppers In Honey
4) Everyone’s A Winner
5) Feversleep
6) Ages & Stages
7) Our Love Will Make The World Go Round
8) I’m Easy
9) Free On The Air
10) You’re Alive
11) Delivered From All Blindness

On Nov. 24th at Toronto venue Lee’s Palace, The Meligrove Band will celebrate the ‘Planets Conspire’ reissue with their final live performance. They will be joined by fellow Toronto indie-rockers The Bicycles and a 20th anniversary appearance from Hamilton’s Mayor McCa. Tickets are available here.

More about The Meligrove Band? The Meligrove Band emerged from Toronto’s early aughts indie-rock boom in a scene that included future members of Final Fantasy and Death From Above 1979. After self-releasing their debut album ‘Stars & Guitars’ in their early 20s, the Meligroves’ sophomore effort ‘Let It Grow’ saw them sign to Winnipeg’s Endearing Records, then home to Canadian stalwarts such as Julie Doiron, Destroyer, and Plumtree. Returning from a tour of Western Canada, the band’s core trio of Jason Nunes, Darcy Rego and Michael Small began recording ‘Planets Conspire,’ an album with an unlikely clash of influences that would change the course of their musical careers.

“We were creating something we didn’t think anyone would put out,” laughs bassist Michael Small. “No one was making a mid-tempo, mostly piano record at the time unless they were Vanessa Carlton. Then at the same time Jay was writing everything on piano, Darcy and I started getting heavily into The Flaming Lips’ ‘The Soft Bulletin’ and Neil Young’s ‘On the Beach’.We were really excited about it, but just thought people would laugh at our stupid album. We expected to release it ourselves on CD-Rs and call it a day.”

As Small recalls, the Canadian offshoot of UK major label V2 Records mistakenly passed on several Toronto artists who would go on to become household names. This caused V2 to smartly realize they needed “some young blood to make the decisions,” leading to their hiring of Toronto’s hotshot live music promoter Eric Warner. Following his addition to V2’s A&R department, Warner’s first signing suggestion was one of his favourite local acts, The Meligrove Band. To both his and the group’s great surprise, V2’s higher-ups immediately offered to release ‘Planets Conspire,’ alongside a single LP vinyl edition from Warner’s indie label We Are Busy Bodies.

After Broken Social Scene became Toronto’s critical darlings, this ushered in a groundswell of press coverage for The Meligrove Band when ‘Planets Conspire’ was released in January 2006. “It fooled a lot of people into thinking we were an important band,” jokes Small. Positive reviews poured in from Spin,The Times of London, and an album of the month nod from Rough Trade, who wrote “This isn’t disposable pop; this is stuff that gets into your bloodstream and overwhelms you.” Despite blowing their advance from V2 on a lacklustre tour and a van that broke down before the album was released, the Meligroves hit the road both at home and abroad, sharing stages with the Constantines and their heroes in the reunited Dinosaur Jr. However, not every opportunity was as well matched, and the band never let success get to their heads.

“We played in Toronto and Montreal with The All-American Rejects, and the other opener was Moneen,” says Small. “It was super weird but we played to a sold out Kool Haus where the oldest person in the crowd was 16. That was the closest thing you can imagine to The Beatles at The Hollywood Bowl. The second a single person went on stage it was wall-to-wall, painful, ear destroying screaming. None of these kids had any idea who we were. Some of them might have known who Moneen were. Just seeing a band was mind blowing to them. I hope in that moment we realized we weren’t actually famous.”

Following the shuttering of V2, The Meligrove Band were cut from their record deal but continued to surf a wave of success. Tokyo Police Club – teenage superfans of the Meligroves who then became massively popular themselves – brought them on a tour of sold out shows along the US East Coast. 2010 saw The Meligrove Band’s follow-up album ‘Shimmering Lights’ via Last Gang/Nevado Records reach #1 on CBC Radio 3. Finally, after 2014’s ‘Bones of Things,’ the Meligroves hung up their hats.

“We didn’t really play live to support our last album,” says Small with a shrug. “Everyone still liked hanging out and making music, but we had reached a point where we’d been doing this from our late teens into our mid-30s. There’s more to life, so we decided to go do other stuff.”

Now, 10 years on from the release of ‘Planets Conspire,’ the band has reunited for one final performance at Lee’s Palace on November 24th. While celebrating the release of Label Obscura’s remastered double LP reissue, the Meligroves are excited to finally present their classic album to fans the way it was always meant to be heard.

“Something we didn’t know at the time is that by paying for the mastering, V2 quietly had the engineer do a bit of a loudness war job on the album,” says Small. “That means he cranked everything up and compressed the high end to make it seem louder than other CDs. What you end up with is something that’s pretty compressed, while losing dynamics and clarity.”

“We actually had no idea until we went back to Joao Carvalho, the same engineer who worked on the album in 2005, for the remaster last year,” Small continues. “Joao was excited to revisit the album and undo what the music industry of the mid-2000s demanded. The reissue sounds so different now, and a million times better. I can hear things that I thought were lost forever.”