Natalia Yanchak is not just some woman in a band. She joined the Dears back in their beginning stages as the keyboard player, but also as an organizer and visionary. Her vocals add a sweetness to the strong, warm baritone of frontman Murray Lightburn along with a raison d’être for the romantic yearnings that are a hallmark of so many of their songs. They are now married with a young daughter, and the band is as strong as ever. The new release, Degeneration Street, was performed start to finish in a few live gigs last fall, and the group onstage looked like it was having a blast. Before heading out on tour again, Yanchak chatted over the phone from her home in Montreal to update PopMatters.
When exactly did you join the band and tell me about those early days with the Dears?
I joined the band officially in 1997 or 1998. I had met Murray [Lightburn] at a bar—I was DJing at a local haunt in Montreal, the infamous Biftek, which [is] overrun by students now although it was back then also. That’s what they call a steak in French, biftek, but it’s not a restaurant so I don’t know why it’s called that. Murray had come in and he sat at the bar and for some reason he just poured his heart out to me. It wasn’t like it was love at first sight, I was kind of like “Oh, poor guy”. We had some mutual friends who introduced me to the Dears and to Murray so I went to see them play a show at this hole-in-wall kind of place called the Barfly. They were looking for a keyboard player but after I saw them I was totally skeptical. I was like, “It’s going to be terrible.” But it was amazing—I thought it was great.