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The Neverending story 

Music virtuoso Daniel Victor has turned Neverending White Lights into a star-studded phenomenon. Matt Charlton finds out how.

Sex, drugs, money, the quest for indie-rock message board cred: There are a lot of reasons why people start their first band. But creating a multi-vocalist concept album that focuses its theme on humanity’s lost touch with the divine isn’t exactly a reason that comes up very often. For Neverending White Lights’ Daniel Victor, this sprawling approach was pretty much the only way to go.

“My father was in a band in the ’70s,” says Victor of his musical beginnings. “So from a very young age I started veering my life towards all thing musical.” The young musician proved a quick study. While teaching himself to play a variety of instruments, he also developed a penchant for work in the recording studio. Eventually striking out and performing in bands with schoolmates, Victor also began regularly recording acts from around his Windsor home.

“I started when I was 13 or 14 and pretty much kept it going through university,” he says over the phone from a car headed from Windsor to Toronto. “It gave me a chance to practise my production techniques until I got to the point that I wanted to start work on my own thing.”

Having been around many up-and-coming bands, Victor was careful about what he chose for his debut project. With an overabundance of guitar rock on the market he was intent on developing something with more depth and substance. The end result is Neverending White Lights.

“The idea was to put something together that was completely original,” he says. “I thought that I had a lot to offer, being a multi-instrumentalist, a producer, an engineer and a songwriter, I wanted to combine all those talents into one unique project.”

The project’s first piece is Act 1: Goodbye Friend of The Heavenly Bodies, a collection of melancholic songs centering around humankind’s growing apathy toward a heavenly presence. The album features a different guest vocalist on each track.

While the choice may seem like an odd one for a new artist and fully capable vocalist, for Victor, it came down to what was best for the songs. “The thought occurred to me that I didn’t really own a record like that,” he says. “There’s nothing in my CD collection that combines all of those elements. I just decided to make it myself so I could own it.”

While the concept may have been easy to settle into, for an artist with no previous credits to his name, the execution proved slightly more difficult. Victor was forced to rely on the power of his work and concept to land his weighty list of contributors (which came to include such musicians as Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida, Shudder To Think’s Nathan Larson and Mogwai).

“I didn’t know any of them prior to working on the album,” he says. “I really had to be honest with them about what I wanted to do, and a lot of them really loved the concept. They liked some of the other people I was approaching and most importantly they loved the music itself.”

Now, with the album gaining both acclaim and renown, partly due to the success of lead single “The Grace” (featuring City and Colour’s Dallas Green on vocals and Emm Gryner in the video), Victor is intent on continuing the Neverending White Lights’ saga.

“This is the first in a series,” he claims. “The idea is to keep making these with each record having a different concept to it. Act 2 may deal with change or how to deal with the apocalypse; I find a topic and just need to get inspired by it.”

While later installments of Victor’s epic are still only a notion, he has already begun a list of potential collaborators for the unwritten songs. “I’ve already asked Emm Gryner and Sarah Slean. I’m hoping for Rufus Wainwright, Matthew Good and Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. They’re all just people I’d really like to work with.”

Neverending White Lights w/Our Lady Peace and Jets Overhead, May 12 at the Halifax Metro Centre, 8pm, $50 +tax, 451-1221.

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