Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Cream, Blind Faith, Broken Social Scene, Monsters of Folk and The Traveling Wilburys are all supergroups by virtue of their members being stars before the new bands formed.
Case/lang/veirs deserves the supergroup title. The trio features Neko Case, indie-noir solo star and member of the mostly Canadian music collective The New Pornographers; k.d. lang, the Canadian chanteuse who commands one of music's most impressive voices; and Laura Veirs, a Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter who is the least known but stands her ground among her formidable bandmates.
Case, lang and Veirs are following the June 17 release of their self-titled album debut with a tour, which comes to The Joy Theater on July 31.
The album contains 14 original songs, none of them clunkers.
"We worked really hard," Case told
Gambit. "Sometimes, when you make music, you're so close to it that you don't know how musical it really sounds. The only way to find out is when people hear it. So it's super nice to hear that people like it."
Case's loud and clear tones ring through on the throbbing, psychedelic "Delirium" and swooping melody in "Behind the Armory." Lang sings lead for the lush torch songs "Honey and Smoke" and "1000 Miles Away." Veirs' complementary work may sway Case and lang fans her way. Sparingly placed, chiming, cooing backup vocals decorate the songs through- out the nicely detailed, never over- done production.
It wouldn't be a surprise if any one of these singers made another beautiful solo album. The surprise is that they've made one together.
Seeds for the alliance sprouted when Case met lang in Portland. Case was recording her 2013 album — The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You — with Veir's husband, in-demand producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse).
"I was getting to know Laura Veirs because I was hanging out in Portland so much," Case says. "I'd sang on her Warp and Weft record. k.d. had just moved to Portland. She was really liking it, but she didn't know a lot of people in town. I suggested she get together with Tucker and Laura. They're really nice people and Tucker had a great studio. So they started hanging out."
Lang later sent an out-of-the-blue invitation via email to Case and Veirs. "I think we should make a record together," the message read.
"Laura and I answered the email before we finished reading it," Case says. "It was like, 'Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Yes, we want to do that.' There was no way we weren't gonna say, 'Yes.'"
Case is a longtime lang fan.
"I'm so familiar with everything k.d. has done," she says. "There wasn't anything she couldn't do. She's this great singer who made those beautiful torch records and country records. She'd be on The Larry Sanders Show being hilarious and on the Pee-wee Herman Christmas special with Grace Jones. And, oh, she's an out lesbian and she owns it. k.d. is so joyously herself. So bold and so beautiful. She inspired me (during) my entire musical career."
Case, lang and Veirs originally considered making an album of other people's songs but decided to make their own music for the project.
"Write them together as three alpha personalities, who normally are the bosses of their projects," Case says. "We wanted to make it for fun. We wanted to please ourselves as well as serve the songs."
Because Case, lang, Veirs and Martine already had busy careers, their collaboration happened in spurts during a two-and-a-half-year period.
"Everyone was so busy," Case says. "But we wanted it. That's the part that means the most to me. I love people who are the real deal, who do what they say they're gonna do. We all showed up. We committed. And it feels so good."
Hoping not to inspire preconceived notions, the singers kept the collaboration quiet. As simple as their objectives were — having fun and making an album they loved — making music together was challenging.
"It was like master class for me," Case says. "Like, 'OK. You better be ready to learn something here. You can't just half-ass show up. You gotta really be a part of this to your core.'"
The trio didn't know if a tour would follow the album's release.
"We all really cared about the songs," Case says. "We thought it would be a shame if we didn't tour with them."
It's too early to say if a follow-up to case/lang/veirs will happen.
"The only reason I wouldn't is because we couldn't get together, not because I don't think it wouldn't come out great," Case says. "I love working with them. I've learned more working with them than I could have learned doing anything else."