Balfour is a place that is so worth going to that you will put yourself through hell to get there. Every muscle you flex will be exhausted, and when you are forced to leave, your only exit is to paddle up the labyrinthian creek that brought you. Pushing against the current, you are sure the creek is now shallower and narrower than it was before—the bends more acute. The dams have been built up since morning, and with the sweltering afternoon heat, the sun has brought the flies. When finally you reach the portage to the other lake, your dead-weight motor feels like lead, and paddling has reduced your arms to reeds. You nevertheless carry your gear and your canoe across the root covered distance to the other lake. Here, finally, you can put the weight of the motor to use. But as the wake goes backwards toward the path to Balfour, you wonder if there is any chance that you could do the same.
Mark Fain writes songs that haunt. Heavy on hooks, both emotional and melodic, his songs take root in your head with a persistence that means, on any given day, you may find yourself humming the chorus of “Trees,” the diapasons of “June,” or the soothing climax of “Stormy Country”—three of the standout tracks from Gun Lake’s debut album, Balfour.
Gun Lake was formed in 2009 as an outlet for songs Fain had composed after his life was shocked into a new trajectory. Since playing their first show in February of 2010, the band has set themselves apart as one of the most arresting acts in the flourishing folk scene of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Gun Lake has shared the stage with such notable acts as The Daredevil Christopher Wright, Chris Bathgate, Roadside Graves, 4 On The Floor, Gold Motel, Timothy Monger, and more.
Influenced by the Brit-rock he grew up on, as well as his love of folk music, Fain’s brand of evocative folk-pop is fleshed out with Ryan O’Reilly’s electric guitar work, skillful drumming by Max Monson, and bass from Lightning Love’s Ben Collins. While Fain’s voice is at the forefront, all other members lend their voices for awe-inspiring harmony.
Balfour, recorded with the prolific Jim Roll at Ann Arbor’s Backseat Studios, saw it’s release on March 24th, 2011. Taking it’s name from an Ontarian lake to which it is as difficult to journey as it is is exquisitely beautiful, Balfour documents the dissolution of a relationship with a raw intensity not unlike that which has been exhibited by Okkervil River on Black Sheep Boy and Bon Iver on For Emma. Fain, whose songs came to fruition out of the emotional spectrum of his loss, tackles matters of the heart with ferocity and brutal honesty—the results of which will strike a chord with anyone who has ever lost out on love.
“There’s an operatic quality to Fain’s voice that divinely complements his songwriting and lyricism. He uses wordplay elegantly, his voice swelling to set the tone.” - Abby Holmes, Radio Free Chicago
“Regal dashes of breezy acoustic guitars and piano chimes present a delicate punch, so evocative, of the warming spring or the chilling autumn, with a voice that slides in nicely along those poignant, mid-to-high, wispy vocalists folk, from Drake to Buckley.” - Jeff Milo, Deep Cutz
“no note or phrase seems out of place. Gun Lake does an impressive job of showing what they’re made of, all the while keeping the collection grounded as it doesn’t overpower or take off more than it should.” - Mostly Midwest
“...A masterpiece.” - Sounds That Matter