Doing the Canadian Thing
Talking Weather, Travel and Bran Van with Misteur Valaire
By Aaron Binder
Up yours Toronto, make some room for Montreal and Sherbrooke. With the profile of Canadian music on the rise internationally we are fortunate enough to have a glut of great music coming out of our country. What about our pals to the East though? What’s up with them?
Montreal has traditionally been the cradle of art-centric music in Canada…that is until Toronto decided to become hipster in the middle of the 00’s and then it was all Broken Social Scene. What’s Montreal been up to since then? Creating pretty much the best jazz influenced electronic music in Canada.
Meet Misteur Valaire.
Meet them again.
And now make sure you listen to them. Collaborating with some of the greatest musical minds in Quebec, Bran Van and Gigi French to name two, these guys have managed to create a buzz unlike almost any other band on the continent. When they started out in 2007 their original goal was to have fun and play good music, just over one year later their debut album had been downloaded almost 50,000 times.
That’s what you get with Misteur Valaire, an unassuming group of guys that must be seen live to be believed, think a punk band on stage but trained in jazz and honed in electronic splendour. They’ve been on a war path this year with a high profile showcase opening for USS and winning a nomination for New Group of The Year at the 40th Juno Awards.
I sat down with Luis and had a chat about the most Canadian things possible; weather, travel and the difference between concert-goers in Europe compared to Canada. Make sure you add these guys to your must see list, it’s like Quebec exploded and the refugees are all awesome musicians.
Aaron: So how was the drive down from Montreal?
Luis: Not that bad, it’s getting bad. But the weather was good.
Aaron: I guess that’s the Canadian thing to do, talk about the weather before asking real questions. Anyway, welcome to Toronto! To the real questions. You guys do have an interesting sound, where does the background come from?
Luis: We all come from the same background, we all grew up together, we went to school together, we learned to play music together, of course we grew up playing jazz and we started as a jazz quintet. We had trumpet, saxophone, bass, drums and percussion and then we started adding some electro stuff like synthesisers and drum machines so that gave us the special sound. With this last album we had lots of collaborations and features that gave us the other influence going into hip-hop and to other things.
Aaron: So how does it feel having the new album out?
Luis: It’s great. It’s been out almost a year now and we toured and we love to play it live. I think you have to see it live to understand the project. It goes well, it was good to launch the project in 2007 with Friterday Night when we were just hitting Montreal, we’re from Sherbrooke, a little city. It was great, it went wild, we launched it on the internet and it was downloaded 45,000 times.
Aaron: I heard about that, it’s quite incredible.
Luis: We were pretty happy, it was free so it worked, the plan was to give it away free to play shows and it worked. After we launched Golden Bombay, it was pretty easy…people were waiting for it.
Aaron: That’s one of the questions I was going to ask you later, but let’s go there now, you guys had 45,000 downloads.
Luis: Yeah, a couple years, we’d love to have a lot more but for a band that came from nothing at all, we weren’t known at all, at the launch there were about 3 people in the house and 2 years after it worked out.
Aaron: And now you’re working with Bran Van!
Luis: Yeah! Yeah! I was listening to Bran Van, I wanted to work with James Di Salvio, he’s a really crazy guy. We met him just…I don’t remember how and we invited him to a show and it worked pretty well and he brought Liquid from Bran Van too and when we arrived in studio to record we just told ourselves we don’t have the choice, just come. It was so great; it was a great experience being in the studio with these guys.
Aaron: It’s interesting, when you look at the rest of Canada Bran Van is a one hit wonder, but in Quebec…
Luis: Yeah, it’s a one hit wonder but it’s still respected. I think James proved himself in other things; he did lots of music videos. He was a great producer and that’s where he’s well respected.
Aaron: Yeah, I’ve heard that. It’s incredible to me that they were most successful 10-15 years ago and now it seems like they’re passing on the torch to new musicians.
Luis: Yeah, they’re still doing albums and that’s totally normal but we’ve arrived with the young freshness and he’s backed us up on it. It was so good to hear the Di Salvio old school beat, we were so happy about it.
Aaron: When you look at your music, how have outside producers and musicians impacted your music?
Luis: We listen to so much music and so many kinds of music that it has an influence but we cannot turn it and say this guy, this guy, this guy, they influenced us. The jazz band influenced us a lot with the musical ideas and I think it’s important for us to have other projects because it gives us other ideas too.
Aaron: And that’s why you’re doing-
Luis: Qualite Motel. Qualite Motel…We wanted to play in small places, the bars that they could drink after the show but we could not bring Valaire into it because it’s too big and too loud. So we formed this band to play in little places and to play in friends houses, it’s a different project and it’s learned…we’ve learned another way to play together. Another form of communication together, we’re all around a little table, we’re not like all on different parts of the stage with our instruments. We like to play with other people too, we all have other projects when we have the time, we like to play with other musicians.
Aaron: That’s cool; Quebecoise music seems a lot more communal.
Luis: We always want to keep Valaire in the centre of this, Montreal is not a bad thing, we are not so many French people over there. There’s a lot and there’s lots of bars, when you do your bar tour you meet lots of people and you realize after a while that these people come back a lot to drink.
Aaron: There are only so many times you can play the same bars.
Luis: Yeah, exactly, I think that’s why we’re also trying to make all these other projects.
Aaron: Probably also why you’re going on tour across the ocean shortly.
Luis: Yeah, it’s the fourth time we go in France and Europe, but for the first time the album will only be on the internet and the official launch will be in France and Germany.
Aaron: Is touring Europe more vacation or work for you guys? It sounds like a vacation.
Luis: Oh, it’s not work. It’s work, yes, but it’s also a lot of fun. Touring in Europe is always such a pleasure, they welcome us like nobody. So there’s a lot of people over there, Canada’s big and there’s lots of space but not that many people. When you go to, for example France, you just cross a road for two hours and a half and you’re wondering where you’re going and then you’ve finished playing in front of 5000 people and you don’t know why. So it’s quite an interesting thing.
Aaron: How would you say the crowds in Canada respond compared to the crowds in say Paris?
Luis: In comparison to Montreal it’s pretty much the same, people come to the shows to see us but in the regions of Quebec and Canada and the regions of like France, I think in France and Europe people are very expressive. You can do a very calm song and you always have these guys that come on stage and just bounce and throw themselves into the crowd even if it’s a very slow song. We don’t have it in Canada and it’s not a bad point but that’s the main difference I think.
Aaron: We try to be a little more reserved I think.
Luis: Yeah, yeah, they want to express themselves as someone not just someone in the crowd.
Aaron: I think in Canada we write about it the next day, that’s how we remember it and connect in Toronto.
Luis: Yeah, you observe it and talk about it and then you come back.
Aaron: When you guys look forward, you’re probably writing for Mr. Valaire?
Luis: Yes, we’re touring a lot right now but we’re just about to launch the same album in Europe so we can’t wait to be back in the studio to put some new songs together. I think for us we’re going to tour the rest of the summer in Europe and Canada and America so I think next winter will be a good time to go back to the studio and pull together and hopefully write some good music.
Aaron: I guess you’ll be tired of sitting in a tight van for months on end.
Luis: Yeah, it’s pretty hard to come up with music when you’re on the road.
Aaron: A lot of musicians say that.
Luis: Yeah, it’s true.
Aaron: Some people claim they write all their music on the road though. So how does the music come together for you guys?
Luis: It’s really democratic, there’s two guys that bring more ideas first and then we just jam it and change all of it and it gives us ideas for other sections that we all compose together.
Aaron: So someone comes in with an idea and you free-form it?
Luis: Yeah, exactly. You can really focus on the elements and parts and you have a part and it goes into another and another and another and that’s just different ideas flowing from our different guys and our different ideas from all of us.
Aaron: Cool. One last question for you; what’s your favourite part of being a musician in Canada today?
Luis: In Canada today…I think as a band we have the ability to as a Canadian travel to Europe and the French people and we’re so close to the United States we collaborate with English people even if my English isn’t that good…we have the world around us and everything is possible. I think everybody in the world respects Canada and respects Canadians; it’s such a musical country that we get respect everywhere.
Aaron: Awesome, thanks for talking.
Luis: Thank you.