At the time of our meeting, on a lovely April day, Ariane Moffatt admits to suffering a bout of post-partum depression. It’s got nothing to do with her two-year-old twins, Paul and Henri, who were carried by her partner Florence and have greatly inspired the songs on her latest album. Ariane is mourning the creative cycle that led up to the launch of 22h22. “Most of the promo’s done now, and after the initial buzz, the media has already moved on to covering something else,” she says with a smile.

One could say the same thing about Moffat, an artist whom anyone would be hard-pressed to accuse of remaining in the same spot for too long. To her, every new album is a chance to explore new ground, to share with new musicians, and 22h22 is no exception. She even switched record companies for the occasion, moving from Audiogram to Simone Records.

“Deciding to not put my songs on Spotify doesn’t really make much difference, but it gives me an opportunity to explain what’s going on for us.”

But if Moffat, by her own admission, can be fairly fickle, she still relies on a few loyal friends. That’s how it is with old pal Jean-Phi Goncalves – who she met when he was the drummer in Plaster and Beast – who co-produced 22h22. “He’s a special kind of collaborator, because he’s also my best friend,” explains Moffat. “Energy flows naturally between us; we don’t need to say a word to understand each other. Obviously, as a producer, he contributed greatly to the sound. But I went to him with an almost finished album, as I tend to think about everything at once: the melody, the song, the arrangement.”

For this record, Moffat laid down a few ground rules: no guitars, lots of synths, all the while ensuring that it didn’t sound like all those super-trendy New Wave revival acts. Goncalves understood the vibe and got right into reconciling extremes, amplifying the catchy pop of “Debout” or “Miami” (a gem which, strangely, almost didn’t make it onto the album), or opting for minimalism on sadder songs like “Domenico,” an homage to a well-known homeless resident of Montréal’s Mile-End neighbourhood.

What Goncalves brings to Moffat’s music, Tristan Malavoy Racine  brings to her lyrics. The poet and journalist is one of her closer friends, whose advice she heeds. “He’s my first reader; he does to my lyrics exactly what an editor does for a novelist,” she explains. “Of course, he’s open to poetry, but he’s also a great listener. We talk a lot, with no ego involvement, and he helps me to make personal things accessible.”

Since the album launch, she’s spoken at length about the meaning of 22h22, whose elegant symmetry matches that of her twin sons. Beyond its aesthetic qualities, the titular time was the expression of a transition between two states. When her sons were finally falling asleep, the mother in her gave way to the artist. This seems too good to be true; but…  “No, no, it’s all true, I didn’t make this up,” she insists. “I was seeing those numbers everywhere when I started working on the record. After, of course, I asked myself if I wasn’t talking about it a little too much, if it wasn’t risky to insist on a concept that might ultimately overshadow the songs on the album. But I take responsibility for it and I intentionally chose the title track as the album’s opener: it’s kind of like the decoder ring that allows you to understand the rest of the album.”

There’s no denying that on this album, Moffat lets us into her inner world more than ever before. On “Matelots & frères,” samples of her sons’ voices, and the cry for help of “Tireurs fous,” it’s Moffat the mom who’s at the forefront; whereas on songs such as “Les Deux Cheminées,” a veritable declaration of love for a girlfriend, she brings forth the inner lover.

But no matter where Moffat decides to go, she can count on the fact that her fans will go with her. Several times during the interview, she mentions, almost in disbelief, the young woman she was at the launch of Aquanaute in 2002 and, above all, the incredible journey she’s made since then. She seems to have come to terms with her pop-star status, and doesn’t hesitate to use her fame to address important issues, whether it be gay parenting or music industry changes.

“I don’t think I’ve become a militant, but I think it’s important to talk about these things when you have the opportunity to be heard, like I do,” she explains. “Deciding to not put my songs on Spotify doesn’t really make much difference, but it helps me to explain what’s going on for us. Those who are making the big bucks nowadays are paying us peanuts and are, unfortunately, not re-investing anything in artists’ careers.”

Two heads are better than one. That’s the mandate of the composing team Asher & Skratt (Asher Lenz and Stephen Skratt), and it’s served them well. “With the pressure we’re under, deadlines-wise and creatively, having two sets of shoulders to carry that load is important,” says Lenz. Skratt concurs, explaining, “ultimately the music will be better, with two heads working on it.”

Asher & Skratt have been enjoying great success in writing music for diverse clients in the film, television and advertising world. They’ve worked together for 15 years, first at Lenz Entertainment and, for the past four years, as Asher & Skratt. Their positive personal and creative chemistry has remained intact, Skratt affirms: “We spend so much time in a room together, yet amazingly we’ve never really had a flare-up where someone storms out.” Lenz explains. “There’s a synergy between our two sensibilities, with our backgrounds complementing each other.”

“There’s a synergy between our two sensibilities, with our backgrounds complementing each other.” – Asher Lenz

Asher is the son of Jack Lenz – a multiple SOCAN Award-winning, veteran film and TV composer, and a writer/producer of songs for many high-profile artists. A song he and Asher wrote, “Go Where Loves Go,” was recorded by Andrea Bocelli, for example.

After studying music composition and piano performance at the Interlochen academy and jazz composition in New York City, Asher began his career at his father’s company, working his way up the ranks. Skratt studied drums at Humber College, then joined Lenz Entertainment, working on shows like Due South. Lenz notes that “as a team, early on, we cut our teeth on the grind of scoring a one-hour dramatic series, Sue Thomas FBEye, every week.”

The duo set up their own company four years ago to, says Skratt, “take some ownership of our futures.” High-profile work has come their way ever since. One recent career challenge was re-writing the opening theme of Inspector Gadget. Skratt notes, “the original, by Shuki Levy, is the greatest cartoon theme ever written.” The team is now scoring Ever After High, Mattel’s animated, web-based series (and impending feature film).

“We’re very lucky to be able to work in so many genres,” says Skratt. “They all make you a better composer. Why wouldn’t you want to do some crazy cartoon thing, then switch to Hyena Road, the new Paul Gross film, which we can write some serious and beautiful music for.”

They enjoy working together physically, too. “For many years, we worked with just one computer and one set of gear,” says Lenz. “We got so busy we had to get a second system, so now we run two shifts in parallel. We edit each other’s work, so it’s still a real collaboration.”

Success demands a varied set of skills, Skratt explains. “You can’t be precious about your work,” he says, “as you’re at the whim of the director and client. You have to help tell and sell jokes, especially in animation. You have to know your software and update it regularly. You also need to intelligently discuss films with guys like Paul Gross and Larry Weinstein of Rhombus. Many different tools are required.”

Selected Credits: Escape from Tehran (film), Hyena Road (film), Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (TV movie: their score won a 2013 Canadian Screen Award), Sue Thomas, FBEye (TV), Doc (TV) Ever After High (web series) Detentionaire (TV), Inspector Gadget (TV)
SOCAN Members since 2002 (Asher), 2000 (Skratt)

Imagine getting vocal coaching from a four-time JUNO Award winner, or guitar tips from a veteran session player who’s shared the stage with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Roger Daltrey and Rod Stewart. Join the League of Rock and you just might experience that – and maybe more.

From a burned-out lawyer, looking for an outlet to blow off steam, banging the drums, to a management consultant looking to revive his childhood dreams of playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band, these are just a couple of the success stories of this adult, 10-week, join-a-band professional program.

“This is an authentic experience. You’re in a band. You’re rehearsing. You’re performing live three times.” – Terry Moshenberg

League of Rock founder Terry Moshenberg went from selling his software company to an epiphany for a new business idea, which is how the league was born.

“When your heart and mind are open, shit happens,” says Moshenberg, explaining how the timing was right nine years ago, when he came up with the idea. “I saw fundamental changes that were illuminating,” he says. “One: guys my age were pulling out their axes again. I started to see pockets around the city… Facebook mentions of guys in their fifties getting back to jamming again. I even pulled out my guitar and started playing again.

“At the same time, I noticed the music industry was changing,” he adds. “Musicians were an untapped resource, not on tour, not doing the same things as they used to do, and they were looking for work… hence, the League of Rock was born.”

In nine years, more than 3,000 people have completed the program. The league’s added benefit is that participants network like crazy with the professional musicians who coach them. The League of Rock also organizes corporate team-building events and company Rock Leagues. And, for the past four years, the big four consultancy firms (Deloitte, KPMG, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, and Ernst & Young) have held a Battle of the Bands, with proceeds going to the United Way. Besides Toronto, there are chapters in Ottawa, Montreal and New York – and discussions are in the works to expand to other cities, including Vancouver and Austin, Texas.

If you can play three chords, keep time, or sing, you can join the League of Rock. Imagine knocking another item off your bucket list. On draft night, you’re enlisted in a band with four other strangers. Then, over the course of 10 weeks, you learn a few songs, and get coached by professional musicians. At the end of the session, your band performs live and records a one-song demo in one of the top studios in your city.  In Toronto, the sessions wrap up with a weekend of recording at Phase One Studios – whose past clients include Rush, Keith Richards, Alice Cooper and Bob Dylan.

“You’ve heard the cliché that the creative classes are running our economy now,” says Moshenberg. “That’s what we’ve harnessed, but we bring a cool factor to the experience. It’s not tacky, like ‘Be a rock star for a day and shake Gene Simmons’ hand.’ This is an authentic experience. You’re in a band. You’re rehearsing. You’re performing live three times… You really get a taste of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle without leaving your family and going on the road. People are starving for this. They quashed their creative outlet when they had kids and the guitar went away for 10 years, until their wife finally said ‘Get out and go do something.’”

To learn more about the League of Rock, you can watch a documentary about it here.