Everything is hunky-dory for AUTOMAT: gigs are being booked by the dozen and their audience is growing ever larger. In the wake of the release of Pandora, their second album, the four young lads couldn’t be happier! Singer and author Mathieu Bouchard feels good: “We’re really happy with the final result! We’re four guys who are happy together. Everything is so simple when we’re playing.”

And that’s also the case for the writing of AUTOMAT’s songs. When the guys go to their Québec City studio, songs just flow out effortlessly. “Some of them were born without any kind of preparation, right there during a recording session,” Mathieu explains. “That was the case for our first single, Mea Culpa, which was written in an hour! And it’s one of our favourites on Pandora.”

As Bouchard explains, that’s made possible thanks to the excellent camaraderie between all of the band members — which is fertile ground for creativity. “A lot of times, everything just comes out at once,” he says. “Melodies, music and lyrics. I start by throwing words out there that sound good with the music the guys are playing, and it all gets fine-tuned as we work on the pieces.” But he’s quick to point out that not all of their songs come out so easily. Some, such as Lumière, which opens the album, were tested, arranged, and transformed before they were recorded under the direction of producer and composer Connor Seidel.

It should be noted that the AUTOMAT guys are not beginners at this game. They’ve been playing for nearly 15 years and have over a thousand concerts on their track record. “We’Re really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. Initially, we were more of a punk rock band, but over time, we evolved, but kept the positive energy that comes to us naturally when we are together. When we started, we played in shopping malls, and now we unite all the members of any given family during our shows on the summer festival circuit.”

The influence of their new producer, who is younger than the band members are more attuned to more indie bands also helped refocus things. “Connor took us somewhere else while fully respecting who we are as a band. It was a natural evolution that we felt on Pandora, a deep evolution.” Seidel is the man behind Evermoor Audio, a place where the talent of Idie & the Mirrors, Mathieu Holubowski, Nova, Palm City and Stefanie Parnell, to name but a few, emerged from.

AutomatWhen one compares AUTOMAT’s new material with their older songs, such as Le Destin, one is struck by the slightly less festive and slightly more introspective vibe that inhabit the compositions of Mathieu Bouchard and his partners in crime, which is not to say that pop hooks have been entirely evacuated. “I wouldn’t say it’s a question of maturity. I think it has more to do with the fact that we worked with a producer that pushed us to step out of our comfort zone. We want to keep an open mind and collaborate with different people in the future.”

Apart from Bouchard who sings and plays guitars, the band is composed of Samuel Paquin on guitars, Maxime Chouinard on bass and Dave Vézina on drums. They’re all high-school friends who never lost touch with each other. After a few years in a band named Pressure, Bouchard turned to Francophone pop and gathered his friends in the AUTOMAT project. Right from the release of their first four-track EP, they started doing the festival circuit, notably Envol et Macadam and the Festivent, and before long, radios (NRJ and CKOI, notably) started playing their single Le jour se lève. Their energy came through in all its might on their first big hit, Parfait, which came out in 2012 and was selected by the Canadian Olympic Committee for the 2012 London Olympics.

But their ultimate goal is conquering Europe. “That would definitely be our Stanley Cup!” they’ve said in a 2011 interview with Québec City’s Le Soleil daily newspaper. But in the meantime, AUTOMAT has invited their fans to Iceland where they filmed the magnificent video for “Mea Culpa.” The video has attracted a lot of attention thanks to its aesthetics while the song itself has topped the Correspondants charts in Québec (just as the previous single, Mémoire) and was also included in iTunes’s “Hot Tracks” in December 2016, “the only Francophone song on that list!” as the band proudly claimed on its Facebook page.

See AUTOMAT receive two SOCAN No. 1 Song Awards on Salut Bonjour.


The exhibit Rock ‘n’ Roll Icons – Photographs by Patrick Harbron is currently on view at Albany Institute of History and Art, through February 12, 2017. The images, both performance and portrait, are of mainstream rock ‘n’ roll artists captured on film by the longtime music-industry photographer between 1976 to1992, and in 2001. The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. published a portfolio of images from the exhibit on November 16, 2016. Here, we similarly present a selection of his photos of Canadian rock ‘n’ roll icons , with his stories about working with each of them.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen
Photographed on the I’m Your Man tour, at Toronto’s Massey Hall, on Nov. 9, 1988
The first time I met Leonard Cohen was the summer of 1973. I was writing a cover story about Cohen and his new play, Sisters of Mercy, for Beetle Magazine. Based on his words and music, it opened at the George Bernard Shaw Theatre in Niagara-on-The-Lake. We spent the afternoon chatting about his music and fame, performing and what it meant to be successful. I wasn’t a photographer then. It would be 15 years before I saw him again when I photographed his concert at Massey Hall. A lot of time had passed and I hadn’t followed his career closely but seeing him again, engaging his audience, was a pleasure. When I interviewed him in 1973 he said he didn’t want to do many concerts, but as the years went on he came to embrace performing more, building a new and larger audience. His concerts went from something sporadic to treasured events.

kd lang

kd lang
Photographed at Harbron Studio, in Toronto, in February 1987
One of my favorite sessions was with kd lang. The entire day prior to the shoot was chaos, missed connections and bad weather. I was stuck in a cab on my way to the Newark airport in the middle of a nasty winter storm. I made it just in time to watch the airline attendant close the gate and my flight to Buffalo. I was to meet kd and my staff in Toronto for a mid-afternoon shoot, but it didn’t look like I was going to make it. After disembarking in Buffalo, I booked the last rental car and fish-tailed out of the airport to the QEW and home. I arrived in the early evening and the snow had stopped. I went to the empty studio to drop my stuff and headed downstairs to the Montreal Bistro. Sitting at the bar was kd and my studio crew. The following shoot was one of the best sessions I’ve ever had. kd was full of energy and fun as we developed ideas and shot one set-up after another, until two in the morning. Everybody was so focused and driven. It couldn’t have been planned to go as well as it did. There were so many images to edit, it was hard to make final selections for the Canadian Musician cover story. The image here illustrates her interpretation of my request to impersonate a musical note.


Photographed on the “Drive ‘Til You Die” tour (supporting the Farewell to Kings album), at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, on Dec. 29, 1977
Rush, one of Canada’s biggest rock exports, might have never made it without the help of Donna Halper at Cleveland’s WMMS. When she added the band’s single “Working Man” to the playlist it met with a huge response and opened doors that never closed.

In the summer of 1977 I wrote and photographed an article, for the Globe and Mail reviewing Farewell to Kings. At the time I was conflicted about whether to continue as a writer or become a photographer; when the Globe ran the piece with a huge photo, the decision was made. Toronto is our mutual hometown, and I met Rush after they recorded their first album. When I began as a young photographer they were one of the first bands I worked with. When I took this photograph, the band was enjoying their place as headliners in large venues, where they’ve remained. Since their recording debut in 1974 Rush has released more than 30 albums, 10 compilations and numerous DVDs.

In February 1997 the three group members were appointed as officers of the Order of Canada, and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Buce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn
Photographed at the Canadian Musician office, in Toronto, in 1987
As a Torontonian and a longtime Bruce Cockburn fan, I always feel nostalgia about winter in my hometown when I see the cover of his second album, High Winds White Sky, and hear its “Happy Good Morning Blues.” The record was released in 1971, the year I started in the music business. I think of how important a sense of place is to a musician, and to those who appreciate them. It reminds us of where we come from and who we are. It’s not hard to understand why Bruce has been such a mainstay of Canadian music since the late ‘60s. The portrait here is from a session in 1987. I wanted to illustrate Bruce in a straightforward manner. I chose to photograph him without a guitar:  just the man, in a serious but open portrait. I photographed Bruce several times during the ‘80s, including the shoot for his second concert album, Bruce Cockburn Live, from 1990.

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell
Photographed during the “Conspiracy of Hope” Amnesty International Concert Tour, at the Giants Stadium show, in Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 15, 1986
Joni Mitchell’s history with large rock concerts are recalled as less than auspicious. She dealt with an unruly crowd at the Isle of Wight festival, missed Woodstock altogether to be available for the Dick Cavett Show, and performed a tense set during the “Conspiracy of Hope” Amnesty International Concert tour stop at Giants Stadium. This was the last time I photographed her and this selection is my favourite. There’s no other performer and songwriter with such a remarkable voice, wistful, insightful lyrics and unique use of polyphonic chords. Equally comfortable with folk and jazz, Joni created a most original collection of songs. My first opportunity to photograph her was in 1983, during the Wild Things Run Fast tour, and then at the Amnesty concert, where she made an unscheduled appearance before headliners U2 and The Police. This photograph of Joni reminds me of her early roots; she seems transcendent.

Kim Mitchell, Pye Dubois

Kim Mitchell and Pye Dubois of Max Webster
Photographed on Grandview Avenue in Toronto, in March 1978
This is one of my early assignments, for Roxy – a short-lived Toronto publication, and one of the first magazines I worked with in the late ‘70s. Among the artists I photographed for them were The Tubes, Peter Frampton, Bob Marley, Garland Jefferies and, in this shoot, the guy from Max Webster with his lyricist, Pye Dubois. Max was a full-on rock ‘n’ roll band with a satirical, even cynical point of view. Their album Mutiny Up My Sleeve was released in April 1978. There’s usually some give-and-take between a behind-the-scenes co-writer and a performing partner in the spotlight. With this in mind, I set out to illustrate their relationship while showing their evident bond. With tongue in cheek, we dragged the couch to the street, our de facto studio. The playfulness in the photo became a trademark for my portraiture. I shot everyone in the band but keyboard player Terry Watkinson, who was away that day. When it was time to go, the van pulled up, Kim took the wheel, posed for another shot in his mirrored shades, and drove the band to that night’s gig.

Rock 'n' Roll Icons

Dear CriminalsInstead of seeing music as an end in itself, Dear Criminals see it instead as a starting point. By effortlessly transcending art forms, Montréal’s electro-folk trio is following its own course and accumulating major projects, the most recent being scoring the movie Nelly.

When we reach the members for this interview, they’re on the road from Rouen to Vendôme, in northwestern France. They’ve just finished a seven-night run of the stage play Les Lettres d’amour, which they scored, and now the three amigos are embarking on a mini-tour that’ll take them to such unusual venues as a chapel, a movie theatre, a lycée (high school) and an old brothel.

“For real, though, it truly is completely different from one night to the next,” says singer and multi-instrumentalist Frannie Holder. “The real challenge is adapting to each environment.”

Band member Charles Lavoie continues: “Our songs are not designed to make people groove in a bar. On the contrary, they’re quite well-suited to being played outside of a conventional setting. I think we, as individuals, are even an incarnation of that peculiarity, because we’re constantly stepping outside of the music world.”

Formed in 2013, Dear Criminals was born of a desire to do things differently. All three members are involved in various musical projects, most notably Random Recipe and b.e.t.a.l.o.v.e.r.s, and all three wanted to go outside of the typical music industry cycle of launching a record and then touring in support of it. “We wanted to do things our way,” says Vincent Legault, a jack-of-all-trades musician. “We decided on a more pragmatic approach and wondered how we could survive in the music world without having to sign with a record label. It’s from that point that opportunities to express ourselves through other media started happening.”

The catalyst of the whole adventure was no doubt their participation in the OFFTA live art festival in 2014. In the wake of the critical success of the their second EP, Crave, Dear Criminals were invited by actress and stage director Monia Chokri to join her for the creation of Foire agricole, a show that saw the band cover, in its unique, electro-minimalist way, the hits of female pop icons like Britney Spears and Mitsou.

So, on top of introducing the band to Montréal’s theatre scene, the event – whose backdrop was the commodification or women – allowed the band to embark on a deeper reflection on the scope of their art. “It was the first time that we talked so profoundly of the meaning behind our artistic objective. Those questions have become indispensable to what we do, now,” says Lavoie.

As a matter of fact, there were many discussions leading to the creation of the Nelly record. Inspired by Anne Émond’s most recent film, itself inspired by the life of writer Nelly Arcan, the EP required several months of reflection and creation. “We felt that the dark, erotic and fragile side of our music was very close to Nelly Arcan’s writing. So when we saw in the papers that Anne was working on a movie about Nelly, we called her up to let her know we were interested,” Holder recalls. “She quickly accepted and told us she didn’t want a conventional movie soundtrack. We then dove into Nelly’s body of work with an analytical eye, seeking something universal. During the process, we realized that the universe we were creating was so rich, we could re-appropriate it.”

Thus, the band’s seventh EP includes re-worked versions of the songs and themes one can hear in the movie, and it stirs a stark emotional contrast, with its muted textures and chilling atmospheres. “We gave ourselves a lot of leeway for this album,” says Lavoie. “It was unavoidable, because of the very nature of Nelly’s personality and body of work.”

The band’s projects are as plentiful as they are diverse, and the trio’s ability to write and compose quickly ensures its stability. Not counting the aforementioned projects, Dear Criminals released two EPs in 2016, on top of composing the score for the TV series Fatale-Station as well as the contemporary dance recital Things Are Leaving Quietly, In Silence, “We just didn’t have the luxury of screwing up!” says Frannie Holder when asked what the band’s secret is for such an intense production schedule. “Luckily, there are three of us, so there’s always one of us who can take the lead.”

Nelly (movie)Their next challenge: a project involving the Académie de l’Opéra de Paris in 2018. As a matter of fact, the musicians took advantage of the French excursion to start brainstorming with stage director Marie-Eve Signeyrole. “It’s a show that looks at eroticism in Generation Y. There’s still a lot of stuff to clarify, but we know we will adapt baroque pieces, among other things,” Lavoie reveals.

Other than that, the next few months will allow the band to catch its breath a little. “We all can’t wait to sit down and think about our future. It’ll feel good to just touch base,” admits Legault. “Right now, I feel we’ve neglected Dear Criminals as a band and focused a little too much on Dear Criminals, the company. What’s happening to us is super-cool, but we can’t wait to start composing from scratch again – just for the fun of it.”