Mathieu Lafontaine doesn’t roll his “R”s in real life. Onstage, as Claude Cobra, he becomes the joker that makes people laugh, but without becoming a joke himself. “Hey! Is it cold? Are you comfortable in your cotton fleece jacket?” is a question that many people have asked friends, but it is above all an earworm. Bleu Jeans Bleu’s « Coton ouaté » (“Cotton Fleece”) hit song is a catchy and brilliant piece of work in its own right; but timing also had something to do with its runaway success.
The release of their Perfecto album in late January of 2019 consolidated the star status of a four-member band that was already going strong. “It was as if the third album was confirming that this is no joke,” says singer-songwriter Mathieu Lafontaine.
The video announcing the release of the “Coton ouaté” single, which came out at the end of April, had a snowball effect. The chorus – a perfect fit for a spring that kept refusing to happen – soon captured the imagination of Quebecers who were eager to be walking around in shorts. “It would be pretentious of us to say that we’d written a verse that held such potential,” says Lafontaine. “If we hadn’t had the video with the choreography, and if the spring weather had been warmer, it probably wouldn’t have worked.”
According to the singer, there’s now a “Coton ouaté challenge” on social media relating to the song’s choreography; schools have picked the song for their year-end talent shows; and the words “Coton ouaté” are increasingly being associated with the song. “We’re really hoping that this becomes a recurring joke, where you ask someone ‘Is it cold?’ and everyone answers, ‘Are you all right with just a cotton fleece jacket?’ We really would like this to become a catch-phrase, like the ‘Ma vie c’est de la marde’ (“My life is shit’) line from the Lisa LeBlanc song.”
“Making funny music that’s going to be considered to be real music takes a lot of hard work.” – Mathieu Lafontaine of Bleu Jeans Bleu
The Bleu Jeans Bleu guys are not a bunch of comedians turning to music. “There’s comedy on a soundtrack, and there’s music that happens to make people laugh,” says Lafontaine. “We really try to make sure we always fit in the music category.” While the musicians are quite flattered to be compared to Les Trois Accords, they insist that they never sought to imitate them. “Our two projects show similarities, but we don’t really limit ourselves to a music style in our band. Les Trois Accords have been a pop-rock band from the start. As for us, we can go anywhere from funk, to jazz, to rap.”
The group’s humourous songs are also hits with children, “who don’t mind listening to the same song 20 times in a row,” Lafontaine explains. “This causes earworms to jump from children to parents, who may decide to get the album just so that they won’t have to listen only to ‘J’ai mangé trop de patates frites’ (‘I Ate Too Many French Fries’) over and over again. “
The enjoyment is contagious onstage, but the true stars are the musical arrangements. “It’s theatre, but the way things are phrased isn’t hilarious if you’re not paying attention. or if you don’t speak French,” says Lafontaine. “‘Petit Pudding’ (released on Franchement wow in 2016) is a somewhat sad song, if you don’t realize that we’re talking about a pudding. The emphasis is always on the music, even if that is coming way out from left field.”
The fact that something’s humourous doesn’t mean it was written on a napkin. There’s hard work behind each listener’s smile. “Making funny music that’s going to be considered to be real music takes a lot of hard work,” says Lafontaine, the only band member without any formal musical training. As he’s wont to brag, “I’m the band’s least educated member. This allows me to do anything I like, because I have the freedom of innocence. I don’t deprive myself from doing things just because they’re not theoretically ‘correct.’” But the singer remains realistic, and recognizes that the naiveté that he uses so well would be almost impossible if his band weren’t as musically competent as it is.
The joy of listening to the Bleus has (happily) infected everybody in Québec, without any need for the commercial radio airplay, which is a cause for some pride amongst the bandmembers. “Word of mouth seems to have done the job,” the band’s leader claims. “A woman I know told me that an elderly lady living upstairs from her nearly missed a postal delivery one day because of us. She said she heard her say, ‘I was listening to the Bleu Jeans Bleu, and I didn’t hear you’ to the delivery man.
“You have to find satisfaction, while remaining hungry all the time,” says the singer, who wants to appreciate this momentum to the fullest extent possible. “Nothing can be taken for granted, and we’re going to do all it takes to keep the fun going and to renew our entertainment offering.”
That offering will hit the road this summer. The tour schedule is already “juicy,” and more shows keep getting added. Get out there! And get your cotton fleece jackets out… you never know.