Paraphrasing the title of their third album launched in 2008, Caïman Fu is a strange animal. Over the last four years, everything seemed to indicate that Isabelle Blais’ band would probably never be back on our radars. As a matter of fact, even the band members weren’t entirely sure they wanted to keep feeding the crocodilian after three albums (Homonyme, 2003, Les Charmes du quotidien, 2005 et Drôle d’animal, 2008). An yet, last fall, Caïman Fu underwent a profound mutation and launched À des milles, their fourth opus that marked the beginning of a new era.

In Isabelle Blais’ on words: “Following the break I had to take after giving birth to my child came time to take stock. One of our guitarists had personal issues, we gave him an ultimatum and he couldn’t meet it, so he had to leave… We questionned our motives for making music together. Ultimately, we forged on as a trio, in an appartment, in a very intimate and stripped down way, devoid of the energy of rock and roll. Nedless to say, we experienced moments of grace! ”

For a year and a half, practicing two to three times a week, Isabelle, guitarist Nicolas Grimard, drummer Mathieu Massicotte and newly recruited bass player Dominic Laroche used their tried and true creative process – improv, trial and error, writing, rewriting, etc. – until they emerged from that appartment with almost two dozen new songs. “We experienced a rebirth, a second wind,” remembers Isabelle. “Is many ways, this album is an assessment album, and I’m really happy with the final result.”

 

In more ways than one, À des milles is the perfect example of Caïman Fu’s evolution and transformation through the years, whether it’s Isabelle’s lyrics, which are sadder and even at times dark, or the more dreamy atmosphere and energy level created by the rest of the band and polished in the studio by renowned producer Carl Bastien. “There’s no doubt that our initial approach, which was much more relaxed, pared-down and improv-based, had a great impact on the final result, confides Isabelle. Playing as a trio, not very loudly in an appartment, with a computer naturally led us to a more relaxed and ethereal atmosphere. It also changed the way I sing, if you cpompare it to when we rehearsed in an actual rehearsal studio where everything is amplified and I needed to scream to be heard.”

“It’s obvious I channled the band’s energy when I wrote. But to me, writingis always quite a solitary endeavor. I wrote the lyrics for this album either isolated in a cabin in the woods or at my place, in the city. But this time around, I was less reserved. Before, I was very hesistant to include stuff about my private life, but on this album, I voluntarily let myself be inspired by what was going on in my life. ‘Notre monument’, for example, is a song wirtten about my break-up, but written before it happened… It is me looking at something I thought indestructible but that was whithering away. There is ‘Une étoile’, which I wrote about suicide after a few of my friends chose that solutions over the last few years. ‘Avaler du gravier’ is about a great friendship disappointment that I had a hard time getting over… There is only one song related to my son, though, and that’s ‘Ma maison, c’est toi’. It started out being about absolute love, but then I realized that my absolute love will only ever be my son… I guess it’s what growing older is about; you prefer hearing about real stuff, but without being anecdotal. Songs that are about anecdotes and filled with specific details rarely interest me.”

 

Music remains at the heart of Isabelle Blais’ artistic endeavor’s, even though her acting carrer on stage and on TV is still going on strong: “Music will never stop for me, it’s fundamental for me. The minute I have the slightest free space in my mind, I think about music. It never goes away. But on the other hand, it’s harder because it’s creation, so you need to take it upon yourself. You can’t hide, it’s not somebody else’s words that you are enacting. It’s me, they’re my words, my interpretation, there’s no safety net, I’m completely exposed! It’s very dizzying, but also exhilarating…”

This coming summer, Caïman Fu will hit the festivals’ circuit and will also appear at all three Francofolies: Montréal, Spa and La Rochelle. And to think that it almost ended…

 


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If you think Nova Scotia is all maritime songwriters and indie-rock outfits, think again. Gypsophilia are a Halifax-based seven-piece collective that plays the wild swing of gypsy jazz, with a modern twist. Forming in 2004 as a Django Reinhardt tribute act, they soon began writing material and adding some klezmer, funk and rock to the mix.

“It’s never been an explicit intention to bridge those gaps,” says guitarist/bandleader and singer-songwriter Ross Burns. “It has always just happened organically… That means we’ve been able to reach ‘indie’ fans, as well as jazz fans, folks who already like instrumental music, and those who’ve never heard anything like this in their lives!”

And fans have been taking notice, with their live show gaining attention, and their third and latest album Constellation winning a 2013 East Coast Music Award (their third), for World Music Album of the Year. This summer marks their biggest tour ever, taking their new 7” release (entitled Horska) on the road, to shows and festivals across Canada and the U.S.


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Born to a Paraguayan father and Mexican mother, Daniel Russo Garrido (aka Boogat) got the songwriting bug when he listened to the seminal album “Prose Combat” by French rapper MC Solaar. He released his first album, Tristes et belles histoires, in 2004. His second, more self-assured, album, Patte de salamandre, was released in 2006, followed by a limited edition remix album – Rmx Vol. 1 – in 2008. After those three hip-hop albums in French, he launched the utterly eclectic El Dorado Sunset in February 2013, an album entirely in Spanish, save for one collaboration with Radio Radio entitled “Wow”. As it turned out, this had become necessary for this old schooler of Montréal’s hip hop scene.

“I was in-between two chairs. My music was too intellectual for the hip hop clique and too rap for the singer-songwriter crowd. I was constantly miscategorised. It was a problem for concert booking, notably, it was quite annoying and didn’t work so well. Around 2007, I started playing with salsa and rock bands that required me to rap in Spanish. From that point on, I never had to tell people to throw their hands up in the air. They danced wholeheartedly and were happy to be there and have a good time. This changed allowed me to be attracted to other scenes et meet new people. It became obvious that I had to pursue this avenue,” says the talkative 33 year old singer-songwriter and producer.

The result is a cascade of warm and lascivious rhythms that borrow as much from urban and electronic music as they do from dancehall and Latino music; a natural, organic sound with powerful melodies and bold arrangements. In other words, it’s a very modern and ambitious offering that dares you not to move. Produced in collaboration with Ghislain Poirier, Boogat says his friend’s help was invaluable. “He’s taught me to test-run my material live before I record it. Basically all the tracks on the album were played before à crowd before I recorded them in the studio. I wanted to see people’s reactions, and it helped me a lot. Poirier really opened my eyes to a lot of stuff and the result is explosive. For music aficionados, this album is one great big messy affair! It’s filled with stuff that shouldn’t go together but were introduced to each other nonetheless. In other words, it’s like life.”

Subtitled “el gran baile de las identidades” (the grand ball of identities), the album is a celebration of cultures, the Latina culture, but also the Québécois culture. For Daniel, language cannot be a hurdle to music. He admits to not listening much to the francophone scene, but he thinks this is because that scene is facing a major problem. “When I did music in French, all I was thinking of was making it on commercial radios and in France; those were my only options. Nowadays, thinking that language is a hindrance to the free circulation of art is a big mistake. It is hard to make it in New York because the music there is of unbelievably high quality and, let’s be honest, a lot of the music on the francophone scene is musically very uninteresting. It’s a music that does not sound “now”. We must play on the level of great international productions; I’m sure one day we can make it. What we need for this to happen is a francophone band that will make it big outside of the Francophonie and open people’s eyes.”

Despite the incredibly high number of artists on the scene and a fledgling music industry, the young man holds his head high; no way he’s going to feel sorry for himself. He says: “The people complaining about the sad state of the music industry are mostly people from the the old school, but that type of nostalgia does nothing for me. I believe the musicians have the power, nowadays. I’ve enjoyed a flourishing career ever since people started saying the music industry is ailing. The world is changing, evolving. There’s nothing we can do about it. We need to adapt. No one can make it anymore if they are not entirely committed to their career. It’s harder and harder to become popular and fill venues with just one good song. If you hope to make it as a musician, you had better be exceptionally good at it! The people who attend concerts know their music. They know right away if you’re good or not. In fact, we’re back to the point where we were before music started being recorded. It’s all back to the stage, the performance and artistry, now.”

Even though he has not given up on exporting his sound abroad, the artist focuses mainly on Québec. After shooting to videos for the songs “Eres Hecha para Mi” and “Único”, Boogat is planning a quick trip to Europe in the fall and hopes to launch his album in territories outside Canada. For him, however, it is out of the question to think according to specific markets. “When creating art, one should not think about things like that. If what you have to offer is interesting here, it will be elsewhere, too. I like to focus on one thing at a time; not rush into anything. It really irritates me when I hear people say Québec is not a cool province; it is magnificent and unique! Any artist only needs to present their material in an interesting fashion, and people will be on board!”


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