Cargo Culte is basically the result of a chance meeting between rapper/lyricist Éric Brousseau (formerly known as Seba, a member of Gatineau) and the bass guitarist Jean-François Lemieux (Daniel Bélanger, Jean Leloup) in a video club. “I was working at the desk,” Brousseau recalls, “and J-F happened to drop by. We talked about music and shared our vision of what a rap group should sound like. Nothing happened for a while, and then, six month later, I got in touch with him. He asked me to come over, and we began building songs while keeping an eye out for a third musician. Soon afterwards, I get a call from Alex McMahon (Plaster) telling me that he would be interested in helping me make a rap album on drums and keyboards. A few days later, all three of us got together to make a small demo, and the rest is history.”

Les temps modernes [Modern Times], Cargo Culte’s April 2013 10-track CD, is reminiscent of the raw energy of Gatineau’s early days, and reveals a more mature approach harking back to the solid Beastie Boys sounds of the Check Your Head period with Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against The Machine) overtones. “I wanted something real heavy,” Brousseau explains. “I listen to a lot of punk music, Nirvana and so on, and I felt that Gatineau’s last album [Karaoke King] was far too soft. I couldn’t identify with it. Neither could the listeners, for that matter. Playing it in concert was a painful experience. I was born for the stage, and I couldn’t blow up the way I like. So, I wanted to get things going with a hard product, something that Gros Mené could come up with if they did rap.”

“I’m looking out for the next Kurt Cobain to shake things up. What we need is another music revolution.”

While he had been known for giving strong directions to his Gatineau cohorts, Brousseau tried to leave more freedom to his Cargo Culte associates. “In the new project’s early days, I wanted the drums and the bass to sound exactly the way I had in mind, but after a while I shut up. I just let them be. In the studio, we decided to record everything from morning to night, and everything was pretty much improvised on the spot. I came in with lyric snippets, and the guys started to jam from there. At night, we’d bounce a tune off, and that’s what ended up on the recording.” McMahon “J-F and I,” McMahon added, “also had a few beats in our chest drawers. Old things we’d done on our laptops over the years. We used some of that.”

Straightforwardly delivered in Félix Leclerc’s language, Brousseau’s sometimes acid in-your-face lyrics, which are reminiscent of those of Biz (Loco Locass) and largely inspired by Noah Levine’s Dharma Punx, contribute to the album’s deep spiritual side. “People are going to draw parallels between our sound and the Beastie Boys,” Brousseau cautioned, “but it goes much deeper than that. I’m a keen observer of life, and I like to write about love and sexual relationships. ‘Le chien de madame’[‘My Lady’s Dog’] and ‘Champs de bataille’ [‘Battlegrounds’] both depict heavy relationships I went through. The stories I’m telling are often personal, but songs like “L’enfer, c’est les autres’[‘Hell Is Other People’] are about… other people! In the past, I often ended up on my own on the lyrics side because no one had the nerve to criticize me. But I got a lot of input from Alex for this project. He helped me a great deal on the direction things should be going.”

All Cargo Culte members earn their living exclusively in the music business by now. Brousseau deejays two nights a week and teaches rap music in a youth centre when he is not at home creating rhymes. The other two group members work as musicians and producers for other artists. The key to survival, Lemieux explains, is to work on as many projects as possible. “Still,” he admits, “this frightens me sometimes because all I’ve ever done in my life is music. Thirty years of it pretty soon. Looking around the industry, I find lots to worry about. Great things continue to be done, but it’s getting crowded out there. Album budgets are shrinking. I’m still working a lot, but I’m making less money. What really keeps me going is working on personal ventures like Cargo Culte.”

At press time, the trio was hoping to be able to present a monthly show as the resident band of a yet undisclosed Montreal venue, a stint that will be followed by new studio sessions with guest artists for the next, “more open” Cargo Culte album. “I’d like something on the level of the Bran Van 3000 gang,” Brousseau explains. “Something I’ll want to listen to over and over. The only albums I’m still playing are old releases from Sonic Youth or A Tribe Called Quest. Everything seems to be formatted these days. It all sounds the same. It’s interchangeable. I’m looking out for the next Kurt Cobain to shake things up, but I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon. What we need is another music revolution.” Led by Cargo Culte, maybe?