ChancesChances is composed of Geneviève Toupin (Willows), Chloé Lacasse (winner of the 2011 Francouvertes) and Vincent Carré (Antoine Gratton, Alex Nevsky, Mountain Daisies, Monsieur Mono). Two singer/keyboardists and a drummer. Revealed to the public thanks to Lacasse’s album Lunes, their adventure took a new direction when they became a bona fide trio where everyone has fun, explores, operates on instinct, and creates new worlds of music.

“The future is in mixing cultures,” says Manitoba-born Toupin from Baie-Comeau, where Chances is opening for Alex Nevsky on the last three dates of his tour. “Singing in Ojibway [on the song ‘Shine’] – an Algonquian language I’m far from speaking fluently, even though I’m Métis – is part of my genealogy. There’s a very strong native presence where I come from. In Winnipeg, there are even reserves within the city. Those are my roots.”

A thirst for culture, a desire to move forward. Over its 10 songs, Traveler offers music with a powerful glow, and a sound that’s almost addictive. It’s like a breath of fresh, cathartic air, with well-arranged vocal harmonies over layers of keyboards.

“Chloé and I took Indian singing classes [Carnatic singing], and that inspired us a lot,” says Toupin. Lacasse herself adds, “We realized that our voices blended incredibly well. It’s liberating. Singing alongside multiple voices is truly one of life’s greatest joys. But we needed Vincent’s beats to guide us. The core of our music is rhythms and vocal harmonies. We wanted to create something very modern, à la Milk & Bone, but with something else that’s bigger than us.”

Lacasse explains the scope of the sacrifice. “Working on the demos in the studio took a lot from me, sometimes you can spend hours just tweaking a sound,” she says. “Producing the album took twelve months, creating one song at a time. We even talked about the project for quite a while before we even started writing. For a couple of months, our hours were rich in ideas and exchanges.

“Composing as a trio came more naturally than I expected. It took longer than usual, but it’s music that needs to be arranged in the studio, so that we can determine what we’ll do with it on stage later.”

Traveler is filled with very evocative lyrics. “We want our music to empower people, despite the political climate in the United States,” says Toupin. “It made us angry. We live in a world of image, appearance, popularity.”

The scenic layout of Chances’ live show is efficient. The keyboards are on both sides of the stage, while drummer Carré sits in the middle. “There’s no one in front of me, says Carré, who played on Chloé Lacasse’s first records. “My drum sits where a singer would normally be. I’m super-expressive when I play, and the audience loves it. I make faces and don’t even realize it… And one thing I’ve learned with Chances is to lower the volume of my instrument. Yesterday, we played a 900-capacity venue in Baie-Comeau [with Nevsky], but tomorrow, we might play in Trois-Pistoles, in a café with 30 seats, so we need to adapt.

“Yes, there’s electro [in our music] and we’re here to have fun. I made beats with various kinds of software, and that gave the tone to our exploration. It’s another playground. The girls wanted it to sound different. I come from a family of women, equal rights is super-important for us, and I’m comfortable in the world of women. We’re completely captivated by this project, and we’re living it to the fullest.”

Playing M2 at MTelus on June 30 and July 1
as part of the 2018 Montreal International Jazz Festival

At the time of our interview, Chromeo’s David Macklovitch, a.k.a. Dave 1, happens to be in Minneapolis, a coincidence that’s too rich for him to avoid pointing out. As Chromeo’s latest release is billed as a tribute to funk music, one can hardly imagine a better place than Prince’s hometown to bring up the subject…  “What’s more,” the singer adds, “our show is taking place in the very venue where Prince is performing in the Purple Rain film! Let’s just say that there are phantoms lurking around…”

The ghost of Prince is one of the many references jumping out at your ears as you listen to Head Over Heels, particularly on “Bad Decision,” a song whose slap-bass and nervy chords offer a clear tribute to the late singer. “It’s one of the songs that best represent the colour we had in mind for the album,” says Dave 1. “We wanted to keep the electro rhythms that are part of our DNA, while at the same time bringing a more human feel. Actually, we wanted to try to re-create the energy of a 1970s rock band.”

To that end, Dave and his partner, Patrick Gemayel, a.k.a. P-Thugg, moved into a Los Angeles studio – where they’d invited an impressive array of guest musicians, a departure from their usually rather insular universe.  “Honestly, I’m not very fond of the L.A. atmosphere – we went there mostly for logistical reasons,” says Dave 1, a proud New Yorker. The artists, of varied generations and backgrounds, who collaborated with the duo ranged from French Montana to DRAM to Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins and The Time’s Jesse Johnson (another nod to Prince).

“The artist we wanted the most was The-Dream,” says Dave 1. “Pat and I are hard-core fans of his work [Editor’s Note: he produced Rihanna’s “Umbrella”] and we were thrilled to have him with us to sing on ‘Bedroom Calling.’ Throughout the process, we were feeding on our collaborators’ energy, in spite of the fact that, in the case of Amber Mark, who can be heard on ‘Just Friends,’ it was actually a long-distance e-mail collaboration. We left in the song the little note where she’s talking directly to me, saying “Here’s what I can offer you, Dave, call me back if you need anything else,” to keep a spontaneous feel.”

Chromeo 2018 Album CoverDespite their obvious wish to bring a breath of freedom into their work, the Chromeo guys are remaining faithful to their sound, and to their control-freak perfectionist leanings. The same approach applies to the album visuals, with a cover that offers a fun variation on a known recipe. After using (and objectifying) disembodied women’s legs on all of their previous album covers, the male pair now reverses the visual dynamics by appearing on the Head Over Heels cover wearing fishnet stockings and high heels, a calculated choice that introduces a new element while respecting a graphic approach that was established from the outset. “The visual presentation is paramount for us,” Dave explains. “In some ways, it can be more important than the music itself! Most of the groups that have helped shape us, from the Ramones to Daft Punk, have a very strong and unique image. Take KISS, for instance: I could hardly name five of their songs, but I know exactly what their shows looked like.”

For their Head Over Heels tour, the band indulged in gleaming scenery that includes chrome stage-set elements, instruments, and other objects. The glitzy stage direction and festive approach – tailored for music festivals – provides the duo with the background they need to shed some light on our troubled times.

“Patrick and I are living in the U.S. in 2018, so it’s absolutely impossible for us not to be politicized!” says Dave 1. “And since we’re not shy about sharing our opinions, whether it’s on social media or during interviews, we don’t feel the need to make socially committed music. For us, making music for the sole purpose of making people happy is, in and of itself, a political gesture.”

A series of quirky videos and social media savvy helped Josée Caron and Lucy Niles clinch the top spot in the 13th annual English SOCAN Songwriting Prize presented by YouTube Music. “Play The Field” was written by the Atlantic Canada natives and is performed by the band they co-front, Partner.

Variety and balance were evident in the 2018 competition, in which women dominated, several genres were represented and, for the first time, a country song landed in the Top 10. Music fans made their voices heard as they voted for their favourite songs among the finalists, and in the end, Partner would prevail – receiving the $10,000 cash prize, a  Yamaha PSR-S970 Keyboard, and a  $500 gift card from Long & McQuade.

“We are so thrilled and honoured to be the recipients of the SOCAN Songwriting Prize,” said Caron and Niles. “Songwriting is one of our all-time greatest joys, and to be recognized by fellow music lovers in this capacity is a dream come true.”

The SOCAN Songwriting Prize is one of few competitions in Canada that award excellence in songwriting. Ten outstanding songs created by emerging songwriters over the past year are nominated by a panel of 15 esteemed music industry experts. The general public is then invited to vote daily for their favourite to determine the winner. SOCAN plays no role in determining the nominees or winners outside of ensuring they are members of SOCAN. A mirroring competition for songs in French, the Prix de la chanson SOCAN, is conducted separately.

“Congratulations to Josée Caron and Lucy Niles on winning the 2018 SOCAN Songwriting Prize. In a competition that celebrates songwriting, there was no shortage of great songs this year, and winning was no easy feat,” said Michael McCarty, Chief Membership & Business Development Officer at SOCAN.  “The diversity in genres, gender, and cultural influences truly showcased the breadth of not only our talent but the unique stories that Canadian songwriters have to tell. ‘Play The Field’ is a force, and we wish Josée and Lucy continued success in the early days of what is sure to be a long and successful music career.”

Caron and Niles added, “‘Play the Field’ is one of our most personal songs, about an innocent time in a young person’s life. Writing it was an exciting experience. Josée made a funny demo and Lucy wrote her verse while working at Tim’s. We would like to thank all the music lovers and supporters for the huge opportunity and compliment. It is an honour to be nominated alongside so many talented songwriters.”

The winner of the Prix de la chanson SOCAN is “56k” written by Simon Trudeau Cliche, Jeff Martinez, Marc Vincent; performed by LOUD and published by Productions Silence D’Or.

The other nine songs nominated in the English category were:

  • “Dreams Tonite” – written by Alec O’Hanley, Molly Rankin; performed by Alvvays; published by Rough Trade Publishing Canada.
  • Money” – written by Leandra Earl, Eliza Enman-McDaniel, Jordan Miller, Kylie Miller, Garrett Lee; performed by The Beaches; published by Done with Dolls Inc., Besme, administered by Kobalt Music Group Ltd.
  • “Main Girl” – written by Charlotte Cardin; performed by Charlotte Cardin; published by Red Brick c/o Corico Arts.
  • “Cotton Candy” – written by Jessie Reyez; performed by Jessie Reyez; published by BMG Rights Management Canada.
  • “Chills” – written by James Barker, Gavin Slate, Travis Wood, Donovan Woods; performed by James Barker Band; published by Warner Chappell Music Canada, Ole Media Management LP II.
  • “Walkaway” – written by Jasmyn Burke, Morgan Waters; performed by Weaves.
  • “Magic”– written by Eoin Killeen, Timothy Law, Patrisha Sanna Campbell; performed by Birthday Boy and Trish.
  • “Healers” – written by Benjamin McCarthy, Iskwé, Ryan Somerville; performed by Iskwé.
  • “Lingua Franca” – written by Neil Bednis, Christopher Laurignano, Fraser McClean, Melanie St. Pierre; performed by Casper Skulls.

The 2017 winner of the SOCAN Songwriting Prize was PUP for “DVP” written by band members Stefan Babcock, Nestor Chumak, Zachary Mykula, and Steven Sladkowski. Additional winners are available to view on the SOCAN Songwriting Prize website.