It’s the day after the world première at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for Viking, the new feature film by director, screenwriter – and, in a parallel life, singer-songwriter – Stéphane Lafleur. About 15 people involved in this story, which mixes psychological drama, comedy and science fiction, attended the screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, “an incredible theatre,” as Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux puts it. He’s the one who wrote the music with his accomplice in the band Organ Mood, Mathieu Charbonneau. “Usually, at a première, we try to hear our music in the mix,” he says, “but last night the sound was so loud!”
“The whole team was there, it was electrifying,” says Charbonneau, thrilled by the fact the public was also there. “It was fun to feel people’s reactions,” which seem to echo Viking’s early rave reviews. The film will open in Québec on Sept. 30, 2022.
Coincidentally, Bravo Musique will be releasing Organ Mood’s soundtrack, an assembly of selected excerpts that dress up the scenes of Viking, as well as several other compositions left on the cutting room floor. All of that represents good 30 minutes of instrumental music where synthesizers fade away in favour of the saxophone, guiding the listener through the themes, textures, and atmospheres created by Lamarche-Ledoux and Charbonneau.
“I bought an alto sax to record the music,” says Lamarche-Ledoux, joined by Charbonneau in their Toronto hotel room, before returning to Montréal. This isn’t the duo’s first film-scoring rodeo: Charbonneau already has almost a dozen productions to his credit, including the music for Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s La Déesse des mouches à feu (2020) and Geneviève Dulude-De Celles’ Une colonie (2018). Lamarche-Ledoux recently composed the music for Félix Dufour-Laperrière’s animated feature film Archipel (2021) and the sultry Saint-Narcisse (2020) by Bruce LaBruce.
On top of that, they’re both members of the folk-rock outfit Avec pas d’casque, alongside one Stéphane Lafleur, who writes, sings, and plays guitar for the band. It is, so to speak, complicit that the director called upon his friends to imagine the sound design of his strange feature film.
“Stéphane thought about the music while he was working on the film,” Lamarche-Ledoux explains. “He didn’t want an orchestral film score with tons of synths. Before we even looked at the task at hand, he’d done his research; he actually envisioned the music as more jazz, and that’s the path he set us on before we even saw any footage, just by reading the script, right at the beginning of the process.”
Jazz? Perhaps something along the lines of Sun Ra, the master of cosmic jazz, a pioneer of the afro-futurism concept, the man who claims he was once teleported to Saturn? They talked about it, Miles Davis, too, and “ambient music” such as Lamarche-Ledoux and Lafleur create together with their feu doux project (styled in lowercase, referring to the low heat setting on a stovetop). “He obviously knew he had hired Organ Mood, so that’s the sound he was after, but slightly different at the same time,” says Charbonneau, who’s also involved in an ambient/avant-garde project with composer and cornetist Pietro Amato.
As a matter of fact, Lafleur and Organ Mood experimented with a new modus operandi for all of them while working on the music for Viking. “Most of the time, we write the music after the final editing of a film because that way, we know the exact duration of each scene. This time around, we had plenty of time before and during filming which afforded us some images to work from to create a lot of music,” says Charbonneau. Thanks to this approach, “we really captured the film’s ambiance. I never suspected it would work this well and, for Stéphane, it was interesting because it was his first time working with composers who were creating at the same time he was. And since we’d recorded tracks before filming even started, it allowed him to quickly edit some scenes with the music.”
“Plus Stéphane is such a close friend that there are a lot of informal aspects to this process,” adds Lamarche-Ledoux. “We’d have dinner at his place, and we’d talk about other stuff than work or the movie, but we always circled back to that. There’s so much informality and friendship in this process that I think it was the perfect context to try to work in such an organic way. Usually, with the directors, you send in your proposals and you wait for them to reply via e-mail; this time, in the critical moments of the film’s final touches, we were on the phone every day. Communication was very easy, and for composers of visual music, immediate feedback is the key. We can immediately adjust the music to the scene.”
The saxophones suggest a recurring musical theme, in one form or another, throughout the film. “We really wanted to try and set the tone,” says Lamarche-Ledoux. “The movie is quite funny at times, but the music was there to prop up the dramatic side, rather than try to make things lighter, or highlight the punchline. That’s why, more than once, viewers are caught off-guard when a series of jokes follows serious music.”