Dan Boeckner is trying to respond to the question, “How many bands are you in right now?”

It’s a trick query, but considering the indie renaissance man’s relentless writing, recording and touring schedule across an ever-changing list of projects, it needs to be asked.

“I’m in two right now,” says Boeckner, during a load-in break for a radio appearance at WFUV, 90.7 FM in New York City. “But Divine Fits is kind of in hibernation mode, so three.

He pauses. “I guess.”

Besides the dormant Divine Fits, which Boeckner shares with Spoon’s Britt Daniel, the two things dividing his time right now are the re-united Wolf Parade – with whom he’s doing a series of shows throughout the summer and fall of 2016 – and Operators, the reason why he’s hovering around a Brooklyn radio studio at the moment.

“When I was working shitty jobs, all I could really dream of was having enough time to do music all the time. I get to do that now.”

“I think my time will be split between the two, maybe a bit more for Wolf Parade, but nearly 50-50 until November,” says Boeckner of his Operators-Wolf Parade work-work balance.

Operators – formed after Boeckner’s band Handsome Furs, with ex-wife Alexei Perry, dissolved along with their marriage – also features Macedonian keyboardist Devojka, drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) and bassist Dustin Hawthorne (Hot Hot Heat) making propulsive, new wave-inspired dance rock. The band’s first album Blue Wave came out April 1, 2016, and Boeckner says all his past bands are reflected on it.

“With the Operators stuff, it’s really a culmination of a lot of tools I’ve learned to develop in both those bands, Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade,” he explains. “It’s really an extension of Handsome Furs in a lot of ways. In retrospect, I regret that I couldn’t just call this band ‘Handsome Furs,’ but… you know. Life doesn’t work that way.”

Much of Blue Wave was inspired by Boeckner’s time spent living on the “have-nots” side of Silicon Valley, consuming dystopian Phillip K. Dick novels. This has informed Blue Wave’s songs with an ugly, Blade Runner-inspired, retro-futurist edge. Indeed, echoes of New Order (the bounding “Cold Light”), The Clash’s dance punk (“Evil”), and a very direct nod to Laura Branigan’s “Self Control” (“Space Needle”) inhabit Blue Wave‘s synth-heavy new new-wave.

“I lived in this suburb that was not reaping the benefits of the incredible growth and wealth that’s concentrated in Silicon Valley,” says Boeckner. “And that’s a dissociative, strange feeling I tried to convey.”

In the end, though, it always comes back to the music. It’s why Boeckner’s in at least two-and-a-half bands right now.

“When I graduated from high school, all I really wanted to do was play in a band,” says Boeckner. “Not just play in a band, but specifically write songs and perform them for people.

“I still feel a sense of awe that I have to show up somewhere and be at ‘work.’ When I was working shitty jobs, all I could really dream of was having enough time to do music all the time. I get to do that now, and I’ve done it for the last 10 years. So if I don’t take advantage of that, and if I lose sight of that, then I’m kind of an asshole.”

“After the success of Chill’em All, I went out of my way to try and do complicated and different stuff. I wanted to prove to people that I could surprise them every time, show them I was good-looking and smart. How stupid!”

Champion doesn’t mince words. We interviewed the musician in the wake of the release of his new electro pop album Best Seller – a title that’s not meant to be taken literally – and he analyzes his own work with astonishing candour. As if to prove his own implacable self-criticism, he even says one of the songs on his newest album “sucks.”

“No, really,” he says. “‘Lead On’ is not a great song. I would’ve loved working on it longer, but I did have fun making it. I take full responsibility for it.” We tell him the ethereal guitar melody is great, and that his discombobulated singing brings a soulful element to the song, but the man border guards call Maxime Morin is still skeptical. “OK, I’ll give another listen,” he says.

Just like three other tracks on this album – including “Life is Good” – “Lead On” sounds like it should be on an album that could’ve been launched immediately after the legendary Chill’em All (2004). But that record never came out. After working on it for a few months, Maxime completely trashed his work in the wake of an intense bout of artistic questioning. He cleaned the slate and instead came out with Resistance after years of waiting. As he readily admits, he fell into an intellectual trap.

“I flushed everything I had worked on because, in my mind, it was too close to Chill’em All,” he says. “Also, I was flabbergasted by Ratatat’s Classics and I was no longer sure where I fit. I’ve always believed in spontaneity and simplicity. That’s what Chill’em All was all about. But by that point, I had completely forgotten about those nice concepts. The drive to please, to be relevant and avant-garde weighed me down like a ton of bricks. The worst part is, when you tweak and refine your creations, it’s easy to start thinking you’ve got a good thing going, when it’s actually quite the opposite.”

Having accumulated a lot of slack in his production schedule, Champion had to work non-stop in order to launch Resistance in the fall of 2009. Totally exhausted by the creative process, he jumped without pause into a tour. The rest, as they say… In May 2010, doctors diagnosed him with a type of lymphoma, cancer of the blood. “Some will say there’s no causality, but I chose to believe there is one,” he says. “Mental and physical exhaustion made me ill. It took me five years to become fully healthy again. I swore I would never make the same mistake again.”

“I finally figured out what it meant to have balls in music: allowing your instinct to guide you. Of course I’d like to do better, but I embrace my mistakes.”

ChampionWith the collaboration of singers Laurence Clinton and Marie-Christine Depestre, certain tracks on the new album hearken back to the golden days of Chill’em All and the countless sweaty dancefloors for which it was responsible. Others are closer to the ethereal atmospheres of 2013’s ° 1. “An album that is strong from beginning to end is fun and reassuring, but it also means that the artist only has one colour on their palette,” says Champion. “That’s not true. Unless they really suck, no one listens just one musical genre. I wanted Best Seller to reflect that. Show my true colours.”

The musician played virtually all the instruments on the album, and this desire for authenticity means he intentionally left some errors on the final product. “I like trap,” he says. “I wanted to make trap using my guitar on ‘Boing Boing’ and ‘Yea-Eah.’ It didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but I had a lot of fun doing it, and it’s amusing. I finally figured out what it meant to have balls in music: allowing your instinct to guide you. Of course I’d like to do better, but I embrace my mistakes. I even learned to play with my faux pas – for example, on ‘And I You,’ where you can clearly hear my fingers slide on the guitar strings. Those are the kind of things you usually remove in the studio. You mask them. I decided to put them forward.”

In the end, Best Seller comes across as a kind of creative lab where enjoyment has taken precedence over intelligence, even if that means breaking some recording rules. “During the mastering, Ryan Morey told me that ‘Impatient’ was out of phase because I had used reverb on the bass. Apparently, you can’t do that. He wanted me to re-do the mix. I told him to fuck off! You’re not touching that. Except that because of that decision, we cannot include that track on the vinyl pressing because the groove would be too unstable for a turntable needle. Too bad!”

Champion et ses G-Strings
Thursday, June 30, at Club Soda
Part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival

Yann Beauregard-Lemay and Julien Bidar, the duo behind the publishing startup Outloud, are driven by a deep-seated desire to do things differently.

After honing their skills in the various businesses run by Sébastien Nasra – Bidar is an alumnus of Éditions Avalanche, and Beauregard-Lemay of Disques Vega and the M for Montréal festival – the two friends decided to join forces and create a publishing company that they intend to keep nimble and innovative, two crucial elements in this constantly evolving music industry.

Says Bidar: “We work with smaller budgets in an industry that generates less money than before. That, however, must not stop us from moving forward and being dynamic for the bands we represent as publishers. For example, we don’t wait for an album to come out in a given territory before encouraging that band to tour there. That’s the case with Coco Méliès, who are currently touring Europe for the second time – thanks to our contract with Kalima Productions, and despite not having a record contract. The first tour was profitable. So for us, that was a development effort with a return on investment.” (Editor’s Note: On April 26, Audiogram announced that it was signing Coco Méliès, whose catalogue will now be managed by Éditorial Avenue.)

Bidar and Beauregard-Lemay work in close collaboration with all the bands they sign. That’s a necessity when one manages a catalogue that’s mainly centred on emerging talent, such as Secret Sun, Orange O’Clock, Fred Woods, AléatoireTechnical Kidman and Dr. Mad. “We establish partnerships after meeting with the artists. We want to bond with them, sharing a vision,” says Bidar. “That allows us to come up with strategies that are in their image and in ours.” To them, managing musical works is synonymous with the development of an artistic process. If this seems very close to a manager’s job, both men keenly deny that they want to meddle. “Our job is not making sure everything runs smoothly during a tour, or that they have water bottles next to their mike stands,” says Bidar. “That’s very important, but it’s not our department.”

“There’s always a lot of luck involved, but you need to always be pro-active” — Julien Bidar of Outloud

Right from the get-go, in 2014, they managed to land two successful ad placements in Europe, which gave their publishing endeavour strong momentum. They placed a song by Jean-Sébastien Houle in a TV ad for the Bank of Austria. Outloud also placed a song by Locksley – a work in a British catalogue, So Far, managed by Outloud – in an ad for Polish beer Zywiec Warianty. “There’s always a lot of luck involved, but you need to always be pro-active,” says Bidar who’s made it his specialty. “I send at least two or three pitches a day to get only one ‘yes’ back every 50 pitches or so. The goal is to create the perfect match between a song and a product. An artist’s notoriety can influence the outcome, but it’s not the only factor in play.”

Bank of Austria ad with Jean-Sébastien Houle’s music:

Hoping to get as many placements as they can, the aptly-named Outloud intends to make as much noise as it can. That’s where Beauregard-Lemay comes into play, a man that Bidar likes to jokingly call “the man who can’t walk down the street without everyone recognizing him.” Beauregard-Lemay is in charge of the social media accounts of the many bands represented by Outloud, which means he maintains close ties with a sizeable number of music blogs. He also manages to get stories in more traditional media. Beauregard-Lemay concurs that this approach yields a lot of credibility: “For us, this link with the media and social networks feeds into a band’s image, and facilitates the ulterior placement of their music. We don’t bill our bands for this work, because we believe we come out winners as much as they do in carrying out these promotional efforts.”

And this online presence is encouraged by Outloud in many different ways. To wit, Bidar and Beauregard-Lemay told Coco Méliès they should release a song created for a pitch as an online-only single. Same for Aléatoire, who managed to reach 150,000 plays with a single song on Spotify. They’ve encouraged Secret Sun to have their material remixed by various producers, like ­ Foxtrott and The Posterz – in order to maximize their variety of styles. “When you want to place music in visual content, you need to be versatile,” says Beauregard-Lemay.

Sonically and territorially boundless, Outloud maintains a versatile and global approach, masterfully piloted by these two businessmen and their common passion for music.