Manager and spouse of Lary Kidd, programmer at Ausgang Plaza, event planner and founder (alongside her man) of the clothing brand Officiel in 2016 – the most notorious model for which is the rapper Loud, and whose label bears prominent laurel leaves emblazoned with the words Montreal Made Me – Dana Lluis epitomizes all the cool the music industry needs.

Dana LluisBorn in Montréal’s Rosemont neighbourhood, near the Angus shops, she studied film at Collège Ahuntsic. After being a stalwart of Montréal nightlife as the manager of Le Salon Officiel – a now defunct, yet still famous watering hole in the Plateau neighbourhood – Lluis has put this experience to good use in her current professional life, a hectic one in which routine doesn’t exist.

“I’m an insomniac by nature, and I sleep a maximum of three hours per night,” admits Lluis, citing a metabolic condition that suits her perfectly, with a schedule as diverse as it is busy. “It allows me to make the most of my time on different projects,” she says.

The Officiel clothing brand is the envy of many. “We bought a batch of discontinued jackets from the ’90s, that’s how it started,” says Lluis. “It’s the scarcity effect! Twice a year, we sell Officiel in our pop-up boutiques in Montréal, and once a year in Paris. And we now sell online.”

The 34-year-old go-getter, who’s half-Catalan, half-Mexican, is very versatile.

Ausgang Plaza

Ausgang Plaza, the 4,500-square-foot multi-disciplinary room, which Lluis has run for six years, includes 15 small studios in the basement of a St-Hubert Street building. She estimates that it hosts more than 150 events per year.

“Our parties are very diverse,” she says. “We can rent the room for private parties, events, shows of all musical genres. Several renowned DJ’s, including Kaytranada, have played at the Ausgang,” says Lluis, whose personal taste in music leans toward global sounds, hip-hop, indie, and house.

Her life partner and management client Lary Kidd released two EPs, including the magnificent Le poids des livres, in 2021. A full-length debut is slated for 2024. “Since there were no shows during the pandemic, we seized the opportunity to improve all the technical equipment,” says Lluis.

Ausgang Plaza has another quiver in its bow: a Francofolies Festival showcase for beat-makers, held annually on the esplanade of Montréal’s Place des Arts. “We’re very much into that, among other things, with the monthly Loop Sessions event at Ausgang,” says Lluis. “Using the same sample, a DJ adapts it to his or her own sauce, and can play his or her remix at night in front of the other participants in the event.”

Develop, Network, Conquer

Deploying its antennae in markets outside Québec is now an integral part of being an artist manager in our current music ecosystem. It’s important to develop a network of venues and bookers in Europe, for example.

Pop-electro-R&B singer Gab Godon, alias Laroie (published by Arts & Crafts, distributed by Awal in the U.K.), participated in a SOCAN Kenekt Studio song camp in 2022, and will soon fly to London before heading to Scotland and France for a few showcases, to help launch her career in Europe.

Dana Lluis“I’m more aware of the challenge of working with an artist signed to a label [Lary Kidd is on Coyote Records] and an independent artist in all aspects; although she receives some subsidies, Laroie must necessarily self-finance her production and promotional expenses,” says Lluis.

The Québec delegations that go to the Printemps de Bourges and take advantage of the Spécimens Canadiens showcase, or to Paris for the MaMA and its Ma Cabane à Paname showcase, are all musical opportunities that serve Lluis and Québec musicians, no matter what genre they play.

Dana Lluis clearly has flawless taste and undeniable talent. Does she think it’s harder to carve out a niche for yourself as a woman? If some were scared of the rap scene, Lluis doesn’t mind it too much. “I was a little apprehensive at first about the male world of hip-hop and rap,” she says. “There aren’t a lot of female managers. You’re taken seriously when you prove yourself. The fact that I have more experience today, and more confidence, allows me, in a given situation, to disagree, and say so without fear.”

Is there a gender wage gap? “I know the salaries in the sector, and I can confirm that there’s a disparity,” says Lluis. “There’s an increasing awareness that equity is needed. On the other hand, there are more and more women in the industry.”

The spring of 2023 will, once again, be a fertile one for Lluis. She wears so many hats, one is tempted to call her the Québec music industry’s Swiss army knife! “What I love the most about my work,” she says, “is delivering a team project.”

Hippie Hourrah“Have you ever felt ready to get lost?”

That question stands out among a slew of others, spoken theatrically, by a narrator with an otherworldly voice, on “Revenons au début,” the opening track on Hippie Hourrah’s sophomore album, Exposition individuelle.

It’s a kind of forewarning about what we’re about to experience; namely, a high-flying psychedelic rock experience, ushering us into the codified and somewhat tightly self-contained universe of the Montréal trio.

“That’s one way of seeing it,” says the aforementioned narrator, Ralph Elawani, who’s also the co-author of the album’s lyrics.

The thing is, from Hippie Hourrah’s perspective, that question belongs to a much more widely-ranging concept, articulated around the work of Québec visual artist Jacques Hurtubise – which permeates the themes, song titles, and visuals of the album. That intro, as well as two other interludes on Exposition individuelle, act as counterpoints to that haughty concept of homage to Hurtubise, an icon of Québec’s visual arts scene. Then you understand that intro is addressed to the artist, and not to mere listeners. Elawani pretends to be a pedant journalist asking a string of nonsensical questions to Hurtubise, who remains silent, stunned by this barrage of useless queries and utterly empty thoughts.

“It’s a journalist enraptured by the sound of his own voice,” says Elawani, before going on to explain the genesis of the idea. “Cédric [Marinelli, the band’s singer] and I started working together during a writing retreat. We looked at Jacques’ exhibition catalogue, which has some interviews [with journalists]. We started looking closer at the interviews, and realized that the same questions came up again and again. When a journalist asks, ‘What’s your writing process?’ for example, there’s a good chance they’ve come unprepared…”

“So… As a matter of fact, what is your writing process?” this journalist immediately asks, with a thick helping of irony.

“For real, though, the process is boring,” Marinelli says, with a smile in his voice. “What’s interesting is the guiding principle. Alix Lepage [the percussionist who plays with the band on this album] is related to Jacques Hurtubise. We had access to Jacques’ notebooks, and he sent me all the books, with pictures of every single one of his paintings. We cherry-picked a few titles from that, as well as the ideas that resonated the most with us.”

“The album is articulated around Jacques, but it’s not about him. It’s a gateway towards something else,” says Elawani, who can – unofficially, at least – be considered the fourth member of the band, alongside Marinelli, guitarist Gabriel Lambert, and drummer Miles Dupire-Gagnon.

 Hippie Hourrah, Video

Click on the image to play the Hippie Hourrah video “Pinceau au tombeau”

Beyond references to his paintings’ titles, Exposition individuelle evokes Hurtubise’s aesthetics. The painter went through several artistic phases, but he’s widely known for his brightly-coloured abstract forms.

Abstraction, colours, and liveliness are in full force on the new Hippie Hourrah album. We’re swimming in psychedelic rock, but not only that. There are tinges of pop, yéyé, and folk, too. “We’re not fundamentally dogmatic. And we’re not 20 anymore… Our horizons have expanded. That allows us to work with a really wide palette,” says Lambert, who came up in another indie rock band from Montréal, Elephant Stone, alongside Miles Dupire-Gagnon.

“Our minds open up as we grow older. We’re not purists,” says Marinelli, who came up in a relatively purist garage-rock band, The Marinellis. “When I reached out to these guys after the Marinellis’ long hiatus – which is ongoing – I wanted to do something just for the fun of doing it. Not thinking about it, just letting go. I became open to the idea of not saying ‘no’ right out of the gate… Monsieur Marinelli has become a mature man!”

In other words, Hippie Hourrah’s path runs parallel to Hurtubise’s output. Beyond stylistic considerations, the painter (who died in 2014) stood out for paintings that were at once impulsive and rigorous, two characteristics that also define Hippie Hourrah’s music. The project’s roots in spontaneity is backed by a level of thoroughness. The combination has opened many interesting doors since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2021, in both Québec and France. There, they completed a mini tour in December of 2022, including a performance at the prestigious Trans Musicales de Rennes.

Exposition individuelle – a project that’s much more concise and self-contained than its predecessor – is a mirror of the band’s live experiences. “We had experience onstage, and we needed songs that were faster and more pop,” says Marinelli. “We needed to create songs that would make our music more intense and catchy. We needed songs with a beginning and an end. To achieve that, I went back to the way I wrote songs with the Marinellis.”

In short, Hippie Hourrah evolves by going back to its essence. And that’s the kind of paradox that one can achieve when one is truly ready to dive into, or (as it were) get lost in, creating the songs.

Super PlageThe album has been ready for almost a year, but Super Plage carefully chose the moment of its release: launched on March 31, Magie à minuit is the summer of 2023’s first album. It’s written in black letters over a pink background in his Bandcamp page bio: “Fuck winter.” He offers us 10 delicious pop-dance gems that make us want to play them on repeat, until we can finally hang out on our balconies – but whose lyrics are “slightly more personal, this time around,” as the singer-songwriter, a.k.a. Jules Henry, explained to us. “It’s an album that’s slightly more intimate and serene, but still lighthearted and corny.”

At first glance, Magie à minuit differs from its predecessors by the number of collaborations. Henry has a knack for picking the right people to work with: on his first three projects – Super Plage (2020), Super Plage II (2020) and Électro-vacances (2021) – the majority of his songs were duets. On this new project, only four out of 10 songs have featured guests. “Maybe it’s because this was created during lockdown?” he says, offering a guess. “There wasn’t a lot of partying going on during the 2021 holidays… I had fewer opportunities to see my friends while I was creating this album. On the other hand, it’s my album with the most guest musicians – Mélanie Venditti [who sang on Super Plage II] plays the viola and the theremin on this one.”

The trio Le Couleur, who featured on the song Touristes (on Électro-vacances), is back for an appearance on “Rue Dandurand,” a song that stands out for its four-on-the-floor tempo. “That song is the result of a succession of random events,” says Henry. “I wanted something that was really ‘dancefloor,’ and I’d come across this really dirty kick-drum sound. But in the end, the chords I chose to play over the rhythm took me in a completely different direction.” Which is to say more pop and festive, the title being the name of the street where the musician’s studio (which he shares with Le Couleur) is located. “It’s a great co-working space – we work hard during the day and party hard at night!

Super Plage, NYE

Click on the image to play the Super Plage video “NYE

“You know,” he continues, “I listened to a lot of Georges Brassens, Georges Moustaki, and Nana Mouskouri all my life, and I feel like ‘Rue Dandurand’ is as much a club song as a ‘chanson française’ that evolves over several verses.” And therein lies the specificity of the project: Henry creates danceable pop music that, in an ideal world, would be in heavy rotation on commercial radio, while also claiming its lineage to the great tradition of Francophone “chanson.”

“I only discovered recording about 10 years ago,” Henry admits. “Before all that – the studio, the computers – there were the songs that I wrote on the guitar, and that’s the method I still use. I see my creations as songs, but instead of using guitars and drums, I use synths and electronic percussion. Some of my creations are really minimalist, lyrically, but I find that it leaves a lot of room for your imagination.” Such is the case with “+1” (featuring Meggie Lennon and Virginie B), “NYE,” “Safespace,” and “Attraction,” the last of which boils down to two or three sentences.

Throughout his recordings, Super Plage carved a comfortable niche for himself: each project never has more than 10 songs, totalling about 30 minutes of grooves. Yet, he always writes more than he needs. “I cut songs from every album I work on,” he says. “Not just because there are too many, but because I make a lot of bad ones! On the other hand, streaming could afford me the opportunity to explore different formats. I could give myself the goal of releasing three EPs, with three songs each, this year; and the next, a 25-track double album. The thing is, I think EPs get overlooked, while with double albums, people rarely make it to the 25th song. It’s too easy to skip the ones that don’t hook us, so that’s why I figure that 10 songs over a period of 30 minutes will mean people listen to the whole thing.”

So how does he distinguish a good song from a bad one? “Well, first, I’m my own first listener,” says Henry. “When I play it back, I ask myself, ‘Does this please you, or not?’ Then I play my demos to collaborators and close friends. I know how to recognize their enthusiasm about a song, so I rely on their opinion as much as my own. Some of them are very harsh, and even a smile from them will have great value; while others are more forgiving, and will like it too much, which is why I take their opinion with a grain of salt. My mom always loves everything I do, so I’m certainly not going to ask her which song shouldn’t make the album!”