The idea of creating a Latin music band came to Shantal Arroyo during a trip to Mexico in 2011. “One night in a Puerto Vallarta bar,” the hardcore punk band Overbass member remembers, “I complained about the American music that was always playing, and my friends said, ‘If you’re not happy with it, then set up your own band and come back here to play!’

“It was an interesting thought, but the people I was hanging out with at the time were not Latinos – they were all punks and metal-heads! But I knew that many of them were in the process of adopting second instruments, so I started recruiting for the new project. We ended up being 17 in the band, and it went on from there,” says the voluble Mexican-born musician.

Made up of musicians from Montreal’s alternative scene (including Grimskunk’s Joe Evil), the band initially hoped to expand both their repertoire and their appeal. “We felt like making a different kind of music,” says Arroyo. “All of us were very experienced and secretly pined for a taste of big venues. With this project, the whole Mexican market was opening up to us. We’d seen our Mano Negra chums go from bar gigs to big stadium concerts, and we were hoping that this would happen to us, too. Mind you, we knew this would be quite a challenge musically – singing is one thing, but screaming is quite another,” the 40-year-old artist muses.

As Collectivo’s early concerts included many Latin music covers, band members had some time to get used to the musicality of Spanish lyrics. “With this in place,” Arroyo recalls, “we thought it was time we released an album. But our first experience in the recording studio wasn’t easy. The room was so packed we couldn’t move when we recorded Hasta la fiesta… siempre! And this happened while the recording technology was moving from reels to digital. So making that album was quite a challenge!”

The band’s second opus, Especial, a more mature and diversified song collection, was released in 2005 and followed in 2011 with Tropical Trash, a more sonically mature offering partly recorded in a Montreal theatre. The clan’s latest effort, Jaune Électrik, came out this summer in a burst exotic rhythms and sunny, festive melodies typical of Colectivo’s energetic style, but with a significant change – French lyrics.

“Our first three albums were largely exploratory,” Arroyo explains, “but we felt the need to sing in French on the next one. That was to be our next thing. We had the album produced by Vander. We chose this ex-Colocs member for his energy and also because he is used to large, multi-ethnic groups, and can deal with people who don’t use technical words. Many of us are self-taught musicians, and we needed someone who could understand us.”

Does Colectivo use a special method to create its red-hot tunes? “There are three principal composers – Denis Lepage, Joe Evil and Joël Tremblay,” says Arroyo. “They bring in a rough outline for every song, and then we make the arrangements one section at a time, moving from brass to drums to percussions to strings. Working this way requires great humility, as all players work on their own small section of a larger whole. But we’re like family and aren’t afraid of criticizing one another. With time, we’ve learned to talk about what really matters. We just have to be careful not to take it badly. Our modus operandi could be described as well-structured chaos.”

Besides her mother (also a guitarist and singer) and her partner Joël (also a member of Overbas), Arroyo’s musical heroes include the Basque artist Fermin Muguruza, who co-produced the collective’s second album. “In my mind, he has a practically perfect track record,” she says. “Although he has been approached by major recording companies, he has remained true to his own values and creative vision. That’s remarkable.

“I value authenticity. We tried new things as a way to get more people interested and create a more commercial sound, but we felt terribly awkward doing it – like elephants in a china shop! We are punk artists first and foremost. We can’t forget that.”

Now boasting 11 band members (including eight original ones), Colectivo marches on, although at a somewhat reduced pace at the moment, as a few band members have recently become parents. Although music is her life, Arroyo has realistic expectations when it comes to the prospect of making a living as a musician.

“Everyone in the group has a day job,” she admits. “Nobody is making a living with their art. I have long since decided that music was the thing that was keeping me alive. But I also chose not to starve to death. Music remains my main occupation, but I refuse to compromise. I prefer holding two jobs and worrying about how to get it all together. This is what Colectivo means to me – a vital energy.”

Last spring, Franco-Ontarian singer-songwriter Dominique Nadia released Intime humanité, her fourth album, thanks in part to the Ontario Arts Council. This country/folk/pop recording, created with contributions from a number of well-known SOCAN members – star lyricist Marc Chabot, as well as Yvon Rioux, Frédéric Dorval, Sylvain Poirier, Manon Charlebois, Mario Trudel, François Dubé, Mathieu (PetitBig) Leduc and Peter Venne – addresses some serious concerns, while presenting a humorous view of other aspects of life. Following are some comments the thirtysomething artist shared with Paroles &Musique as she visited us on a hot and sticky summer day.

“I fell in love with the stage at seven when I was given tickets for a René and Nathalie Simard concert,” says Nadia. “I was not only dazzled by the songs and the music, but also by the dancing, the energy, the stage sets. I can still feel the attraction as I remember this today.”

As soon as she was able to write, Dominique Nadia started penning songs and, with parental encouragement, took ballet classes; joined a choir; won a public speaking contest by telling her schoolmates all about the excitement of watching a live performance of the famous Simard child performers; got herself a ghetto blaster with a mic when she was nine; kept up her karaoke and theatre activities; won the 1995 Eastern Ontario Personnalité Opti-Jeunesse award… and was on her way to a life in the arts.

Born during the year of the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics that made Nadia Comaneci (whose name she was given) a household name around the world, Dominique Nadia has stars in her eyes as she describes her dual passions for pop music and the promotion of the French language.

“I’m from Ontario, and even though I live in Gatineau, Quebec, at the moment, I still consider myself a Franco-Ontarian,” she says. “I need to be involved in that community and to stand up for the French language. My parents were both from Quebec, and we spoke correct French at home. It’s important for me to write in my own language, and the only bilingual cut on my most recent album was a commission from the Missing Children and Adults Association. My songs are not meant to re-invent the French language, but I believe that they convey my passion for my culture and for life itself.”

The voluble and extroverted singer-songwriter considers her recently released fourth album to be her most mature to date, and also her first as an independent, uncompromising artist. “I’ve stopped listening to those pretending that a recording needs a strong common thread,” she says. “This album is exactly like me – it’s eclectic, mult-ifaceted, focused on self-realization. I have so many interests – I can be funny, I can talk about philosophy, whatever. I used to live a more compartmentalized life, but this time I wanted to piece all these different components together.”

This in itself should be quite a feat considering the many aspects of her life, as a mother of two young children, the spouse of another musician (guitarist Frédéric Dorval) with whom she occasionally performs, an actor in children’s theatre under the stage name of Do (she completed a tour with Pattes de velours in June), a model, photographer, and anything remotely connected to her life project as a singer-songwriter.

“I’m not a competitive person,” she says. “I actually hate competitions. I do these things so I can express myself and absorb the energy of the people I come in contact with in the creative professions. When I’m onstage communicating with my public, I know I’m in the right place.”

Having grown up listening to Vilain Pingouin, Les Parfaits Salauds, Jean Leloup, Luc De Larochellière, the songs of Marc Chabot – one of her mentors – and Patrick Bruel, Nadia is a fan of the Quebec music scene at large, but admits being partial to the works of 3 Gars su’l sofa, Cœur de pirate and the Swiss artist Jérémie Kisling.

Her writing method, like everything else about her, is unique. “Some songs will keep running through my head for quite a while before I’ll finally sit down and write them out,” she says. “Lines will come up when I’m in the tub, anywhere. I put no pressure on myself. Besides, for this last album, I wanted the music to be composed after the lyrics were in place, and not the other way around as was the case for my previous recordings. I did not give myself any deadlines, being my own producer.”

Calling herself a rudimentary musician (“I strum the guitar, that’s about it”), she has participated in a number of training workshops with by Marc Chabot, Nelson Minville and Mario Chenart, and benefited from Manon Charlebois’ advice on lyric/music fusion.

Everything Dominique Nadia learns ends up being shared with the Franco-Ontarian community. “I’ve sometimes conducted my own workshops,” she says. “I’ll also help colleagues fill out grant application forms. You’ve got to share your experience with others. I have lots of ideas, I’m a creative person and I do not make comparisons. Each album and each work is unique and exists for a reason. In my opinion, you cannot compete with others. There can be a dog-eat-dog attitude in the [music] industry that I don’t like personally.”

Nadia was in Montreal to sign a contract for a solo concert she is to perform in the Place des Arts Studio-Theatre on March 6, 2014, as part of Week-ends de la chanson Québecor, a series presented in partnership with SACEF (the society for the advancement of Francophone pop music), where she will be performing an intimate acoustic concert with her partner Frédéric Dorval. More dates will follow this fall and next spring. Stay tuned on

In some bands, once each member establishes their role in the songwriting and recording processes, they guard their musical turf almost religiously. If those roles change, the potential for the kind of conflicts that can tear an act apart increases greatly.

That’s never been a problem for Protest The Hero. Over nearly 15 years, PTH have fluidly adapted to dramatic changes in the music industry, while fostering a creative process that finds them actively encouraging each other to evolve – without ever fracturing the bond that’s kept them together. That bond has existed since they were children, says lead singer Rody Walker, who credits their longevity to a collective passion for the music they make and their shared outlook.

“We have an amazing capacity to have a good time despite the circumstances,” says Walker. “We

“We do this because we love it, and nothing could be so bad that it would make us stop.” – Protest The Hero’s Rody Walker

do this because we love it, and nothing could be so bad that it would make us stop.”

“I don’t think we’ve written any record the same way,” Walker continues. In fact, he says, their new album (yet to be named and released as of press time) is the first PTH record for which he’s written all the lyrics, instead of sharing those duties with longtime lyricist/bassist, Arif Mirabdolbaghi, as he did on 2011’s Scurrilous.

It’s also the first time PTH opted to crowdfund a record through Indigogo, rather than partner with a label – a campaign they announced in January 2013, which found them reaching their stated goal of $125,000 within thirty hours and ultimately raising a total of $341,146.

Four songs into the writing process, however, PTH found themselves facing a change far harder to adjust to than any they’d dealt with previously; drummer Moe Carlson’s decision to pursue a career in tool-and-die manufacturing and, ultimately, his departure from the band.

Usually Carlson, Mirabdolbaghi and guitarists Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar write the tracks. Then

“We have to keep reinventing what we do. We have to be able change direction at the drop of a hat.” – Protest The Hero’s Luke Hoskin

Mirabdolbaghi – and now Walker – contribute lyrics and melodies. After talking it through with Carlson, however, PTH decided, mutually and amicably, to continue writing without him.

Embracing change has always been key to PTH’s creative growth. “We have to keep reinventing what we do,” says Hoskin. “We have to be able change direction at the drop of a hat.” That said, Carlson’s departure was particularly difficult for Hoskin. “He was the first person I’d bounce ideas off,” Hoskin says. “It was like losing your identity as a writer because you’ve always written with this person.”

To fill that void, Hoskin turned to Cameron McLellan – a longtime friend of the band, who started out as their lighting technician before taking over as their sound engineer. Hoskin and McLellan had written together before, but never with PTH in mind. They began by sifting through bits and pieces of previous music they’d worked on together on tour as well as generating new material.

Even after they began recording – with Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler filling in for Carlson – it became necessary to alter their process again, Hoskin continues. And, after laying down drums with returning producer Julius “Juice” Butty at the helm, PTH and Butty decided that the best way to move forward was for McLellan to produce the remainder of the sessions.

While the resulting album features some songs that are more linear than PTH’s past efforts, they haven’t abandoned their progressive metal roots. “There are some songs that are simpler, and some that are more complex, than anything we’ve ever written,” Walker says.

Going forward without a label, however, they expect the process of releasing the record to be more complicated than ever before. “We’re excited,” Hoskin says, “but we had to step up and make every decision about every aspect of this album. That’s something we didn’t have to do before. Now we have to or they won’t get sorted out. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

Publisher: Protest The Hero – self-published
Discography: Search for the Truth (EP, 2002), Kezia (2005), Fortress (2008), Scurrilous (2011)
SOCAN Members since 2003