For artists like Jocelyn Alice, it’s about the journey and the destination. Always involved in music, she recorded and wrote in her native Calgary since she was a teenager – first appearing as a finalist on Canada’s Popstars when she was 16, then later as half of soul-pop duo jocelyn & lisa, and currently with her solo career.
Her songs have been featured on TV favorites One Tree Hill and Pretty Little Liars as well as in commercials for large brands like Target, but it’s her latest single “Jackpot” that finally captured the public’s attention, going Gold in Canada this past summer.
“Jackpot was just another song I wrote that I thought was pretty cool, but had no idea how people would react!” says Alice. “I’m so lucky to know how it feels to follow dreams with the support of so many. I can’t tell you what it all means to me. Hopefully I can just continue to work really hard and keep making stuff that ignites feelings in someone. That’s enough for me.”
She’s currently working with friend and producer Ryan Guldemond (Mother Mother) on her latest EP.
Photo by Kim Gaudreault
Better Together: 2Frères
Story by Philippe Renaud | October 19, 2015
Here’s the latest edition in our series of stories about the creative meetings between writers and composers. This theme is perfectly suited for brothers Sonny and Érik Caouette, whose stage name is 2Frères; they’re two guys who don’t hesitate to look outside of their family to circle to seek out good songs.
This summer, now drawing to an end, has undoubtedly been a hot one for the young duo 2Frères: “Nous autres,” the title track from their debut album, reached number one on the BDS Top 100 (metropolitan) and Top 100 Correspondents (regional) in late August.
Was it The Francophone song of the Summer of 2015? “Well… I think it’s safe to say yes!” says Sonny, 25. Érik, his older brother by two years, adds, “We didn’t have any expectations when we launched the album, so it’s very nice.” Especially since their first album also became the top-selling Francophone album in Québec (Soundscan and iTunes) during the week of Aug. 11, 2015.
Still, the most impressive achievement remains the fact that a folk-pop song (written and composed by Steve Marin) reached the top of the charts in metroplitan areas (cities), as the genre is generally more popular in regional (rural) markets.
“It’s a bit as if regions are like an incubator: if it works well there, Montréal will be less hesitant to get on board.” – Sonny Caouette of 2Frères
“The song was requested a lot by listeners on Montréal radio stations,” Sonny ventures as an explication. “‘Le Démon du midi’ and ‘Maudite promesse’ played a lot on regional stations, but not much in Montréal. I think it’s a bit like what happened to David Jalbert: he was super popular on regional radio at first, but not so much in the city. Nowadays, everyone knows Jalbert. It’s a bit as if regions are like an incubator: if it works well there, Montréal will be less hesitant to get on board.”
“True,” says Érik, “but on the other hand, ‘Le Démon du midi’ (written and composed by 2Frères and Stéphane Dussault) was first played by CKOI and other stations followed suit. It’s Montréal that got the ball rolling on that one!”
So, are there really two kinds of pop music, one urban and one rural? And if so, have the Caouette brothers found the recipe that can unite those seemingly distinct audiences? One thing is for sure: 2Frères know exactly what kind of music their audience likes. Born in Chapais, in the Jamésie area of Québec, Sonny and Érik caught the music bug from their parents, both amateur musicians, and created their duo while they were still teenagers. They moved to the Eastern Townships in 2008 with the hope of making a living from their music. “We’ve managed to live off of our music for five years now,” says Érik proudly. “How? By playing in bars. We take special requests – Cowboy Fringants, old Corbeau, whatever people like,” explains Sonny. All told, the boys play more than a hundred show a year all over the province.
The idea of coming out with their own material started taking shape when they struck a deal with Mario Pelchat and his MP3 imprint to release their first album. Although being songwriters is relatively new for the two brothers, it seems perfectly natural and easy for them.
“We’ve been playing music for a long time, but writing is brand new,” admits Sonny. “There’s only two songs that are 100% us on the album, ‘M’aimerais-tu pareil’ and ‘Pépé.’” Three more were co-written with Stéphane Dussault, who’s the bass player for Les Respectables, and the rest of them were written by Steve Marin, the album’s producer and artistic director, Alexandre Poulin and lyricist Amélie Laroque. Generally, Sonny will come up with the first draft, the theme, the music, a melody and a few lyrics. “It’s how we work, using Sonny’s basic ideas,” explains Érik.
The Caouettes know what they want: bars are fun, but playing their own material in venues and festivals is even better. “To be honest, the goal is to stop having to play bars,” says Érik. “It’s a great way to learn the trade. You need to know how to win over a crowd that didn’t necessarily come to hear you. But once you’ve won them over and you come back to play the same bar, that crowd is 100% behind you.”
2Frères will work tirelessly to hone their skills as songwriters and listen to the advice of their more experienced peers. “If I have only one piece of advice for anyone who wants to make a living playing music, it’s to know how to surround yourself with the right people,” says Sonny. “Érik and I are talented musicians. But knowing how to surround yourself with the right people is equally important.”
We meet in a small café on Beaubien street called Le Vieux Vélo (The Old Bike), just a stone’s throw away from Philémon Cimon’s place. The sun’s out, the summer air is fresh, the skies are blue. Philémon is about to launch his third album in the wake of two singles launched in July. One of them, “La musique,” is pretty much a lyrical poem. “La musique est un amour à sens unique,” he sings. “Elle me déchire, m’inspire.” (Loosely translated: “Music is unrequited love, it tears me apart, it inspires me.”) He describes music as a despotic mistress who expects everything and gives nothing back. “That song talks about my rapport with art,” says Cimon. “There’s something pure in unrequited love. I even think that how love is supposed to be. The ones who find reciprocity are the lucky ones.”
Cimon has released three albums in less than five years. Les femmes comme des montagnes, his latest, follows in the footsteps of L’été (Summer), which came out in the dead of winter 18 months ago. It seems that music can also be a muse, and Cimon is clearly spellbound. It’s not yet time to take stock, but when he looks back on his career so far, Cimon admits he’s quite surprised by the road covered. “It’s impossible to know where creativity will take you,” he says. “All you know is it’s taking you somewhere! To me, this third album is the sum of the previous two.”
“It’s impossible to know where creativity will take you; all you know is it’s taking you somewhere!”
Launched independently in 2008, his first EP, Les sessions cubaines was an immediate critical success. Tremendous sensitvity, courageous vulnerability, and youthful spleen, all counter-balanced by the Cuban brass section of the mythical Studio Egrem. Audiogram signed Cimon in order to re-release new and augmented versions of several of these songs. “That record to me is my coming of age,” says Cimon.
That was followed by L’été, an album that took us far, far away from Cuba, and was recorded with musicians from Montréal. “My musicians and I have grown to know each other better now,” says Cimon. “For Les femmes comme des montagnes, I wanted to record a band album. We worked on the arrangements together, I gave them a lot of free reign; now we’re able to go a lot further together. We started rehearsing the new songs and, all of a sudden, I had the urge to go back to Cuba with them. In warmer climates, things are looser. There’s more space for life.”
Cimon got in touch with the Studio Egrem people, the headquarters of the Buena Vista Social Club musicians. The dates were good for everyone; so off he went, but this time with his whole Montréal gang, including co-producer Philippe Brault. Once there, Cimon met once more with his musician friends, and his cousin Papacho, the pianist, as well as the female singer with the irresistible accent heard on the song “Je te mange.”
Cimon is quite right when he says this new album is the sum of the two previous ones: the Cuban brass we missed dearly on L’été is back, so is Papacho’s distinctive piano playing, all wrapped in something sprinkled with a bit of a sixties feel, not unlike the sound of Serge Gainsbourg. Yet there’s enough space to let the guitars rip and let loose in the studio, as can be heard on a track such as “Maudit.” The lyrics are spiffy and they breathe. Cimon is singing is freely and nimbly. Clearly, he’s growing into his own. He’s now allowing himself to sustain notes a little longer, to sound a little harsher, to explore new registers. One really gets the impression the artist has allowed himself a little more licence.
“I had to step out of my comfort zone because I needed to say something different,” says Cimon. “Years go by and one discovers things one didn’t know, mainly because we didn’t need to discover them at that time. Whatever we wanted to express was expressible with the tools we had. On my first album, I was talking to a girl. Nowadays, I’m talking to people at large from my very core, speaking my truths, which happen to be pretty much the same as anyone’s [“Vieille blonde,” “Maudit,” “Ève”], and that requires a vocal language that’s more metaphorical.”
Speaking of metaphors, who are those women he compares to mountains? What does that mysterious title mean to him? “The classics of literature have inspired me,” says Cimon. “Stories about getting to a higher level. In Cervantes’ Don Quixote or Dante’s Divine Comedy, there’s a central idea of climbing a mountain to get to a woman. In Milton, Adam and Eve are in paradise on the mountain before being expelled…”
The album is like luscious, black silk. A delicate weave that‘ll be perfect to wear as a scarf come fall.