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.