Hubert Lenoir 2It’s been four years since we’ve heard the singular voice of The SeasonsHubert Lenoir on a new recording. This time, though, the man is going it alone, launching Darlène through the Simone Records label. Darlène is an album born of resilience, and a desire to be freed from the love/hate relationship Lenoir has with touring – gig to gig, almost non-stop, as part of a cycle that’s redundant and foreign to the creativity in which it originates.

A year ago, almost to the day – after walking out of the Olympia de Paris after the final show of a touring cycle that lasted longer than two years – Lenoir holed up in a small Québec City flat and immersed himself in a tidal wave of music listening, from Prince to Brian Eno and Oscar Peterson. He then dove head-first into a nirvana-like creative euphoria, the likes of which he’d never reached before.

Then came a Eureka moment, when he said “Fuck it, I’m writing an opera!”

While Lenoir was initially thinking of a concept album, his life partner Noémie D. Leclerc quickly joined in the process. “She was working on a novel at the same time,” he says. “We were next to each other in a tiny apartment and, at some point I decided that my songs would be a reflection of her story (Darlène, Noémie D. Leclerc, Québec Amérique).” This highly fluid creative union also saw Gabriel Lapointe collaborate with them, and produced a series of illustrations and a film. Ambition is obviously not a problem for Lenoir.

Although he’d achieved considerable success in his previous group, the artist desperately needed the visceral meaning of the fresco he was painting, as far as possible from “industry recommendations.” “I needed to believe it would have some impact,” says Lenoir. “I’m holding my hand out to those who seek something different, to give a voice to those who don’t recognize themselves in the so-called ‘mainstream’ culture. Yet, I cannot deny that there’s pop-culture baggage that’s an intrinsic part of what I do. Culture, as I currently see it, remains dictated by the establishment, and I wanted to offer something else.”

On the phone, the young man is more voluble and invested than ever. At the ripe young age of 23, the sadness and exhaustion that overwhelmed him not so long ago have disappeared and given way to creativity in its highest form. “I would gorge myself with soul and the Motown sound,” he says. “Darlène was my cure for sadness. I used more DIY, and less conventional methods of hearing and creating music. I had an idea, a feeling for what I wanted. At times, I was literally in a trance, in a zone where there were no limits, a place where there’s nothing else but sheer beauty.”

What we have here is a thorough exercise, powered by an ongoing reflection on art – in its rawest, barest form, where aesthetic dictates are gone. “We add a lot of categories and layers to artworks,” says Lenoir, “whereas artists are mainly seeking the purest sentiment of beauty.”

A die-hard romantic, Lenoir admits to knowing very little about classic opera. “I’ve never been to an opera,” he says. “My contact with the genre came through the records my grandmother would give me.” He’s more familiar with contemporary rock operas, like Starmania, and others of its ilk.

And although he promises himself, and us, a live show that as vibrant as the album, Lenoir – whose physique recalls those of Bowie and Jagger at the peak of the glam years – couldn’t care less about the expectations he might generate. Ideas inform the cross-disciplinary concepts, and the creative juices flow more freely than ever. Period. “Ultimately, what we’ve done is a punk album.”

That’s all there is to it.