Paraphrasing the title of their third album launched in 2008, Caïman Fu is a strange animal. Over the last four years, everything seemed to indicate that Isabelle Blais’ band would probably never be back on our radars. As a matter of fact, even the band members weren’t entirely sure they wanted to keep feeding the crocodilian after three albums (Homonyme, 2003, Les Charmes du quotidien, 2005 et Drôle d’animal, 2008). An yet, last fall, Caïman Fu underwent a profound mutation and launched À des milles, their fourth opus that marked the beginning of a new era.
In Isabelle Blais’ on words: “Following the break I had to take after giving birth to my child came time to take stock. One of our guitarists had personal issues, we gave him an ultimatum and he couldn’t meet it, so he had to leave… We questionned our motives for making music together. Ultimately, we forged on as a trio, in an appartment, in a very intimate and stripped down way, devoid of the energy of rock and roll. Nedless to say, we experienced moments of grace! ”
For a year and a half, practicing two to three times a week, Isabelle, guitarist Nicolas Grimard, drummer Mathieu Massicotte and newly recruited bass player Dominic Laroche used their tried and true creative process – improv, trial and error, writing, rewriting, etc. – until they emerged from that appartment with almost two dozen new songs. “We experienced a rebirth, a second wind,” remembers Isabelle. “Is many ways, this album is an assessment album, and I’m really happy with the final result.”
In more ways than one, À des milles is the perfect example of Caïman Fu’s evolution and transformation through the years, whether it’s Isabelle’s lyrics, which are sadder and even at times dark, or the more dreamy atmosphere and energy level created by the rest of the band and polished in the studio by renowned producer Carl Bastien. “There’s no doubt that our initial approach, which was much more relaxed, pared-down and improv-based, had a great impact on the final result, confides Isabelle. Playing as a trio, not very loudly in an appartment, with a computer naturally led us to a more relaxed and ethereal atmosphere. It also changed the way I sing, if you cpompare it to when we rehearsed in an actual rehearsal studio where everything is amplified and I needed to scream to be heard.”
“It’s obvious I channled the band’s energy when I wrote. But to me, writingis always quite a solitary endeavor. I wrote the lyrics for this album either isolated in a cabin in the woods or at my place, in the city. But this time around, I was less reserved. Before, I was very hesistant to include stuff about my private life, but on this album, I voluntarily let myself be inspired by what was going on in my life. ‘Notre monument’, for example, is a song wirtten about my break-up, but written before it happened… It is me looking at something I thought indestructible but that was whithering away. There is ‘Une étoile’, which I wrote about suicide after a few of my friends chose that solutions over the last few years. ‘Avaler du gravier’ is about a great friendship disappointment that I had a hard time getting over… There is only one song related to my son, though, and that’s ‘Ma maison, c’est toi’. It started out being about absolute love, but then I realized that my absolute love will only ever be my son… I guess it’s what growing older is about; you prefer hearing about real stuff, but without being anecdotal. Songs that are about anecdotes and filled with specific details rarely interest me.”
Music remains at the heart of Isabelle Blais’ artistic endeavor’s, even though her acting carrer on stage and on TV is still going on strong: “Music will never stop for me, it’s fundamental for me. The minute I have the slightest free space in my mind, I think about music. It never goes away. But on the other hand, it’s harder because it’s creation, so you need to take it upon yourself. You can’t hide, it’s not somebody else’s words that you are enacting. It’s me, they’re my words, my interpretation, there’s no safety net, I’m completely exposed! It’s very dizzying, but also exhilarating…”
This coming summer, Caïman Fu will hit the festivals’ circuit and will also appear at all three Francofolies: Montréal, Spa and La Rochelle. And to think that it almost ended…