In Québec, there exists an entity called “rap québ” that’s more or less hermetically sealed, encompassing a considerable number of popular artists. There’s also a movement of women trying, through various means, to make sure that all musical genres allow them to put their music in play. Those two groups might seem contradictory, yet both characteristics exist in Random Recipe.
This month, the band celebrates a decade of existence by releasing its third album, Distractions. This time around, the group is reduced to a trio, comprised of Frannie, Fab and Liu-Kong. The eight songs on the recording know no bounds, thanks to the musicians’ eclecticism, and a fresh sound. It was co-produced by Philippe Brault and Marie-Hélène L. Delorme (FOXTROTT). “I’ve never met a producer [Marie-Hélène] with such care for sounds,” says Frannie. “She truly is a sound sculptor!”
Following Kill the Hook (2013) and Fold It! Mold It! (2010), Frannie, Fab and Liu-Kong felt the time had come to re-affirm themselves, for the sake of both the audience and themselves. “We knew it had been awhile since we’d released anything,g and artists nowadays really live in a culture of the ephemeral,” says Frannie. “You don’t want to come across as an old band who just won’t retire.”
Random Recipe isn’t under the impression they “won the music lotto,” and they’ve had ups and downs, but they wanted to re-kindle the energy of their first album. “Two years ago, we tried making a record, but we told ourselves that if we were going to release something, it better be well thought-out,” says Liu-Kong. “The second album was done under pressure,” says Frannie. “Everything was overwritten, and the raw product got lost.”
So, moving on, Random Recipe chose differently this time. “It’s a bit like deciding to have another child. You need to make sure you’re happy together first. Being in a band isn’t easy,” says Frannie. Adds Fab, “Ten years ago, we had to create new songs every time we got booked for a gig, because we didn’t have an album, and if we recorded one, we wouldn’t have enough time for gigs. We wrote our songs in the car, and it was pure ‘us.’ On the second album, we went for the cerebral side of music, and that wasn’t us.” This third album sees them going back to a more physical interpretation of music: Random Recipe express music with their bodies. “It would’ve been a shame to end our career with that second album, which was so difficult,” says Liu-Kong.
Over the last decade, hip-hop has become mainstream in Montréal, but people who used to pigeonhole Random Recipe as a “female rap” group have now realized that not everything deserves to be classified. “We’re still something of a UFO,” says Frannie. “We borrow from hip-hop as much as we borrow from funk. We’ve played more with Canailles than we have with Dead Obies these last few years! [laughs] We’re the thing that’s beside everything else.”
Although women in music are demanding their place in the business, it’s even harder in hip-hop, where female role models are rare. “There are a growing number of female rappers,” says Frannie. “It’s in no one’s interest to compete against each other. What Sarahmée does and what we do have nothing in common, so we’re much better off helping each other out. We’ve become the big sisters for artists searching for their identity,” she says, before reminding us that Betty Bonifassi and Beast, Ariane Moffatt, and Pierre Lapointe, among others, took Random Recipe under their wings when the band started out. “Marie Gold calls me, like, once a week, panicked about her career, and I have answers for her,” says Frannie.
But beyond genre, musical diversity on the scene in Montréal deserves the means to expand. In the city, musical styles are rich and diversified because they have the tools to build bridges between themselves. “Musical talent in Montréal is not located strictly near metro stations, and at the Jazz fest,” says Fab. “You need to go to Hochelag’ and NDG, and listen to stuff you’ve never heard before. It’s important. That’s what the local mosaic is all about.”
Inspiration flourishes all over the city, just as it does all over the world. The band draws the broad strokes of their musical development from their travels, influencing their culture as much as piquing their interest. “It’s quite rich to travel to Brazil after we just played Côte-Nord,” says Frannie, laughing.
Independent and crowd-funded, Distractions sees Random Recipe leaving their musical home, record label Bonsound. The trio now manages itself as it sees fit. “It was scary, at first,” says Frannie, “especially the crowdfunding part; we didn’t want to come across as beggars. But all the money we collected allowed us to validate that this album was meant to be.”
“We’re not hating… We just needed to understand what it’s all about before we could do it ourselves,” adds Fab. “Questioning what we do is important, too. You don’t know what pain is if you never fall down. Now we have three good heads on our shoulders, and we’re even more aware, because we’ve already made our mistakes.”
The decision to fly solo wasn’t made lightly. During the summer of 2016, the band stayed at the Los Angeles SOCAN House to create the first drafts for this third album. “We used that trip mainly to touch base, and realize we had no idea where we were going,” says Frannie. “We questioned ourselves on the social responsibility of having a mic in your hand. What is cultural appropriation, to us? What’s our relationship with hip-hop culture?” Those questions directed all of the ensuing creative process. “We know we have a style that’s unlike any other,” she continues. “We’d always thought it was fragile because of that, and that we therefore shouldn’t be open to others. But we realized that it was actually the opposite, that we wanted to explore, and see what other women could bring to the table.”
“We also did group therapy, like Metallica,” says Liu-Kong, laughing. The result? Making a band last is hard work. “When we were young, we wanted to be cool, but the truth is, there’s always someone younger and cooler than you,” says Frannie. As far as Random Recipe’s new approach to music, the main thing, from now on, is to focus on human relations. Marie-Pierre Arthur, Rhonda Smith (Prince), Ladybug Mecca (Digable Planets), Lisa Iwanycki (Blood and Glass), Heartstreets, Tali Taliwah (Nomadic Massive), Giselle Numba One, Sunny Moonshine (Sunny & Gabe) and Emily Lazar all contributed to the album, and the magic happened. “We don’t have many role models when it comes to getting older as a musician who does something wild like we do,” says Liu-Kong. “There’s one band in Québec that’s older than ours with a front woman, and that’s Duchess Says. Being in a band is hard, and we want to set the example.”
“Where do we go?” That’s Random Recipe’s constant question, ever seeking adventures abroad. “We want to go places we’ve never been,” says Fab. “Eastern Europe, Japan, the South of Africa. There’s a lot of Latin American vibes on the album, yet we’ve never been there as a full band. We’re gonna go there to experience what we need to create the fourth album. In 10 years, we’ve proven to ourselves that we still don’t have a single style. That’s gold. It’s always alive, just like kombucha.”