She moved to Leukemia
She left me all her books, she went to live
In Chemotherapy, in Chemotherapy
It’s a new country
With shocking lyrics fit to blow the listener away from the word go, “La fièvre des fleurs” (“Flower Fever”), the second track of Klô Pelgag’s debut album, sets the tone for an unusual semantic experience created by outlandish word associations and wordplay that have the power to amuse, de-stabilize, and even move the listener.
Klô Pelgag – Chloé Pelletier-Gagnon by her real name – is a 23-year-old artist who recently burst onto the music scene with a ready-made style, a distinct personality, an ethereal voice and disorienting lyrics.
The release, last September, of her first album L’Alchimie des monstres was met with an immediate audience reaction similar to the excitement produced several years ago by Pierre Lapointe’s first recording. But this is as far as the comparison goes, and Pelgag herself refuses to try to describe her own writing style, simply offering: “I’m just trying to be free, someone who writes knee-jerk songs without a helmet. I love taking risks.”
The daughter of two social workers posted in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, in the Gaspé region, Klô Pelgag eventually moved back with her family to Rivière-Ouelle, near La Pocatière, on the South shore of the St. Lawrence River. “Whenever I find myself out in the country again, I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I can breathe easier and write more freely,” she explains. The scent of the Lower St. Lawrence region is all over L’Alchimie des monstres, whose seabreeze permeated tracks were entirely recorded in the Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière College chapel.
“I’m just trying to be free, someone who writes knee-jerk songs without a helmet.”
Klô Pelgag had aspirations to become a school crossing guard until she read Boris Vian’s novel L’Écume des jours (Froth on the Daydream) and realized that reading a book could be a “fun” experience. A changed person, she dove into the plays of Eugène Ionesco and the poetry of Claude Gauvreau when she was in theatre school, delighted in the art of Dali, Botero and Magritte, and listened to the music of Gentle Giant, L’Infonie and Raôul Duguay, Aut’Chose and the like. Even as a teenager, Klô Pelgag’s tastes were uncommon.
Petite and apparently shy, Klô, never at a loss for words, expresses some annoyance at being asked to explain the meaning of her lyrics. “It’s not anything that comes from super deep reflection,” she stresses, adding: “I hate analyzing myself. I wouldn’t be doing it normally. My songs are and should remain moments in time. My writing changes with each successive mood.”
Klô Pelgag’s fascination with the physical body is an integral part of her album, where people may be portrayed as dismembered or sick, where “the Sun is incontinent” and where silence is compared to a “scarecrow.” “Comme des rames” (“Like Paddles”) is a pretty love song up to the point where one of the title’s paddles gets broken on a lover’s back. And Pelgag is particularly proud of having had a choir or elderly people sing the verses “You will find God in your diagnosis, He is the one hurting you by spitting holy water at you” in “Rayon X” (“X-Ray”). “Words acquire new meanings once they start singing,” she declares, visibly pleased with the way this came out.
Her album’s meticulous arrangements are the result of two years of hard work by Klô and her musician brother Mathieu Pelletier-Gagnon. Each of the album’s 13 pieces is a world unto itself, and Klô Pelgag is deeply grateful to her brother for these results: “I’ve been working with Mathieu since I was 17,” she remembers. “I knew nothing about music or arrangements. I would not be able to write my own arrangements. I have a good ear for melody, but I was unable to get that out, and my brother was.”
L’Alchimie des monstres, of course, is only a primer. Pelgag is now planning a promotional tour of Quebec and France with a show that will be directed by enfant terrible dancer Dave St-Pierre, a perfect fit for an artist who loves fun and games and is known to perform magic tricks, make cakes or fly toy drones as part of her stage performance. Future audiences, beware!
With a sophomore album in mind, Klô Pelgag intends to keep going without worrying about matters of personal fame or music industry standards: “Music comes naturally to me,” she insists, “and that’s what I want to do. It makes me happy. I don’t do it to become the best-known girl in the world or cause people to faint in my presence!” If she gets her way, one can reasonably predict that more people are likely to be willing to step into her crazy world.