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Porcelaine a fait son apparition en 2010 avec un mini-album homonyme de cinq titres. À l’époque, le projet reposait sur les épaules de la Montréalaise Mélanie Scala. Un mouvement naturel a fait migrer le projet solo vers la formule collective : « L’élaboration du deuxième album s’est passée différemment. Mon ancien complice dans Maharajah, Simon Bédard (guitares, voix), a co-composé avec moi toutes les pièces de La foire aux animaux. Les autres musiciens étaient dans notre entourage. Au début, on cherchait des collaborateurs en maîtrise de leur instrument, on les avait engagés pour les spectacles. Mais voilà, ils ont proposé leurs lignes et, de fil en aiguille, se sont greffés au groupe. J’avoue que ça m’avait manqué dans l’aventure solo. »

La musique, Mélanie l’a dans le cœur comme on embrasse une vocation. Au cours des trois dernières années, l’ancienne messagère à vélo – qui fut même à une époque lutine de Père Noël dans les centres d’achats – a donné vie à deux enfants, un ep et un album. Vivre de musique et d’eau fraîche, ce n’est pas la voie facile pour une artiste sans compromis, « mais c’est ma passion alors j’y mets l’énergie. Quand on me demande ce que je fais dans la vie, je réponds de la musique. La clé, c’est de rester réaliste, tout en se permettant de rêver ».

Transe collective
Le combo Porcelaine a donc lancé un album le 1er mai dernier et un vinyle en juillet sur lequel s’entend très clairement un solide ancrage dans la décennie 70. Folk-pop atmosphérique aux orchestrations ambitieuses et foisonnantes, la proposition du groupe flirte par moments avec le psychédélisme, sans aller s’y complaire, un peu comme chez Monogrenade. À la flûte traversière, Maude Langevin-Charlebois tutoie le fantôme d’Harmonium, en particulier sur la très belle « Langue de bois », dans laquelle un oiseau se fait un nid avec… une langue de bois ! « Ah oui, c’est drôle, cette chanson-là s’est écrite tellement vite. Je suis partie de nulle part : j’ai commencé par taper sur des casseroles, j’ai ajouté un peu de synthétiseur et quand la flûte est arrivée, tout a décollé ! D’ailleurs, c’est à ce moment-là que j’ai su que je voulais de la flûte sur l’album. Ensuite, les paroles ont coulé de source : il est grand le mystère de la création, » rappelle en rigolant la chanteuse. En ce qui concerne les années 70, « oui, cela fait partie de nos sensibilités. Dans ce groupe, nos goûts musicaux se rejoignent. Nos affinités vont de Gainsbourg à Fleet Foxes et je suis de près la scène montréalaise. En cours de route, on s’est aperçu que notre processus s’apparentait beaucoup à celui des groupes de cette décennie-là : on a le même esprit libéral, on n’est pas enfermé dans quelque chose de cérébral, loin de là. On y va au feeling, en faisant fi des moules et des modes ».

Dès qu’on entre dans La foire aux animaux, ce qui saisit et éblouit, c’est la voix, ou plutôt les voix, harmonieuses, déballées sans emphase, coulantes et fluides, roulant les unes sur les autres. Même lorsqu’elle chante seule, Mélanie Scala a pris beaucoup d’assurance depuis le mini-album de 2010. Les harmonies vocales constituent sans aucun doute l’une des forces de Porcelaine. « C’est ce que l’on souhaite mettre de l’avant. On travaille dans un esprit collectif ; chanter ensemble rapproche, rassemble et unit. L’album en est teinté et je remarque que c’est ce qui rejoint et touche les gens. »

Ce qui nous amène à aborder la question des textes, par moments naïfs mais poétiques, ailleurs hypnotiques ou cryptés. Étonnamment, il n’y a pas tant d’animaux dans cette belle ménagerie. Un œuf de corbeau, un oiseau qui construit son nid avec une langue de bois, mais où sont les éléphants rencontrés sur la pochette ? « Les animaux, c’était surtout un prétexte pour parler des humains. Parfois, nos émotions sont en phase avec nos instincts, mais notre tête nous en éloigne. On sacrifie nos instincts – qui relèvent de l’animal en nous – au profit de notre logique qui veut tout contrôler… Plusieurs de nos textes sont issus de cette réflexion. Nous avons des armes poétiques (…) À la foire aux animaux, nous étions dans la même cage, rassemblés comme un troupeau avant l’abattage, » chante Mélanie sur la chanson qui donne son titre à l’album. Elle conclut, un sourire dans la voix : « La foire aux animaux, c’est aussi un clin d’œil au processus de création de l’album, au groupe qui s’est formé tout naturellement pendant le travail. Cet album a vu le jour parce que nous étions plusieurs et que nous avons mis toutes nos émotions en commun. » La musique : y a-t-il plus beau ciment pour lier les êtres ?


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The first time I witnessed Patrick Watson live was in 2009, and I was wearing a Santa Claus suit.
It was just on the cusp of Christmas, and Watson, plying me with one too many Jameson’s Irish whiskeys the previous night, duped me into introducing his band in full Saint Nick garb before their hometown Christmas show at Montreal’s Metropolis club. Until then, Watson was merely a good drinking buddy (still is), but I had heard nary a tickling of his ivories or a peep of his careening falsetto.

That night, he completely blindsided me with unwavering confidence, swelling drama and a sense of panoramic beauty and hushed intimacy that cascaded all the way to the back of the hall. Watson and his musical cohorts possessed the power to hold each member of the audience in a tight grip, and reduced even the most callous among them to a shimmering puddle.

“We wanted to just make a record that gives people goose bumps .”

I delved into his discography shortly afterwards, but none of his previous releases could match the urgency of what Watson and his band managed to stir up in a live setting.

Not to say that the group’s talent wasn’t squeezed into the grooves; one need look no further than 2007’s Polaris Prize winner Close To Paradise or 2009’s Polaris short-listed Wooden Arms for proof. But there remained a live/studio gulf. Flash forward to the three years later, and his current record Adventures in Your Own Backyard bridges the divide.

“It was coming up on our fourth record, and I knew it was going to be a pretty important record for us” says Watson. “We’ve never really succeeded in capturing the excitement of our live show in the studio, and that was a challenge to us this time. We wanted to just make a record that gives people goosebumps, and that’s it.”

“This time I wanted words that people could touch, and to give everyday people adventures.”

Adventures in Your Own Backyard lives up to that promise. The album has a sense of immediacy, but its musical arc is cleverly crafted. From the lulling opening of “Lighthouse,” to the catchy “Into Giants” and “Blackwind,” to the Angelo Badalamenti-styled instrumental finale “Swimming Pools, ” it is indeed a musical adventure. The characters in Watson’s songs are fleshed out and sympathetic, inviting listeners along for the journey.

“I’m not a great lyricist by any stretch of the imagination, and for me [lyrics are] easily the hardest thing to write, ” says Watson. “But this time I wanted words that people could touch, and to give everyday people adventures they could actually go on. I’m not really that interested in writing about myself. When I hear songwriters telling stories about other people, while still keeping it personal, I tend to feel it’s a bit more interesting and less annoying.”

Although it’s Watson’s name that shines on the marquee, the input from his band – including guitarist Simon Angell, drummer Robbie Kuster and bassist Mishka Stein – has proven invaluable. Angell, Kuster and Stein co-write the songs, know their places within them, and know when to come to the forefront and leave their mark. Friends since they all attended the same music school, the band lineup has never wavered since its inception more than a decade ago. Watson is quick to point out that his music is hardly a solo project, and though he’s arguably the chief musical motivator, the song’s final form is shaped by eight hands.

“There’s this misconception that this band is a singer-songwriter thing, and that really bugs me,” he says. “It’s really important to us that everybody can make a musical contribution in the band. At the end of a record we can only pick 12 songs that are our best to offer people, and at that point it doesn’t matter who came up with the original musical ideas.

“It really makes me proud that it’s still all of the same members in the band as when we started. We do a lot of touring together but we can usually get up to at least one adventure that will make us all laugh as friends, as opposed to bandmates. We’ve always kept that spirit and I think that’s why it’s worked for so long.”


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With global sales of his 2004 debut album Storyteller reaching in excess of 1.6 million copies globally, multiple Top 10 hits in the U.K., and sold-out shows that attract up to 30,000 fans in India, Africa and North America, you’d think Raghav would be a household name in Canada.

But while North America’s South Asian community has embraced his music – and flocked to venues like Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Long Island’s Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and LA’s Shrine Auditorium to see the Calgary-based, Indo-Canadian singer-songwriter perform – “It’s just never translated in the North American mainstream,” Raghav says.

“The first language you speak will always your mother tongue”- Raghav

Since he signed a Canadian deal with Cordova Bay Records and released his Juno Award-nominated song, “So Much” (featuring Kardinal Offishall) in 2011, however, that’s begun to change. Already, “Fire,” the second single from his 2012 release The Phoenix, has become Raghav’s most successful Canadian single to date; it’s garnered him nominations at the 2012 Canadian Radio Music Awards and Canadian Indie Awards, and achieved certified gold sales status. Raghav has recently signed a U.S. deal with Ultra Records and, at press time, was preparing to release “Fire” south of the border in the summer of 2012.

His records, however, are just one of the creative outlets that Raghav is exploring. Currently, he’s working on a Bollywood film with composer A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) and a Hollywood film with both Rahman and Grammy/Academy Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked). “A.R’s known about me for some time,” says Raghav. “I happened to be in India when he was there and he called me. We started cutting songs for the Bollywood project and ever since, it seems like I’ve been following and working with him all around the world.”

Raghav’s goal has always been to become a more sophisticated songwriter and to expand his musical vocabulary with each successive record. While the Indian music he grew up with still informs his distinctive brand of energetic R&B/pop, The Phoenix finds him drawing inspiration from blues, R&B and the musical traditions he’s encountered while travelling to countries like Kenya, Pakistan and Nepal.

“The first language you speak will always your mother tongue,” he says. “It’s helped me break down the barrier of scale, so when I’m writing a song and I want to take somewhere else, I can, but you can’t keep doing the same thing. The fusion always has to take a different form.”

Track Record
• At age 16, Raghav won the National Songwriters Association of America Award
• As a teenager, Raghav trained with vocal coach Seth Riggs, who’s worked with international stars including Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.
• His music has been described as “South Asian-flavoured U.S. R&B with hip-hop flourishes.”


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