When Laura Roy played her first small show in London, England, in March 2017, she had a hunch it was where she needed to be. Returning to Toronto, where she was based at the time, Roy packed up her car and drove home to her native Nova Scotia. Landing a bartending job, the singer-songwriter saved every penny she could, focused on her goal of getting back to the U.K.

“London gave me a feeling that I hadn’t felt yet,” says Roy. “The excitement I felt there and the music I wanted to create… It’s just such an incredible music scene.” Six months later, led by a gut feeling, she bought a one-way ticket to London and didn’t look back.

In the five years since, Roy, now 30, has established herself as an up-and-coming voice in the alternative R&B space. She has two EPs under her belt, along with an East Coast Music Award (her 2018 EP Forte was named best R&B/Soul Recording of the Year in 2020) and has performed as a backing vocalist with pop superstars Anne-Marie and Camila Cabello. Then last year, the American rapper and songwriter Doja Cat used one of Roy’s co-writes (with her partner, producer Geo Jordan, and friend, Linden Jay) on her 2021 album, Planet Her, which has since earned two Grammy nominations.

“It’s been a bit surreal,” says Roy, who’s been invited to attend the awards ceremony in April of 2022, in Las Vegas. “Not only are our names on the credits, but they kept my vocals on the track.”

But as much as she’s thriving in London, Roy’s latest EP, Tides, produced with Jordan and Grammy-nominated artist Lianne La Havas, is an homage to the place where she grew up. Born and raised in the village of Canning, N.S., Roy spent her early years singing along to artists like Carole King and James Taylor. “I was a little diva performer from the age of four,” she laughs.

When she started studying guitar at 13, however, things fell into place. When her teacher encouraged her to write her first song, Roy says she found her spark. “My whole world opened up to the idea of actually learning how to play and accompany myself,” she says. Roy began performing at coffee shops and in talent shows, eventually studying music at college in Dartmouth, N.S.

“It’s been a bit surreal”

Then at 19, Roy was invited to attend the Gordie Sampson Songcamp, where she learned to write with other people. “That was really eye-opening for me,” she recalls. But after participating for four years straight, Roy admits that her home province was “starting to feel a little small.” After decamping to Toronto, she began participating in songwriting camps in other parts of the country, through the Songwriters Association of Canada, as well as in New York and Nashville.

Though she tends to let melodies move her when she’s writing her own music, freestyling until she finds a nugget she can shape into a song, Roy also loves the challenge of co-writing.

“I think so much is about connecting with the other person, and just seeing what kind of space they’re in, and what they’ve been shaped by, and what they want to create,” she says. “When you get a good session with someone and you’re connecting, it’s like you’re looking in their soul. It’s really exciting.”

Roy, who’s self-managed, continues to push herself to try new things. Most recently, she’s been doing more producing, and is also directing her own music videos. She says she’s proud of what she’s been able to achieve on her own.

Though she doesn’t see herself staying in London forever, Roy is continuing to enjoy her time in the city, with plans to re-evaluate in a few years. She’s even open to the idea of one day returning to Nova Scotia, and the ocean where she spent her youth.

“I think the dream for me would be to buy a beautiful beach house and have my own studio,” she laughs. “I’d like to be producing and writing for other people.”

For now, Roy says she’ll keep listening to her gut as she charts a course forward. “I just want to tour the world,” she says happily. “I want to travel and perform, and to continue creating music that excites me.”



Krista Simoneau’s agency has been playing a key role in the industry for a decade now. We met with an influential woman who’s learned how to say “no.”

Les Yeux Boussoles is the name this Laval-based decision-maker picked for the management and production company she founded in 2012. Krista Simoneau didn’t just pop up in the industry as a novice: she studied bass guitar at Cégep Saint-Laurent – which is where she met Louis-Jean Cormier, François Lafontaine, etc. –  “but I don’t play anymore,” she says.

Krista Simoneau

Left to right: Louis-Jean Cormier, François Lafontaine, Krista Simoneau. Photo: Le Caron

She then went on to specialize in sound engineering at Cégep de Drummondville before working extensively as a stage tech – “patching stages” as she puts it – most notably for the Montréal International Jazz Festival, as well as the Francofolies. She also worked as an electrical and lighting technician at Salle Pauline-Julien, a venue in Sainte-Geneviève, a suburb in the West end of the island of Montréal.

“That’s the universe I’m from,” she says. “I worked at Spectra, producing shows from 2005 to 2011. Booking agent is not a trade you learn in school.” She actually uses the word “salesperson” to describe her work. “The phone was ringing off the hook at Spectra, all the bookers were on the line and that’s the perfect opportunity to push your emerging artist’s projects. It’s easier that way,” says.

“When I came back from my maternity leave [she’s the mother of an 11-year-old and a 15-year-old, whose father is Louis-Jean Cormier] Catherine Simard was taking the helm of the agency,” says Simoneau. They spent a year working together before she decided to create her own agency. “I needed new challenges, and to define who I am as a human being,” she says.

Now 43, Simoneau has become – thanks to her discretion, rigour, and humility – a player to be reckoned with. She’s honing her skills, while still managing and advising Louis-Jean Cormier, whose career continues to soar to great heights with his incandescent solo albums, his life with Karkwa, his TV appearances as a coach on La Voix [the Québec franchise of The Voice], and as a creative teacher on Star Académie.

“One of the achievements I’m the proudest of is the digital platform Louis-Jean and I have developed: Le 360,”: she says. “It has exclusive content, interviews, guitar lessons, videos with new artists and collaborators, etc. It’s a big project because doing digital and video is expensive, and takes a lot of time in the schedule. We actually film all the capsules in his studio [Dandurand]. We want to showcase his many talents.”

The couple split six years ago. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, considering their business ties. It turned out to be the ultimate test of their resilience. The breakup started getting public attention, and, invoking personal reasons, the musician paused his career. “But I would’ve kept on doing what I do no matter what, because I also manage other artists,” says the woman who skis and jogs in her spare time.

Krista Simoneau

Left to right: Krista Simoneau, Brigitte Poupart (with her back turned), Martin Léon, Louis-Jean Cormier. Photo: Joséphine Trottier-Rivard

Salomé Leclerc, Lou-Adriane Cassidy, country singer Cindy Bédard, Ariane Moffat, Galaxie, Martin Léon, and a new band whose identity she cannot divulge yet, are among the artists that Simoneau and her two valiant employees manage.

“You can’t represent just one artist, because you never know when they’ll leave you, or conflicts will arise,” says Simoneau. “Working with someone with whom you’re romantically involved is also very difficult. We’ve been through it together, because we’re able to talk to each other and untie the knots, even though it’s sometimes really hard. Our communication was a tad more abrasive during the first two years,” she laughs, “but we’ve been separated for six years now, and things couldn’t be better. The crisis is behind us. We’re focused on our future professional projects, not on our quarrels. We appreciate each other deeply. He’s really easy to work with, he’s not a complicated person.”

What does she enjoy the most? “Representing artists I work with, whom I adore, but without acting like a groupie,” says Simoneau. “I like selling their shows to bookers and helping them get discovered, and I think I’m good at it, at placing my pieces. I like long-term strategizing, too: where do we see ourselves a year or two from now?”

Projecting herself into the future, she says, “The promotional and release operation starts a year before the album is slated to come out, and it culminates with the tour, so it’s a three-year commitment.” Where, for example, does she see 24-year-old Lou-Adriane Cassidy – one of Ariane Roy’s dear friends – in the near future?

“I believe she’ll mark her generation just as Louis-Jean did his,” she says. “That woman has what it takes to reach the same level of exposure. She knows exactly where she’s going, she’s got a strong, sensual rock vibe that she totally owns – like Salomé. I think she’ll be a role model for my daughter’s generation, and I totally see her selling-out MTelus no more than three years from now.

“My strategy? The right artist in the right place at the right time. It’s OK sometimes to decide to play more fringe festivals rather than the Francos de Montréal. Waiting for the right moment is sometimes very hard for artists. And then, when things are on a roll, the hardest thing is saying no to certain projects. It’s a common mistake when you start out to say yes to everything. But sometimes, the wise thing to say is ‘We’ll pass on this for now, this opportunity will come around again.’”

 



On Live Your Truth Shred Some Gnar, their second EP, NOBRO is getting dangerously close to its goal: to be the most kick-ass all-female band of all time.

NOBROThe EP’s title is symbolic of the Montréal-based punk-rock quartet: the NOBRO girls live their truth in a raw, authentic way, through their music as much as in their daily lives. The fast, spirited way they play is the perfect embodiment of an expression used by snowy mountain boarder aficionados: “shred some gnar,” which refers to hurtling down said mountain with exceptional speed and enthusiasm, especially when the conditions are sub-optimal. And, in the rock world, shred is also used to describe the exceptional technique of guitar virtuosos.

“Playing really fast and in an impressive way is our mojo, generally speaking,” says percussionist and keyboardist Lisandre Bourdages with a smile in her voice.

And as far as sub-optimal conditions are concerned, let’s just say that being an all-female band in a predominantly male realm, NOBRO has its work cut out for it. “We’re women in the punk world – of course we had to make a place for ourselves,” says Bourdages. “It’s also a nod to all the ‘brown’ shows we did. The conditions are never optimal in the beginning.”

“Rock is a way of life,” continues singer-guitarist Karolane Charbonneau. “When you love it, you play it, no matter what the conditions are!”

Which is why the tale of NOBRO is, first and foremost, a story about determination. A seasoned musician in her own right, singer and bassist Kathryn McCaughey waited a good while before finding the perfect combination of people to achieve her dream of forming an all-female punk band. Founded in 2014, the group underwent various shuffles before settling down in its current, stable form after Karolane Charbonneau joined the already solid core of McCaughey, Bourdages and drummer Sarah Dion.

“It’s been a couple of years that I knew deep down that I wanted to be in a punk band. I wanted to let off steam, and express myself in a different way,” says Charbonneau, the newest member of the band, who also plays with Comment Debord. “You can’t lack self-confidence to play a NOBRO tune. Kathryn’s energy is unbelievable. We could ask any slightly insecure girl on stage with us and she’d feel like she fits in immediately. When we play, it’s like the world no longer exists.”

“The minute you start talking to Kathryn, she makes you feel self-confident,” confirms Bourdages who, alongside Sarah Dion, also plays in the all-female trio Les Shirley. “Even if she doesn’t know you, she’ll believe in your potential. She props up all the women around her.”

In and of itself, the music on this second EP is made to boost your confidence. Live Your Truth Shred Some Gnar considerably amplifies the ardour and intensity of 2020’s Sick Hustle through its lively mix of garage rock, irreverent punk à la Ramones, and’ 60s pop-rock.

Once again, the quartet tapped Thomas D’Arcy (July Talk, The Sheepdogs) to produce their EP. The recording sessions were held 18 months ago at D’Arcy’s Taurus Recording studio. “We gave ourselves two weeks to do everything,” says Bourdages. “We wanted to take some time to live in the moment and try out those songs. We recorded all the instruments by playing together. That’s probably what gives it this raw feeling.” “We didn’t do that for the previous EP, and I think it shows,” adds Charbonneau.

She’s also taking her first steps as the main singer-songwriter of a NOBRO song, on top of having penned the band’s first song in French (“Bye Bye Baby”). “Something happened in my life, a major breakup, and I really wasn’t doing well,” she explains. “Kathryn came by my place often. One day she said, ‘I think this is the perfect time to write a song. It’s going to be powerful!’ I was unsure at first – I’m a really shy person – but I decided to accept the challenge. But when the time came to sing the song in our rehearsal space, I just couldn’t do it! Kathryn would yell, ‘You can do it!’ to me.”

In the end, the whole exercise turned out to be therapeutic for Charbonneau. “A classic breakup song is a good way to let go of your emotions,” she says. “It really helped me to play it live, and scream it at the top of my lungs.”

All NOBRO songs have this liberating aspect, from the epic Gospel intro of “Better Each Day” to the psychedelic trip of “Life Is a Voyage,” that joyously concludes the EP. McCaughey’s frank, straight-to-the-point lyrics are a perfect fit for the project’s festive, raw, almost savage spirit. “Kathryn has lived, and that allows her to write solid lyrics. She’s been wild and done a lot of stuff,” says Bourdages. “But in the end, we’re not that wild.”

“We know how to party, though. We just don’t party every day,” adds Charbonneau. “Maybe we’re not truly a punk band, in the end.”