Whether it’s onstage or in their videos, one thing’s for sure: the five Québec musicians in Les Marinellis play retro garage and surf rock in French and they clearly enjoy it. They don’t take themselves too seriously, so they’re your run of the mill indie band, right? Not! Les Marinellis’ goal is to earn a living with their music, and they’d rather die than quit before they make it.

Paroles & Musique talked with Benoît Gromko, the band’s bassist, a few weeks prior to their SOCAN showcase at the Rendez-vous Pros des Francos on June 18, 2015.  “All of us gave up a lot to play the music we love,” says Gromko. “A lot of older musicians I meet tell me, ‘I had a band too, when I was your age. We shoulda… We coulda…’ I didn’t want to become that dude. I don’t know where our band will end up, but we will surely have tried everything we could!”  The band has already toured Europe three times, played the FrancoFolies festival three times, and played at South by Southwest last winter in Austin, Texas. And those accomplishments are just the beginning.

The input of mythical Burger Records

The many efforts of Gromko and company haven’t gone unanswered. With their first recordings under their collective belt, they started pitching to labels locally and internationally. The drafted a short list of preferred labels, and it was the mythical Burger Records that answered their call. “We’ve made quite a lot of friends through Burger,” says Gromko. “It truly is like a family, a community where people help each other: when they tour, bands crash at the other bands’ places and they help with the gear. We’re also lucky to have signed with a label that really has an identity of its own, and that draws a really cool fan base. Not only do they naturally fit with our sound, but as time goes by, we realize we get more and more people that come to check us out only because we’re on Burger, even though they might not know us, because the label is such a solid reference. It definitely helps.”

Thanks to the support of Burger and that of German label P.Trash – which distributes their (mostly vinyl) albums in Europe – Les Marinellis end up playing the Euro zone as often as they do on their home turf. As a matter of fact, they’re prepping a new European tour, and will follow with a stint on the Eastern seaboard in the fall. “It was quite hard, at first, to book shows in Europe. It wasn’t always glamourous,” says Gromko, laughing. “But now that we’ve created a network and people know us over there, booking shows is becoming easier and easier.”

Besides, the bass player isn’t one to give up easily. Hard work, commitment and devotion are standard operating procedure. “We’re reaping the efforts we’ve invested in our band,” says Gromko. “Often, bands are in a hurry to get signed so they can delegate those tasks to others as soon as possible. Nothing wrong with that, but we decided to do things differently, the D.I.Y. approach, never compromise on the choice of venue or musicians we play with. We play late, people are drunk and it can sometimes get weird, but that’s our world and we give it our all.” As for Canada, in the end it was the upstart Kapuano Records – also home to Les Deuxluxes – that signed Les Marinellis.

Sounds, Influences, Attitude

But Les Marinellis’ work isn’t all about promotion. Guitarists Alix Lepage and Alexis Patry, as well as Gromko, are all “tone heads,” musicians who seek the perfect sound, even if it means using different instruments or vintage pedals and amps in order to achieve the “color” they seek. Drummer Jean-François Martin rounds out the quintet.

Even though they have a surf rock aesthetic – think Chocolat meets Dick Dale – Les Marinellis don’t sound like a cover band or a novelty act. “When we started, we were called Kid et les Marinellis, and Luc Brien of Breastfeeders played guitar in the band, which was quite different than it is now,” says Gromko. “Our main influences were Jacques Dutronc and Antoine. But as we gradually changed musicians, our singer Cédric Marinelli shifted the band towards the garage sound we have nowadays. Usually, Cédric will come to rehearsal with a melody and a few chords, and he quickly shares his ideas with us, and we each work on our parts separately before working them out together. “

The band’s third album titled Île de rêve came out on March 27, 2015, and was introduced on stage in early May at Club Lambi, in Montréal, shortly after a concert run in Europe.

Their SOCAN showcase during the Rendez-vous Pros des Francos will happen on June 18 at 5 p.m. , where they’ll share the stage with Le Couleur. “For once, we’re playing early and the show is free, so all you poor people have no excuse for not coming!” wrote singer Cédric Marinelli on his Facebook page. It will indeed be a great opportunity to catch Les Marinellis for free in Montréal, because after that, they will play L’Escogriffe on July 15, then Rimouski (Le Villageois, on Aug. 6) and UpFest (Sudbury, Aug. 14), before hitting the road abroad.


Scott Helman never concentrated on or liked any extracurricular activity other than singing, playing guitar and writing songs. He tried karate and quit; did soccer and packed it in. But the guitar, he would play non-stop after school until bedtime.

“I think my parents knew from the start I wasn’t a normal kid,” says Helman, 19. “I didn’t go to math class. I was a little troublemaker. I liked art. I liked drawing and I liked singing and playing music. And my parents knew that.

“I think my parents knew from the start I wasn’t a normal kid.”

“They still said ‘You’ve got to be a reasonable human being and go to math class,’” he laughs. “They were just happy for me that I found something I loved doing.”

Helman, signed to Warner Music Canada, released his seven-song melodic pop debut EP, Augusta, produced by Thomas “Tawgs” Salter, in October of 2014, and at press time had just returned from a 14-date U.S. tour with Walk Off The Earth. Days later, he was in Ridgeway, Ontario, near Fort Erie, to write songs with Warner’s Vice President of A&R, Ron Lopata, who once made the teen write a song a day for 10 days, with Salter and Simon Wilcox..

Lopata, a musician and producer formerly of Jacksoul, first heard Helman’s music from League of Rock founder Terry Moshenberg, who managed him until after his signing. He’s now represented by Alison Taylor at Irving Azoff Music.

Helman, then a 15-year-old visual arts student at Earl Haig Secondary School, had started writing songs around age 12. He says they weren’t very good, crammed with multiple ideas in one song. After he performed for Lopata at his downtown studio – a session Lopata recorded – Helman then showcased for “the Warner peeps” at their north Toronto headquarters.

“I brought in my notebook of songs and pages were falling out,” Helman recalls. “I just opened it up and played a tune and then I played the next one. And it went from there.” One of those tunes was “That Sweater,” which now appears on Augusta in an updated and refined version, and is the EP’s second single after “Bungalow.”

Warner initially gave Helman a development deal and hooked him up with numerous writers, first with Warner artist Kai, then with Wilcox, whom he calls “a pivotal figure in getting me signed” based on the demos they did together for “That Sweater,” “Somewhere Sweet,” “Memories” and another song.

Once signed, he went to Vancouver for two weeks to write with 54.40’s Dave Genn, Ryan Stewart (Carly Rae Jepsen), Jeff Dawson (Daniel Powter) and Howard Redekopp (Mother Mother). “It was this big exploration time,” says Helman. “I was just taking all these people’s tricks, to be honest with you. I wasn’t stealing anything, but they have their process, and it was inspiring to see how they worked.”

Learning to focus on one idea and not get too complicated, he’s now working on songs for a full album.

“At the end of the day, it’s a confidence thing,” Helman says. “You have to have confidence in yourself that how you sound naturally is real and good and cool. You don’t have to try so hard to be interesting. And I think there’s a fine line between sounding smart and being smart.”

Track Record

  • Helman has toured with Walk off the Earth in the U.S. and performed at the 2015 MuchMusic Video Awards.
  • “I’m a really bad driver. I’m way too A.D.D.  When I’m in the car, it’s my chance to listen to the radio and I don’t focus on what’s around me, so I try not to drive as much as possible. It’s not my thing.”
  • “I like painting. They are big abstract, crazy weird paintings.”

Publisher: N/A
Discography: Augusta (EP, 2014)
Visit www.scotthelmanmusic.com
Member since 2013

These days it’s not uncommon for a breakout band to have a string section, maybe some horns, even an accordion. But Vancouver’s Brasstronaut has set a new bar for musicians who are pushing the boundaries of pop instrumentation. Flugelhorn, glockenspiel, clarinet, strings, lap-steel and even the EWI (electric wind instrument—a type of synthesizer) combine to form a rich tapestry of pop perfection. Equal parts chamber pop, Balkan bouncing indie rock, blissful soundscapes and jazz-tinged, funky rhythms, Brasstronaut members Bryan Davies, John Walsh, Brennan Saul, Edo Van Breemen, Tariq Hussain and Sam Davidson blend finely honed playing skills and powerful songwriting. This year they were long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize, played smash showcases at festivals around the country and recently took home SOCAN’s 2010 ECHO Songwriting Prize for the song “Hearts Trompet.” The band’s debut full-length, Mt. Chimaera, was released in March. Visit brasstronaut.com.