It happens every two or three years. A virus infects hundreds of thousands of Quebecers who start singing along together. It started back in 2004, when they all sang about wanting to be “Hawaïenne.” Then they sang about this grand champion international de course (great international racing champion). The 2009 mutation of the virus was quite devastating, and even the most manly men of the province were singing about changes in their young girl’s body… But so far, the worst came when even my five-year-old daughter admitted, singing, that she was in love with my grandmother.

The mad scientists behind this virus are Les Trois Accords, the band that’s launching their new album titled Joie d’être gai (The Joy of Being Gay), and the first single off the opus is another fearsome earworm. “Initially, I dreamed that the chorus from “Joie d’être gai” would become a hymn for the gay community,” says singer Simon Proulx. “But it turns out that in the end, it’s true. I’ve seen mechanics changing tires while singing “Dans Mon Corps.” If the same mechanics change tires this year while singing their heart out with “Joie d’être gai,” I’d say we’ve accomplished something.”

In many different ways, universal love is a recurring theme on the Trois Accords’ new album. Same goes for unicorns, dolphins and rainbows, which are back with a vengeance because of the seapunk phenomenon that’s had the web abuzz for a few months. “We didn’t become aware of it on the Internet as much as in convenience stores along the highway outside of urban centres,” says Proulx. “I don’t know why, exactly, but almost all of them have a section with dolphin and unicorn tchotchkes.”

“We’re less into throwing strong images at you like when we started. You can really make out a kinda serious message in many more of our songs.” – Simon Proulx of Les Trois Accords

Les Trois AccordsHe readily admits having been drawn by these shiny, colourful ornaments. “I look at them every time we stop for ga,s or just to stretch a little when we’re on tour,” says Proulx. “I’d love to buy some, but I’m afraid of what others will think. To tell you the truth, I’m secretly hoping to get them as a gift. I don’t know what happened that we started thinking these things are corny. Dolphins are magnificent natural creatures. So are unicorns; it’s not because the’are rare that they’re ugly. The one we got photographed with is from Québec, but I can’t tell you where, otherwise photographers from the whole world will flock there and it could hurt its eyes.”

Whether or not it’s a coincidence, this strong attraction to symbols of New Age culture happens at a time when Proulx’s writing has taken a more poetic turn. “I felt pressured in the wake of the success of ‘J’aime ta grand-mère,’” says Proulx. “I wanted to be even better. I worked hard to write songs with a more poetic dimension that would still be straightforward and firmly planted in the Trois Accords universe. We’re less into throwing strong images at you like when we started. You can really make out a kinda serious message in many more of our songs,” says the singer in reference to the song “Les Dauphins et les licornes” (“Dolphins and Unicorns”), whose subtext is an invitation to come out.

As if to contrast this newfound poetic licence, the quartet has also never sounded so grungy: lots of distorted guitars, and song structures and arrangements very reminiscent of Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, and even the Pixies. “When I was in high school, I was much more skater punk than grunge, but for my generation, grunge was so omnipresent that it became part of popular culture,” says Proulx. “And even though we’ve never used so much distorted guitars, many people also feel we’ve never been as pop as this. Goes to show how much grunge has become a part of our collective subconscious,” muses the man whose solo career began last summer with the launch of his Simon 1 album and was short-lived.

“We knew from the get-go that my solo album was not to interfere with the band’s agenda,” says Proulx. “As a matter of fact, it launched while we were recording the band’s album. I would’ve liked to do a bit more promo and do a few shows to support it, but I had no time. Maybe I’ll get back to it after we’re done touring Joie d’être gai in 2018…”

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Here’s the latest edition in our series of stories on those happy creative meetings of two songwriters. In this edition, the duo we met is also a couple, namely Jorane and Éloi Painchaud, whose autumn has been a busy one – thanks chiefly to the launch of their original soundtrack for the 3D computer-animated movie La guerre des tuques.

Our conversation occurred virtually, with the artists comfortably seated in their home studio on the Laurentians, while I was in downtown Montréal. “We’re not that used to joint interviews,” says Jorane, while her husband, songwriter and producer Éloi Painchaud, smiles by her side.

Jorane, Éloi PainchaudThe creative duo have had a very auspicious autumn, notably when it comes to awards. A few weeks ago, Jorane won the Félix Award for Best Instrumental Album of the Year for Mélopée. It’s her second Félix award, but “the first time I got the privilege to go onstage to receive it,” she says. “I couldn’t attend the gala the first time, and they never actually gave me the trophy.”

She was also recently awarded the prix André-Gagnon de la Fondation SPACQ for her entire body of work in instrumental music, as well as the prix Gaston-Roux of Théâtre du Nouveau Monde for her soundtrack to the stage version of Le Journal d’Anne Frank. That’s enough awards to deservedly celebrate Thanksgiving.

Something else that keeps the couple busy is film soundtracks. In 2007, Jorane composed the music for Un dimanche à Kigali, earning her a Jutra award. “Jorane has always made film music, even before she was actually commissioned to compose for a movie,” says Painchaud, as a way to describe his wife’s music.

Together, they scored Daniel Roby’s Louis Cyr: L’Homme le plus fort au monde (2013). As we write these lines, they’ve just seen the release of La guerre des tuques 3D and their work on Jean-Philippe Duval’s La Chasse-Galerie: La Légende will hit the silver screen just in time for Christmas.

Jorane, Éloi Painchaud“For La guerre des tuques 3D, we were initially asked to write songs,” explains Painchaud before being interrupted by Jorane: “That’s Éloi’s strong suit!” “Obviously, I come from the pop world, given my work with Okoumé and Jonathan [NdR, Éloi’s Brother],” he adds. “It’s one of the important axes of our collaboration with the film’s producers. They needed five mastered songs, five musical themes that we developed in different directions, folk-like for more intimate scenes and more orchestral for action scenes.”

The couple toiled on the movie’s soundtrack for nearly two years. “In the beginning, we worked from pencil drawings they would send us!” says Jorane. Their compositions for the film all have a common thread, which is a typically Québécois folk flavour, rather like a backdrop throughout the movie. But, Painchaud insists that none of this would have been possible without the help of arranger Tim Rideout (who also collaborated on Louis Cyr) and Ian Kelly, who translated the songs into English.

Kelly also ended up being the soundtrack’s producer and supervisor. “We had to seek artists and call them to invite them to join the project,” says Painchaud. “We were incredibly fortunate that Céline Dion accepted our invitation to collaborate.” Says Jorane: “Bear in mind that Céline is part of the generation that grew up a fan of the original movie, and she has kids, too.”

So where did the idea of a choral reprise with Marie-Pierre Arthur, Marie-Mai, Louis-Jean Cormier and Fred Pellerin come from? “We thought long and hard if we should cover it,” says Painchaud. “If we should invite Nathalie Simard to participate. Finally, it was Fred who had the genius idea. He said, ‘Why don’t we do a We Are the Tuques?’”

Jorane and Éloi’s creative process doesn’t happen in a fixed framework, and each project is approached in its own way. “When we sat down with Jean-François Pouliot [La guerre des tuques 3D’s director], I took a ton of notes,” says Jorane. “He wanted the songs to talk about this and that. That was our starting point. Sometimes, Éloi would spend the whole evening in the studio, looking for ideas. Sometimes we work independently with our guitars and then share what we’ve come up with.”

“There aren’t just two ways to write a song, there are a thousand,” adds Painchaud. “ For certain songs, we ping-ponged back and forth with sentences, ideas, melodies. For others the process was much easier.”

Jorane, Éloi PainchaudTo Painchaud, his companion is more of a melodist. “Her phone is loaded with melodies,” he says. “Whenever she has an idea for a melody, she records it with her phone, humming. That’s very often how we begin working on a song.” As for him, he thrives on giving life to those melodies, using his guitar as well as his lyrics. “I love to write,” he says. “I’ve written since I was a kid. A song is a very specific narrative within which you can say anything you want. There’s nothing that brings me more joy than writing songs.”

“Passion is what’s most important,” adds Jorane. “At the beginning of our relationship, we didn’t work together. The first few years, we weren’t in any rush to work on each other’s material. But we’ve always been each other’s first listener, giving advice. We needed some time to get to know each other on that level, so we took our time.”

What Painchaud appreciates about their work as a duo is being there during the very embryonic stages of a work. “I think the very first draft of a song is always extremely fragile,” he says. “We listen to each other, support each other. Jorane is so full of ideas, she’s often my fuel. She feeds me, artistically.”

“You need to find the positive aspect of each other’s work and push it in the right direction,” summarizes Jorane.

You can visit Jorane and Éloi Painchaud’s home studio in the heart of the Laurentians here:

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There’s a reason the classical world should give a fugue about Toronto’s Uninvited Guests.

The production tandem of Billy Iannaci and Andrew Testa have been mashing up – with the blessing of his estate, no less – music performed by the late and legendary Canadian classical pianist and SOCAN member Glenn Gould with their own electronic, hip-hop and pop creations, and those of others.

It’s an attempt to draw young people into appreciating music that’s several centuries old, and recorded 50 or more years ago, albeit with a modern twist.

“When we started, we didn’t know the difference between a Bach and a Mozart.” – Billy Iannaci of Uninvited Guests

“No one, at least to our knowledge, has ever tried to modernize classical music [like this],” says Testa, who’s been working with Iannaci as the Uninvited Guests for three years, using samples and video from Glenn Gould On Television: The Complete CBC Broadcasts.

“Some have done it, but not the way we’re doing it,” says Testa. “Gould put that in our heads first, saying that people weren’t able to do these things in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and that he wished he could deliver a kit so people can do their own mixing, mastering and editing.

“He spoke of the role of DJs and said he had a love of electronic music back in ’64 when The Beatles were Top Five on Billboard. Through him, we saw how amazing [it is that] a lot of the bass notes of classical music have a lot of the modern elements we find in today’s music.”

To be clear, it’s not really Gould’s music that the Uninvited Guests is putting a revivalist spin on, but the public domain music of various 17th and 18th century composers – some of whom the pianist, who died in 1982, helped popularize again: Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and many more. Of course, they’re working with Gould’s arrangements of that music, but with the permission of his estate.

Introduced to the idea of re-mixing some of Gould’s recordings by Toronto pianist Ron Davis, Iannaci says much of the duo’s early experimentation resulted in happy accidents.

“Realistically, when we started, we didn’t know the difference between a Bach and a Mozart,” Iannaci admits. “But as we continued on, in order to get the best results, we discovered which classical composers to sample.

“For instance, for more dance-like music, we’ve been able to draw from Bach. For darker hip-hop music, we use composers like Mozart and Grieg. So it started out as trial and error, but through years of trying to pick out samples from this, we’ve gained a huge understanding of what each composer brings.”

It was the involvement of classical double bass player Alex Kotyk that clued Iannaci and Testa into the intricacies of classical music. “He started breaking the samples down musically for us,” Testa notes. “He would say, ‘Okay, basically, here’s what the bass line is,’ and he’d play it for us on a keyboard. Once we deconstructed these pieces, the possibilities were endless.”

Uninvited Guests have been displaying their wares via YouTube, with mesmerizing, self-produced videos. “It’s about just showing how crazy it is that we can take this piece of music that is 200 years old and make it relevant today by doing a couple of things here and there,” says Iannaci.

The duo is now going for baroque, launching its free Uninvited vs. Glenn Gould Volume 1 on November 17, 2015, on, and its first commercial single, “Fight ‘Em Off” featuring Toronto rapper Chief, on January 5, 2016.

The Uninvited Guests are hoping to collaborate with symphony orchestras in the near future, as well as perform live with Iannaci on synths, Testa on drums and a small orchestra “at our disposal.”

They say their work with Glenn Gould will hopefully be positive for the classical music community. “Maybe this is the vessel to get younger people into classical music,” says Iannaci. “We think this is the perfect way to get people into the concert halls again.”

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