The year 1970 was a year of mourning: The Beatles became the first band in the young history of rock ’n’ roll to officially announce their split. But then, 1970 was also a windfall: each of the quartet’s members released brilliant, innovative, ambitious, and/or touching solo albums – Paul McCartney’s McCartney, John Lennon’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Ringo Starr’s Sentimental Journey – and all of them had the same palpable exhilaration of freedom that comes from being deprived of it for a long time. The Beatles broke free from expectations and their past.


Photo: Guillaume Plourde

“There’s something powerful in their emancipation and how they allowed themselves to do something on their own terms,” says Étienne Côté, alias LUMIÈRE, who also recently gave himself the right to do something by himself after years in the band Canailles: an album, A.M.I.E.S.A.M.O.U.R.

Born in Sainte-Antoine-de-Tilly, on the south shore of Québec City, Côté was introduced to music by spending hours alone at his grandmother’s piano, when he’d visit her on weekends. At the age of 18, he played drums in a Jimi Hendrix cover band, and later began studying classical percussion at Université de Montréal. He never finished his studies, however. Why?

Because in 2014, his friend Antoine Tardif invited him to come aboard the hullabaloo-esque caravan that was Canailles (the demise of which we were recently informed). When we evoke, in passing, our affection for the oblique power-pop trio Polipe, of which Antoine was once a member, Côté becomes animated: “Polipe was very important to me!” he says. “They were major influences. When I was 16, they were 18, 19, and when they came back to Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, they invited us to their jam sessions.”

Despite his multiple experiences, and the many instruments he masters, Côté took a long time to allow himself to write his own songs. “J’me fais pas assez confiance/ La beauté est partout/ J’me compare trop/ Tout le monde est meilleur que moi/ À mes yeux/ Tout le monde est meilleur que moi,” (“I’m not confident enough/ Beauty is everywhere/ I compare myself too much/ Everyone is better than me/ In my mind/ Everyone is better than me”) he sings on “FREUD.EST.MORT,” a groovy self-flagellation session carried by a heavily George Harrison-style sitar riff. As a matter of fact, A​.​M​.​I​.​E​.​S​.​A​.​M​.​O​.​U​.​R is reminiscent of All Things Must Pass as much as it is of the ramshackle beauty of McCartney’s Ram.

“That’s very typical of me,” says Côté about his pernicious propensity to compare himself to others. “I waited this long to write my first song [in 2016] because I was afraid, no doubt about it. I was afraid it wouldn’t be good enough. I’m super-demanding. I’ve always wanted to, but it was like I felt it was never the right time. I wanted to really like my first song.”

And A​.​M​.​I​.​E​.​S​.​A​.​M​.​O​.​U​.​R offers many a good song, to say the least. A concept album set in 1971, this lysergic, naïve epic, straddling the line between love and friendship, features one LUMIÈRE and his companion CRISTALE (Naomie de Lorimier, also known as N NAO). They meet Briquette (Daphnée Brissette, with whom Côté played in Canailles, and who still plays in Bon Enfant), who slips LSD-injected candies on their tongues, so their hearts and imaginations are upended, for better and worse.

Proudly nostalgic for the 1970s, an era he obviously didn’t live through, Côté borrows sounds from the beginning of this pivotal decade – but also a certain ideal, as evidenced by the words with which he has labelled his project. “I find that ‘lumière’ (‘light’) fits quite well with what I’m trying to convey in my songs,” he says. “It’s something I have a hard time achieving in my life. It’s not easy, on a daily basis, to be a luminous person. It’s like an ideal that I have, to have joy in living, a good mood, a transparency, to be able to be honest. That, to me, is what light is.”

A​.​M​.​I​.​E​.​S​.​A​.​M​.​O​.​U​.​R is also the third album to be released in 2021 that was produced by Alexandre Martel, after Alex Burger’s Sweet Montérégie, and Cantalou by Thierry Larose. It’s was during an Anatole (Martel’s glam-rock project) concert that Côté met him… and stole a tarot card. “Alex was selling some really nice, screen-printed tarot decks at his merch table,” says Côté. “I didn’t know what they were at the time, I thought they were promotional cards. So I took one.”

He later realized that he had mismatched a deck. “I realized that I had left with the hangman card, which is now my favorite card,” he says, “because there’s an ambiguity in it. The point of view of the hanged man allows him to see the world upside down,” a bit like an artist. Étienne Côté waited until the end of A​.​M​.​I​.​E​.​S​.​A​.​M​.​O​.​U​.​R’s recording sessions to admit his petty crime to his colleague, out of fear of ruining their relationship. The memory now makes him giggle. “I don’t know why I was so afraid; it went well, in the end,” he says. A true friend is a friend that can forgive.