On her first album Premier juin (June First), Lydia Képinski sings about love and death with stunning poetry and aplomb. Somewhere between “chanson française”, prog-rock and synth-pop, the singer-songwriter offers an eclectic and rich musical direction, in collaboration with her sidekick Blaise Borboën-Léonard. Two weeks after the unexpected appearance of her album on the web, the 24-year-old, Montréal-based musician re-visits the process that led to the creation of each of the eight new songs.
“Les routes indolores” (“Painless Roads”)
“That song was part of my solo show, and every time, it was the moment people chose to go take a leak or get a beer. It was clearly a little boring! I looked back at the lyrics and spotted a few references to Mayan and Aztec traditions. That made me want to play the music theme of Les Mystérieuses Cités d’or just before singing that song. The reaction was instantaneous: no matter where the people were standing in the venue, they’d turn to the stage, stunned. From that point on, Blaise and I had no choice: that song needed to be epic and we had to have synths towards the end of it. It creates a nice crescendo that leads into the album.”
“Premier juin” (“June First”)
“That’s where the album really takes off. It’s a catchier song, with pop arrangements. I wrote it on my 23rd birthday, on June 1st, 2016. Instead of what I usually do – focusing on the dramatic elements of my life – I tried looking at myself in a naive way. Everything is fine until I make a veiled reference to suicide during the bridge. I looked for different ways to express my thoughts, but in the end I kept it as is: Aujourd’hui c’est mon anniversaire / Ce que je n’ai pas fait je vais le faire / Car si j’avais tout vécu / Sans doute que je me serais pendue.” (It’s my birthday today / What I haven’t done I’ll do/ ’Cause if I’d experienced everything / I would surely have hanged myself) My birthday is not just one more year, it’s also proof that I’ve survived everything that came before.”
“360 jours” (“360 Days”)
“I really like songs with long intros, a bit like the introduction of the narrative, if you will. A minute into it, when the music changes completely, it’s like a triggering element. [laughs] The first draft of the lyrics were written on the spur of the moment. I was in a relationship, but I had issues to deal with, and other shit to live through. I use the imperative mood a lot in it. I accuse the other, and give them orders, as if I resented him and, at the same time, wanted to come across as the victim in this story.”
“The story behind this song is really lame! [laughs] It started on an evening when I was supposed to meet my university buddies, but was stuck in a PR function with my manager and producer. I was torn, and deep inside, I felt that I was slowly growing apart from those friends, because we don’t share relationship circles. In other words, I felt I had failed… So, in short, it stems from the emotion I felt that night, which I extrapolated in a fairytale-like way. Music-wise, our reference was ‘Billie Jean.’ We wanted an ultra-simple dance beat, but slightly bizarre. I came up with the bass line and Blaise played it back on his Moog. We wanted to invite a bass player to fill in certain parts, and in the end, Jean-François Lemieux accepted our invitation. That guy is a fuckin’ legend, to me. He played on Le Dôme! [Jean Leloup’s most commercially and critically acclaimed album, released in October 1996]”
“To me, Belmont Park isn’t emblematic of joy; it’s the ruins of an amusement park. There was an accident way back when, somebody died on a ride, which led to the shutdown of the park in 1983. Some have said that the mafia was involved, to kill off any competition with La Ronde… Musically, there’s something cyclical in the song, like a ride going round and round. Then, at one point, the song goes off the rails, and that’s where I sing “emmenez-moi au parc Belmont” (“take me to Belmont Park”). The thing is, when you get on a ride and are all excited about it, it’s possible that at some point, you just want to get off, but that’s impossible. The same goes for the relationship I was in at the time. I knew, objectively, that it was shite, but I was stuck in it.”
“Les balançoires” (“The Swings”)
“That song has a math-rock side to it, something mathematical, borderline alienating. The guiding thread is Stéphan Lemieux’s very simple drumbeat. Otherwise, the instrumentation is quite sober, and allows my voice to take over. The lyrics are about statistics, probabilities, and chemistry. I sing about medication, recreational intoxication, the chemical processes we use to balance our brains. I don’t want to get into the details of my own medication, but beyond that, I know for a fact that there is a major taboo that surrounds taking medication. I was hurt many times because people would judge me based on that. They make super-rigid generalizations, yet they have no clue what they’re talking about. They don’t get that I’ve lived through episodes where I just wanted it to be over…”
“Sous la mélamine” (“Under the Melamine”)
“That truly is automatic writing. I was at home in party mode. I’d just finished half a litre of wine and I really felt like writing something. It turned out to be quite a playful and funny text, where I throw quite a few literary references around. It was my freshman year in University, and I was smitten with Rimbaud and Baudelaire. There’s also a bit of a reference to Loco Locass. I’ve listened to those guys a lot and their Manifestif album is etched forever in my mind.”
“I began writing that song after a night in Saint-Siméon, a small town on the road to Charlevoix. It was a truly fucked-up evening… I could hear whales singing when I looked at the St. Lawrence River, and my life was really not fucking good. Shortly afterward, I was walking on Pie-IX Boulevard somewhere in Montréal-Nord. It’s a really drab, hopeless and ugly area. And all of a sudden, I felt just like I did in Saint-Siméon. In my mind, a kind of geographic triangle formed with the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel, which links both places via the river. It gave a whole new meaning to the expression “the light at the end of the tunnel.” I played whatever came to mind on the guitar. The result is quite impulsive.”
Premier juin is available right now in stores and on most streaming platforms. The official record launch will be on June 1st at Centre Phi, in Montréal.