Queer songwriter Mélodie Spear’s first EP, Fabulations sheds light on her past through five songs, written between the ages of 15 and 21. The 23-year-old guitarist from Beauport, a suburb of Québec City, got them out of her system as a catharsis. Spear, sometimes angelic and often devilish, enjoys revealing her many sides.
“Because that’s is a turning point in anyone’s life, where everything is changing, I couldn’t write those songs today,” she says. “The woman I’ve become is getting re-acquainted with the girl I used to be. Fabulations is a meeting with myself.”
Thanks to her new collaborator, producer Ben Shampouing (aka Benoit Villeneuve), who we’ve recently seen alongside Tire le Coyote, Spear was able to fully express herself as a musician.
“Over two years a go, I arrived at the Ampli de Québec [studios, professional training, etc.] and I was this weirdo with plaid pants and a big jean jacket,” says Spears. “I said to the guy in charge, Guillaume Sirois, with a cocky attitude, ‘I wanna play rock, where are the rock people in Québec City?’ He’s the one who introduced us…
“I was still in Cégep when we began pre-production on those songs, about two years ago. I would go to Shampouing’s basement studio with my little guitar, and I’d never played with a band before. He had a Felix on his desk,” she says in awe, “right next to an alligator skull, and my first reaction was, ‘He really knows what he’s doing!’” she laughs.
Thanks to her four accompanying musicians – Olivier Beaulieu, also her manager, on drums; Elizabeth Lavallée on bass; Jean-Michel Letendre on synths; and Vincent Gagnon on keyboards; all of them musicians who actively play with Lou-Adrianne Cassidy, Beat Sexu, Hubert Lenoir, etc. – we can enjoy plenty of controlled skids. Everyone was involved in the songwriting.
Spear then proceeded to create a “band of girls” from Québec City, dubbed Les amazones, for her stage show. “I want to give women with a lot of potential chances to play in public, so that they, too, can play at the same level as the guys,” says Spears.
Les amazones made a good first impression during the preliminary round of the 2020 Francouvertes competition, thanks to “Sorcière,” a song that’s not on Fabulations, a fist-pumping hymn with staccato riffs and very high dance-making potential. This Amazonian effort is instantly etched on the brain. Very convincing.
Fabulations opens with “Dans les limbes,” with the band playing as one, lit production, and an instant climate of unpredictability. Spear sings a stripped-back version of it in her intimate show Dans l’shed à Léon. The difference between the two is striking. “A song is a feeling you re-visit,” she says, “and you always do so for different reasons.”
Says Spear about “Ana,” the second song on the EP, “It was born of feeling like I wanted to bury my head in the sand, to dampen the noise of everything going on around us, to become numb. I was a very rebellious teenager. ‘Ana’ isn’t easy to handle, but we all fall for her charm.”
“Les enfants de la tempête” is a glimpse into the divorce of Spear’s parents, both of whom are also musicians. “Divorce is a phenomenon that’s marked my generation,” she says. Yet the song goes down smoothly, thanks to Shampouing’s production; there’s something for the mind and something for the heart.
“On ‘Plus qu’une fable,” I wanted to revisit La Fontaine’s ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ and interpret it in the current context,” says Spear. “I like that’s there’s a morality at the end, a bit like my songs. Plus, the tortoise and the hare… I’m both at the same time: really slow and really fast!”
As for “Cœur malade,” the fifth song on Fabulations, “My Justin Bieber during that period was Baudelaire,” she says. “Now there’s a universe I can identify with: Taking what’s ugly in humans and making something beautiful with it.” Toxic love and hurt: “ton cœur malade autour d’une grenade,” (“Your sick heart wrapped around a hand grenade”), she sings repeatedly in the video (released in 2019).
Spear’s voice is judiciously served on the EP, by sonically multi-layered music. It’s neither dark nor stormy, and endlessly in pursuit of her obsessions with the human condition propelled by a bona fide pop temperament.
“The lyrics, my states of mind, a hint of neurosis, there’s something bubbling inside me,” she says. “It’s the result of a hyper-sensitivity that generates an overflow of emotions. That’s why I write songs.”
That’s the definitive affirmation of a strong character taking her place in the music landscape.