J-F and Paige first saw each other during a trip in the Nevada desert, and after that, they felt like never going home. While travelling together throughout the American West, the Québécois and the Georgian, both musicians, decided to share their influences with each other. Once back in Montréal, they became MIELS, and even though they’re staying put, their electro-rock takes us on a trip. The music they made in the desert expressed what surrounded them: space, warmth, budding romance. And then, that story repeated itself in new landscapes: they found music everywhere they went.
When she decided to settle in Québec, Paige immediately wanted to translate all the notes she’d jotted down in her travelogue. “When I moved to Montréal, I was surprised to see so many Francophones in English bands, while I wanted to do exactly the opposite,” she says with a laugh. “It was important to me that I pursue my music career in French.”
“Being Francophone, I’d forgotten what it was like to have favourite words for no apparent reason, and now I love seeing how Paige has fun with the language she’s learning,” adds J-F. Travelling in Québec now takes on a special meaning, as the duo uses such opportunities to dive into the sounds of the places they visit, and the accents that are unique to them.
In the months that followed their acquaintance, Paige and J-F introduced each other to their musical universes, the former being keenly interested in Québec rock classics which she’d obviously never heard before. “She really dug Pagliaro, for example, while it brought me back to our own rock from another era, and made me want to bring back certain elements of that time in the music we’re creating today,” J-F explains. “Before Paige moved here, I would mail her vinyl records. Didn’t take long for me to turn her on to Jean Leloup,” he recalls.
Paige learned her new language through music which, she believes, “is much better than through a formal course.” Besides rock from a bygone era, the duo felt the urgency to impart the presence of mobility inherent to their project. “We met on the road, and after that, every time we were together, it was on a road trip,” says J-F. Their first album, Prends-moi comme la mort (May 2021), is – almost by definition – a very intimate creation. “It’s a musical chronology of our travels, an homage to everything we wrote in our notebooks while on the road in the States,” he explains.
A few shows at the Festival de musique émergente (FME) and during the Taverne Tour, among others, opened up new avenues for the couple, who let themselves be influenced by the fun they have on stage. “We began as somewhat of a blues-rock outfit,” says Paige, “but what we really enjoyed on stage was getting closer to electro, with drum machine backing tracks. It was the kind of electro-rock you heard in the early 2000s.”
In short, MIELS let itself be carried away by the endless possibilities of spontaneity. As a duo, basically anything became possible. “The more we wrote, the more we became comfortable with the idea of being just the two of us, but with guest musicians if and when we felt like it,” says J-F. “The White Stripes became a huge influence: something we feel just as comfortable in when it’s just the two of us – or more.”
“There are some challenges in adapting our material from the studio to the stage, but we can improvise,” says Paige. “You carry your gear in a suitcase and you can play anywhere,” J-F continues. “Sure, it does change our sound and our methods, because when we create, we’re always focused on whether it can be done by just the two of us. But we make sure it’s never limited to that. Who knows? Maybe we’ll move to Europe next week.”
Their second album was crafted during the pandemic, and was guided by this more minimalistic mentality, while never sacrificing their desire to “make big noise.”
No matter what the case may be, the constant through it all is that the only place where MIELS finds its inspiration is on the road. “We went on trips without leaving the confines of our apartment during the pandemic,” says Paige, tongue-in-cheek. “Those were a different kind of trip. We also want to travel throughout Canada in our van.”
“We found it tough to write in our kitchen, so we spent two months on the road last year with a guitar plugged in the tape deck,” reminisces J-F. “We would camp out in the woods so that nature would dictate what’s next.”
The duo will carry on songwriting, with its eyes looking outward. “We’re constantly taking notes and looking around us,” says Paige. “I hear sounds I’d never heard before coming from the mouths of the people here, and I want to reproduce them and learn even more. I’ll never stop learning.”