A new revelation on the prolific Québec City music scene, Narcisse is de-constructing some of our most tenacious pre-conceived notions on La fin n’arrive jamais, a concept album where he weaves together electropop, spoken word, and documentary music.

NarcisseWhat might come as a surprise, knowing this, is that Jorie Pedneault’s main inspiration for this debut album is a pop-punk album from the 2000s.

“I discovered music with Green Day’s American Idiot. It’s a seminal concept album that even became a Broadway musical. It was the middle of the Bush era, and we follow teenagers on a quest for something. They leave the ’burbs to discover the city, and they kinda get lost in all of it. It’s the kind of thing you go through in your early twenties,” explains the singer-songwriter who plays Narcisse.

It’s a project that also includes bassist Michaël Lavoie, saxophonist Frédérique-Anne Desmarais, performer Philippe Després, visual artist Gabriel Paquet, videographer Félix Deconinck, and scenic artist Laurie Foster.

Far from plagiarizing the American trio’s œuvre, Pedneault imagined a concept album, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. A classic concept album, in other words, but based on resolutely contemporary themes, aligned with the concerns that are his mind on a daily basis. “I wanted to de-construct a lot of concepts, including our relationship to gender identity and polyamory, as well as our relationships to heteronormativity and monogamy.”

Another one of the social constructs he de-constructs on the album is the cliché and very romanticized concept of “soulmates.” “We’ve made it romantic, we associate it with love, with someone you’re going to spend your whole life with,” says Pedneault. “But I like to see it another way: you can meet several soulmates in one life. They can be friends or co-workers. The people I’m working with, for example, are soulmates because it made so much sense to meet them when I did.”

Hence the idea of letting those soulmates speak for themselves throughout the album. Totalling 14 songs, La fin n’arrive jamais is punctuated by four short pieces titled “Interstice.” Influenced by the documentary music of Flavien Berger – an artist from France who combined experimental pop and ambient music with minimalist recordings of interviews and narration on his 2019 album Radio Contre-Temps – Pedneault lets the people who gravitate around him speak. “I’ve been working on the album for three years, but it was really this last summer that there was a shift in the angle of the story,” he says. “I started going around and interviewing people with a recorder about the album’s various subjects. In the end, it’s the story of my peers, of my generation’s youth.”

Along the way, Pedneault saw fit to add his voice to these interstitial testimonies, after heeding to the advice of multi-disciplinary artist Olivier Arteau – who’s credited as the album’s playwright. “He really wanted to hear me, like we hear all the others. He wanted to feel the human behind the persona,” says Pedneault.

From this came one of the most beautiful and powerful sentences of the album, heard at the very end of “Interstice C”: “C’est ben beau tomber en amour toujours avec une autre personne, mais calice man, à un moment donné, il faudrait que je tombe en amour avec moi-même.” (“It’s one thing to fall in love with someone else, but for fuck’s sake, man, at some point I need to fall in love with myself.”).

“It’s something I said in the middle of a conversation [and that’s a good representation of the project as a whole],” says Pedneault. “When I started conceptualizing Narcisse, I was wondering if I should play a character that is full of himself. I quickly realized it wasn’t relevant to play such a character in the public space. It became self-evident that Narcisse had to be a vehicle to make people realize that they need to love themselves.”

Beyond the concepts of de-construction, it’s that love of self that sits at the thematic centre of the album. It’s also a way to push back against prevailing violence, especially when it comes to sexual and genre diversity. “Being non-binary existed when this project started,” says Pedneault. “Over the course of the last few years, I changed my pronoun to ‘they’ and my first name to Jorie. It’s a given for people close to me to call me that now. It feels good. But if I’m at the grocery store and the cashier calls me ‘she,’ it will obviously create some violence.”

Narcisse is a response to this violence, even though his intention isn’t fundamentally activist. “We’re just singing about our realities,” says Pedneault. “It just so happens that those realities are political.”

The participation of the band in the finals of the 2020 Francouvertes was an unexpected showcase for the propagation of these essentially political realities. “We’re a project that’s advocating for things, but we know that this kind of offer can close doors,” says Pedneualt. “The Francouvertes gave us the awareness that this project could exist, and that people would be there to receive it. I’m not sure the industry would’ve been ready for all this 10 years ago.”

At the very end of the album, “Devenir fleur” opens a dialogue about Narcisse. Narrated by Gabriel Paquet, the epilogue directly references the Greek myth of Narcissus, the young man so smitten by his own reflection in a pond that he ultimately perishes and becomes a flower.

“There is a feeling of being killed and resurrected,” says Pedneault. “It’s not a coincidence: I felt like I went through that recently. A flower is also a symbol for springtime, because this album marks the end of a cycle, as well as the beginning of something. It’s a calling card that will lead to all kinds of beautiful things in the coming years. It’s our way of saying, ‘Here we are, among you.’”



It’s the day after the world première at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for Viking, the new feature film by director, screenwriter – and, in a parallel life, singer-songwriter – Stéphane Lafleur. About 15 people involved in this story, which mixes psychological drama, comedy and science fiction, attended the screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, “an incredible theatre,” as Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux puts it. He’s the one who wrote the music with his accomplice in the band Organ Mood, Mathieu Charbonneau. “Usually, at a première, we try to hear our music in the mix,” he says, “but last night the sound was so loud!”

“The whole team was there, it was electrifying,” says Charbonneau, thrilled by the fact the public was also there. “It was fun to feel people’s reactions,” which seem to echo Viking’s early rave reviews. The film will open in Québec on Sept. 30, 2022.

Coincidentally, Bravo Musique will be releasing Organ Mood’s soundtrack, an assembly of selected excerpts that dress up the scenes of Viking, as well as several other compositions left on the cutting room floor. All of that represents good 30 minutes of instrumental music where synthesizers fade away in favour of the saxophone, guiding the listener through the themes, textures, and atmospheres created by Lamarche-Ledoux and Charbonneau.

“I bought an alto sax to record the music,” says Lamarche-Ledoux, joined by Charbonneau in their Toronto hotel room, before returning to Montréal. This isn’t the duo’s first film-scoring rodeo: Charbonneau already has almost a dozen productions to his credit, including the music for Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s La Déesse des mouches à feu (2020) and Geneviève Dulude-De Celles’ Une colonie (2018). Lamarche-Ledoux recently composed the music for Félix Dufour-Laperrière’s animated feature film Archipel (2021) and the sultry Saint-Narcisse (2020) by Bruce LaBruce.

On top of that, they’re both members of the folk-rock outfit Avec pas d’casque, alongside one Stéphane Lafleur, who writes, sings, and plays guitar for the band. It is, so to speak, complicit that the director called upon his friends to imagine the sound design of his strange feature film.

“Stéphane thought about the music while he was working on the film,” Lamarche-Ledoux explains. “He didn’t want an orchestral film score with tons of synths. Before we even looked at the task at hand, he’d done his research; he actually envisioned the music as more jazz, and that’s the path he set us on before we even saw any footage, just by reading the script, right at the beginning of the process.”

Viking

Photo: Caroline Désilets

Jazz? Perhaps something along the lines of Sun Ra, the master of cosmic jazz, a pioneer of the afro-futurism concept, the man who claims he was once teleported to Saturn? They talked about it, Miles Davis, too, and “ambient music” such as Lamarche-Ledoux and Lafleur create together with their feu doux project (styled in lowercase, referring to the low heat setting on a stovetop). “He obviously knew he had hired Organ Mood, so that’s the sound he was after, but slightly different at the same time,” says Charbonneau, who’s also involved in an ambient/avant-garde project with composer and cornetist Pietro Amato.

As a matter of fact, Lafleur and Organ Mood experimented with a new modus operandi for all of them while working on the music for Viking. “Most of the time, we write the music after the final editing of a film because that way, we know the exact duration of each scene. This time around, we had plenty of time before and during filming which afforded us some images to work from to create a lot of music,” says Charbonneau. Thanks to this approach, “we really captured the film’s ambiance. I never suspected it would work this well and, for Stéphane, it was interesting because it was his first time working with composers who were creating at the same time he was. And since we’d recorded tracks before filming even started, it allowed him to quickly edit some scenes with the music.”

“Plus Stéphane is such a close friend that there are a lot of informal aspects to this process,” adds Lamarche-Ledoux. “We’d have dinner at his place, and we’d talk about other stuff than work or the movie, but we always circled back to that. There’s so much informality and friendship in this process that I think it was the perfect context to try to work in such an organic way. Usually, with the directors, you send in your proposals and you wait for them to reply via e-mail; this time, in the critical moments of the film’s final touches, we were on the phone every day. Communication was very easy, and for composers of visual music, immediate feedback is the key. We can immediately adjust the music to the scene.”

The saxophones suggest a recurring musical theme, in one form or another, throughout the film. “We really wanted to try and set the tone,” says Lamarche-Ledoux. “The movie is quite funny at times, but the music was there to prop up the dramatic side, rather than try to make things lighter, or highlight the punchline. That’s why, more than once, viewers are caught off-guard when a series of jokes follows serious music.”

 



Born in a farmhouse in the countryside of Waterloo, ON, to music-loving parents, rising country star Nate Haller fell in love with the great outdoors. By the time his family moved to the suburbs, the stuff he’d been raised on – dirt biking, bonfires with country music blasting into the wee hours – were ingrained in his DNA. “It’s always been in me,” says Haller.

Catching up with the songwriter via Zoom on a mid-summer’s day finds him sporting a Budweiser trucker hat, holed up in a hotel room in Calgary. Haller, who was signed to Starseed Entertainment in 2021 (the management home of Dean Brody, James Barker Band, and The Reklaws) had just played a raucous gig in the Nashville North tent at the Calgary Stampede the previous night, and was taking a brief break before flying to Nashville.

After more than a decade in the music industry, Haller is making waves. He was a semi-finalist in the 2021 SiriusXM Top of The Country; scored a 2022 County Music Association of Ontario (CMAO) Rising Star nomination; was named Amazon Music’s Breakthrough Artist of the Month; and secured a spot on Spotify Canada’s RADAR program. The artist visits Nashville often, usually for co-writes, and still remembers his first time there: he headed to The Listening Room Café with a couple of friends, and one of the performers that day was a co-writer of the Zac Brown gold-selling single “Sweet Annie.”

“The amount of talented writers there is incredible,” he says. “That blew my mind, to watch people play the songs exactly how they were written.”

Growing up, Haller’s siblings were both musical, but it took a live-show epiphany to motivate him to take music seriously. “Before that, I would just mess around on my brother’s guitar and play a couple of chords,” he recalls. “Then, in high school, I saw [Australian singer-songwriter] Xavier Rudd play the didgeridoo and the stomp box at the same time. That really inspired me.”

Another seminal moment came in Grade 11. Thanks to a teacher’s encouragement, Haller overcame stage fright and performed at his school’s talent show. “That changed everything,” he says. “After that, I started to write my own songs.”

These days, in between playing gigs this summer, Haller is busy writing, and determining the final songs for his debut EP, planned for release later in 2022. Some songs were written in Nashville; others were written on the back deck, or in the bedroom (converted into a studio), of the Toronto house he was renting. After years spent playing in other bands, and co-writing songs with the likes of Stuart and Jenna Walker (The Reklaws) – who were featured on his latest single “Broken” – Haller felt the time was right to step into the spotlight. The Reklaws, along with 18-time Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) winner Brett Kissell, also co-wrote with Haller on “Somewhere to Drink,” released in the middle of the pandemic.

“I’ve been lucky to play guitar for other people, and that allowed me to work silently on my own writing,” he says. “I’ve been working towards this project for the past five years. In a weird way, the pandemic prompted that to happen… It was a quick pause that allowed me to kick my project into the next gear of what I wanted people to hear.

“Years ago, I was trying to write these little pop songs,” he adds. “Some were cool, but they didn’t really feel like me.”

The first radio single Haller released in 2021 was “Lightning in a Bottle,” written by frequent James Barker Band co-writers Travis Wood and Gavin Slate, along with Shawn Austin. The song grabbed the No. 2 most-added spot at Canadian Country radio, and landed the artist his first Top 10 hit. Then, in the spring of 2022, Haller released the infectious single “Ain’t Like Me.” After all of the miles, the songwriter now knows his true artistic self and accompanying vibe he wants for this EP: just a guy with a guitar telling stories that resonate.

“I grew up listening to that sort of stuff,” says Haller. “My grandpa was in the radio business his whole life, and he got me into guys like Johnny Cash from a young age. I realized recently that I do not have to be super polished… I can have this natural grit that’s in my voice, and bring everything back down to just the guitar and me.”