There’s no reason to take your time when you have enough friends to ably carry everything you want to say. Pierre Lapointe arrives with his third album three years, produced by a third friend in a row, Albin de la Simone, who’s allowed Lapointe to walk off the beaten path, with his eyes barely open. Déjouer l’ennui is a collection of “lullabies for children who grew up too fast.”
“Each project is the expression of a friendship,” says Lapointe, who tapped David-François Moreau to produce 2017’s La science du cœur and Philippe Brault for the production of 2018’s Ton corps est déjà froid.” I create very fast, so it’s the best way to avoid repeating myself,” says Lapointe. “If I’d made those three records as rapidly, and on my own, it wouldn’t have been as good.” He could have elected to learn the techniques for successful self-production, but that’s not where he wanted to go. “I voluntarily left that hurdle so that I have to turn to others for it,” he says. “That way, even if you work alone, you’ll always come up with something new.”
It is Albin de la Simone, present at our interview, who homogenized this story of ennui, that one can easily mold to one’s heart. “We started from the song ‘Le monarque des Indes’ [‘The Monarch of the Indies’],” says the producer. “We wrote it together and felt it would set the direction of the album. Everything that came afterwards was put through the filter of that experience, and we pushed aside anything that wasn’t caught in that net.”
Lapointe gave Albin a list of what he wanted. The starting point in question is a moment, a memory from the PUNKT tour during which Pierre and his musicians played “La plus belle des maisons” – heard on Déjouer l’ennui – centre-stage, around a single microphone. That emotion had to be re-born with the same essence. “I sent Albin Creole nursery rhymes, and songs by Manno Charlemagne, Haiti’s Richard Desjardins,” says Lapointe. That was how they would defeat ennui.
Several more friends participated, which allowed Lapointe to distance himself from his own perspective, and to inhabit many universes. Among them was Daniel Bélanger, who wrote the music for “Vivre ma peine.” “We had to fit Daniel’s guitars into our molds,” they say. The song “Pour déjouer l’ennui” was written by brothers Hubert Lenoir and Julien Chiasson, and re-worked alongside Lapointe to conform to the chosen direction. Philippe B contributed “Vendredi 13,” which Lapointe plays as “an homage to the one who was always close by.”
Drummer José Major was challenged by having to fit within the album’s soft approach, where big, percussive rhythms were rare. “He had the biggest challenge,” says Lapointe. “He had to play at one or two on a scale of 11.” “We wanted him to caress the skins instead of hitting them,” adds Albin. “That’s what created the instrument’s warmth.” “We brought everyone back to the essence of things by breaking their habits,” says Lapointe. “Like asking Philippe Brault to play guitarrón, which he’d never played before.”
Once he’s chosen his producer, Pierre Lapointe readily accepts all the changes in direction that may come. He allowed Albin’s wind to carry him toward new ideas. “This album actually does fill a gap, from which I thought his discography suffered,” says the producer. “My habits are diluted in Albin’s choices, and in the talent of my friends who collaborated on the album,” says Lapointe. “It allowed me to put my finger on what I needed: cooling down. It’s actually the first of my albums that I listen to for my own enjoyment. It sounds self-absorbed, but I hope it has the same effect on the people who listen to it.”
For Lapointe, whose humility is ever-evolving, all music is drafted from a central point, and the many hands that contribute to the music help it crystallize around that point. “Everyone pours their energy into something that belongs to everyone and no one at the same time,” he says. “I don’t feel the need to appropriate it, even though it’s my face on it.”
In 2021, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec will recognize the 20th anniversary of Lapointe’s career, but he’s just thankful to still be around. “I’m not one to do assessments,” he says. “I’m here, now, and tomorrow.” What he chose to do – in order to avoid worrying about the pressure generated by his desire to be counted among the greats – is to constantly take risks, and challenge himself to do new things. “Friends, work, abandon: it’s a lifestyle that I’m comfortable with,” he says.