The label of “pop noir” has followed the band Del Bel for years, but it’s a descriptor that Tyler Belluz still admittedly enjoys. Belluz, the band’s composer and producer, concedes that their music can be tough to characterize at times because of their melting pot of styles, from trip-hop to classical and jazz, but the common thread is their undeniable ability to cultivate a vibe and atmosphere. Slow, simmering and considered, Del Bel’s sound unfolds like a black-and-white film noir mystery, gradually revealing layers in a way that draws listeners in with each beating drum, echoing guitar riff or brassy horn. Leading the charge are the jazz-inflected stylings of Lisa Conway, whose voices perfectly bends to each song’s twisting notes.
On April 7, 2017, Del Bel released their third album, iii, which finds the band expanding their already rich sonic universe, this time inviting Toronto rapper Clairmont the Second into the fold on the opening track, “Do What the Bass Says.” Belluz first discovered the hip-hop artist through Toronto’s Wavelength Music Series where he was struck by his “raw energy.” “I thought it would be extremely interesting to not only involve someone at his emerging status, but also see how he would tackle writing rhymes to a band that has never had such a collaboration before,” Belluz explains. The results were a glowing success, and Belluz hopes to work with Clairmont again in the future.
With members of this seven-member band scattered across the country now, it’s hard to plan live performances, but that’s only one of the many things Belluz has planned this year. By the end of 2017, he hopes to hash out a first round of demos for the next album, where they can “hone in on the next inevitable sound,” and release a new music video.
Photo by Kenton Doupe
The Elephant in The Room
Story by Olivier Boisvert-Magnen | May 25, 2017
Born in Saint-Raymond, Québec (a small town about an hour West of Québec City), where he did his entire primary education in English, Shawn Jobin moved to Sasktatoon in his mid-teens and finished his high school education… in French! “I’m always swimming upstream,” he says proudly.
And rather than letting it drag him down, the young man capitalized on his cultural singularity. After releasing his Tu m’auras pas EP, which addressed his province’s language issues, he won several awards during the Vue sur la relève festival in 2014 and, the next year, was named Best New Artist from Western Canada at the Gala des Prix Trille Or.
The Saskatoon native has covered a lot of ground since then. Far from trying to disown his 2013 production, the young rapper nonetheless wanted to formally distance himself during the creation of Éléphant. “I didn’t want to make a militant, moralistic rap album,” says Jobin. “I’ve been fighting for my rights as a Francophone, and to make a place for myself, every day for the last 10 years. I simply got to a point where I wanted my music to be about something else.”
That, however, was no small feat. With the help of his buddy Mario Lepage, of Saskatchewan indie-rock outfit Ponteix, Jobin explored countless sonic avenues during a period of about two years. “The process was long because we were learning as we went along,” he explains. “We’re good friends, and I think it had an impact on our creativity, because we like to constantly challenge ourselves. But above all, we wanted to allow ourselves to do whatever we pleased – since we’re just starting, and people don’t have any expectations.”
Tinged with jazz, soul, electronic and experimental music, Éléphant is surprising, for the laid-back and eclectic way in which it combines mysterious atmospheres and stunning beats, sometimes to the point of de-construction… even chaos.
At the centre of the album sits a pop-house exploration, “Danse ta vie,” the most convincing example of the duo’s signature open-mindedness. “It started out as a more brutish Beastie Boys-type number, but once we got to the studio, Sonny Black made us realize we could take it somewhere else,” says Jobin about the man who recorded, mixed and mastered the album. “We decided to stop that session and immediately went back to pre-production. That’s when we found the main melody.”
“I wanted to avoid preaching to people, instead staying in the realm of images and feelings.”
Quite the opposite of that song, an unsettling darkness emanates from the album’s first single, “Fou,” which is exacerbated by the rapper’s disillusioned flow and lyrics. Diagnosed with an anxiety disorder a few years ago, Jobin talks in the song about his anxiety. “It’s a song that may come across as a bit heavy on the surface, but once you consider it as part of a whole, you realize it’s about more than that,” he says. “As a matter of fact, the album exposes anxiety as a daily thing: some days, everything is trash, others everything is fine.”
There are some luminous moments throughout. If he points a finger at his mental illness issues by talking about “the elephant in the room,” Jobin also tries to tame it. “I felt it was my responsibility to deliver a message of hope along with my story in order to avoid coming across as ‘woe is me,’” he says. “I also wanted to avoid preaching to people, instead staying in the realm of images and feelings.”
Feeling like a huge weight has been lifted from his shoulders since the album release, Jobin still doubts and questions the way his work will be perceived. “I wonder if people will get it, or if they’ll think I’m using my issues to sound interesting,” he says. “One thing is clear to me, however: now I talk about it, but after that, I’m moving on. That’s the approach I hope to take throughout my career.”
From the comfort of YouTube to the challenge of playing live
Story by Guillaume Moffet | May 23, 2017
We all know by now that there are many more ways of being discovered than talent shows. Social networks have allowed us to discover, for better or worse, a plethora of Canadian talent over the course of the last decade: The most shining examples being Alessia Cara, Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes. As for the worst ones, we’ll simply skip them.
In Francophone Canada, it was just a matter of time before a talent would emerge from one social network or another. And if the rumour is to be believed, that talent has now been discovered.
When asked about the upside of being a YouTuber, he says that “operating on the web has definite advantages.” But the same goes for the downsides. “Creating a platform on YouTube where you can be constant and consistent is easy,” says Hébert. “Then all you need is to post regularly, every week or other week, so that your audience knows to return frequently and grow attached to your content.
“Business development is also very easy: it’s recommended to all YouTubers with a certain following to send their audience to other platforms to discover quality content while at the same time preserving their core audience. But that’s sometimes harder than it seems. When you make music, the return on investment is quite low. You can spend 20 hours on a capsule that’s three minutes long, while other content creators just pick up their camera, talk for 10 minutes, and Bingo! It’s a hurdle for music, because YouTube prioritizes videos that have the longest watched duration when it comes to ad revenue.”
Be that as it may, Hébert puts the music first, and he recently introduced one of his songs, “Dehors” (“Outside”), one with delicate grooves and tender pleas. Positive reactions already abound and he’s even won the first edition of the talent discovery contest presented by Play, VRAK TV’s musical show!
“After all this time spent recording in a semi-professional way with basically no budget, it’s quite pleasing to have access to what Play has offered me: singing my song on TV, and radio tracking of my first published song,” says Hébert. “I’m still astonished. I was questioning the relevance of trying to break out my career on YouTube, when suddenly, it’s the exact reason why I won that contest, and forged ahead in this industry. It’s obvious that playing live on TV and benefitting from radio tracking is much more serious and desirable than videos on YouTube. That’s why I’m so grateful for what’s happening to me right now, and I can’t wait to learn more about how it’s all going to unfold. I must say, also, that everyone in the crew is charming and the production environment is very healthy.”
One thing leading to the next, he also got to participate in his first major musical event, Santa Térésa, the inaugural edition of the Sainte-Thérèse music festival, in late April. His first concert was sold out. “I did an original, math-rock-influenced song, “SP33DST1CK,” as well as “Dehors.” After years on YouTube, assembling a band was quite a challenge, because I’d grown accustomed to my comfort zone; all I had to do was record, film, edit and voilà, it was online! But it’s not enough. I rented a studio to rehearse my first show,” says the young man, who humbly refuses to take all the credit for that show’s success. He shared the headline with other up-and-coming songwriters such as William Monette, Miro Belzil (formerly of the band Blé) and Soran Dussaigne, three musicians he calls, “very, very talented artists.”
Based on these first experiences, Hébert – who’ll quite likely spend a lot 2017 weighing offers presented to him – plans to work on a full concert, and an album inspired be Foals and Bombay Bicycle Club: “a combination of the math rhythms of the former and the ethereal ease of the latter.”