At two in the afternoon, Gazoline’s singer/bassist Xavier Dufour Thériault was still lounging in bed waiting for the journalist to arrive. At a time when many musicians consider solo singer-songwriter careers more manageable and financially rewarding than collective endeavours, Gazoline not only thrives on rock music, but is doing so miles away from the current folk, pop or rap trends.
Since the waning, in the early 2000s, of the Rock wave surfed by the likes of The Strokes, The Hives, The White Stripes and, in Québec, Malajube, Les Breastfeeders and Le Nombre, many have claimed that rock was dead, or near death. “We were talking about that recently with [Gazoline’s first album producer] Xavier Caféïne,” Dufour Thériault says, “and we came to the conclusion that nothing is more rock-and-roll and provocative, in 2014, than writing a great rock song. It takes balls, because nobody is doing it anymore in French, and that’s where Gazoline comes in. So, rock is dead? I see this as a vacuum to be filled. An opportunity, even.”
“So, rock is dead? I see this as a vacuum to be filled. An opportunity, even.” – Xavier Dufour Thériault of Gazoline
The Saguenay, Quebec, musician has a point. Since his band settled in Montreal, they’ve reached the finals of the Francouvertes festival, released a critically acclaimed first album, and watched several of their songs climb the NRJ French music station chart, with the catchy “Ces gens qui dansent” making the trio the “NRJ Buzz” for March 2014.
“NRJ adopted a rock format this past January to set itself apart from other commercial radio stations playing the same pop artists over and over again,” the station’s music director Geneviève Moreau explained. Following the fuss made by Les Respectables in 2009 over commercial radio shunning rock music, NRJ’s shift was great news for distortion lovers.
“Obviously, we’re not as hardcore as CHOM is,” Moreau continues, “but the word is out in the industry. We’re receiving more demos from young Francophone rock bands. There seems to be a new wave of artists who are less interested in sticking to a single sound. Gazoline’s compositions have more of a pop feeling than the wall-to-wall garage rock sound of the early 2000s.” Also a Mordicus fan, Moreau adds that she “loves the British music influences of their [February 2014 album Cri primal]. They remind me of Oasis, and this shows that the Quebec rock palette is widening.”
The Mordicus sound, according to the Chicoutimi, Québec, group’s bassist Martin Moe, came out of a need to be different. “Being from the Saguenay area,” says Moe, “the moment we break into a serious guitar riff, we’re being compared with Fred Fortin or Galaxie. With Cri primal, what we wanted to achieve was blending British rock and American blues music, and making them sound good in French.”
According to Maxime Desrosiers, the band’s singer, the continued support of Mordicus songs by NRJ and Radio X has had a major impact on the young band’s career. “You can easily measure that on YouTube and the social networks,” he says. “We can also feel it during our shows. When we play certain songs now, the audience starts singing along.”
At the opposite end of the FM band, the cases may be different, but the trend is the same, according to the University of Montreal’s CISM student radio station music director Benoît Poirier. “After a few lean years, I’ve received a lot more rock albums in the first quarter of 2014,” says this broadcaster, who moonlights as the drummer in the explosive rock band Jesuslesfilles.