“Against all odds, we made songs in French, and I’m proud of it,” says Jake PST, songwriter, singer, and producer in the quartet Ragers. The ex-punk, who delved into EDM before coming to rap, had an epiphany during the pandemic: “If we’re going to be stuck here, might as well do stuff in French and take advantage of the (Québec) market,” he says. La vie joue un tour (Life plays tricks on you), is the title of their first 100%-Francophone EP, to be launched in September of 2020.
Truth be told, the members of Ragers dipped a toe in the “Francocean” two years ago, by proxy, through the words of Rymz – who rapped on “Jeunes & fly” and “All I Need,” two songs from their album Raw Footage; neither Jake nor MC Billy Eff had dared to work in French up to that point.
“We’ve always written in English,” says Jake PST. “I remember that, right from the get-go, we agreed on that choice: we would write in English because we couldn’t find ourselves in French. We never thought of making music in French – not because we didn’t want to, but because we weren’t confident enough writing in that complex language. And I needed to take a step back to make sure the lyrics were good. So after a few tries, we felt the time was right.”
The pandemic also afforded them some time, since the band – who made a name for themselves with its stage shows – was suddenly stuck at home (as we all were, starting in mid-March). “Ragers is an energy,” says PST. “It’s raw energy, a punk attitude, but with [Roland TR] 808s and a hip-hop vibe mixed with ‘chanson’ and pop. Yeah, ‘urban’ pop, but with a punk energy, especially onstage, which is where we really stand out. I always feel bad for the bands who play after us. We’re a very tough act to follow! We’re always striving to deliver a high-quality show, and surpass ourselves.”
Ragers had even planned on organizing their own outdoor festival, two days of camping and music with an all-local lineup, except for one band of friends from Italy. They were supposed to announce the even at the end of March… So, instead, they worked on the new EP, temporarily setting aside work on their fourth English album (now slated for 2021) to work on music carrying their newfound French eloquence.
“We had a lot of fun doing that, even though we had to go through a lot of trial and error before we felt like the songs were going in the right direction,” says PST. He believes that La vie joue un tour is Ragers’ poppiest project to date, one where pop sounds sometimes flirt with R&B (“Peekaboo”), trap (“Goût cerise, Ma fête”) or even tropical dance (“Hasta la vista”).
Ragers’ songs are either born in PST’s computer, or when the band jams. “About 90 percent of the time, it starts with a beat,” he says. “I compose the majority of them, and then Phil [guitar] and Jay [PST, his brother, the drummer] add their instruments. But when the vibe is more organic, the song will take shape in our rehearsal space, and then we add the other ingredients.”
For Ragers, it is a long process, “not so much when it comes to writing and composing as such, but because it takes us a while to take a song to a level we’re satisfied with,” says Jake PST. “A song often evolves so much over the course of this process, from the mix to the mastering. It can be tough. Mastering is important; it’s at that point that we detach ourselves from that project, and feel ready to move on to another one.”