Rémi Chassé has thrown Les cris et les fleurs right in our faces, an album fueled by the same pop-punk ethos that struck during his teen years in The Beauce – running on the self-assurance and vertigo that keep him balanced on his tightrope.
The 32-year-old singer-songwriter works without a net. “I wanted my second album to be more sonically challenging, and I was looking for the right producers for the rock sound I wanted without compromising my punk and pop twist,” says Chassé. “Mainstream rock is quite limited in Québec. Éric Lapointe isn’t my cup of tea, and bands like Galaxie are uber-cool, but it’s not what I do…”
Guillaume Beauregard – who co-produced Chassé’s first album, Debout dans l’ombre, launched in 2015 – suggested producer Gus Van Go (The Stills, Sam Roberts), and the album was recorded in Brooklyn and Montréal. It’s fraught with a rebellious attitude, where the pop side is like a slap, and the rock side flips the bird to anyone satisfied with the status quo.
The artist readily admits his first album was done well, but was somewhat rushed in order to cash in on the momentum created by him making the finals of La Voix (the Québec franchise of The Voice). The creative process this time around was more flexible. “I took more time to write and reflect on what I wanted to do,” says Chassé. “The first one was 10 tracks, ‘wham-bam, thank you ma’am.’ Thing is, I hadn’t yet fully integrated my Franco singer-songwriter signature. Now, the result is much more concise rock songs, with my emo/introspective side still present on many songs. It’s like I only write songs when I feel heavy, deep. I also turned to more political subjects, which is quite new for me, but we live in such an absurd era right now…”
Titles such as “Contre qui” (“Against Whom”), “Le monde est à plaindre” (“Pitiful World”) or “L’ombre d’un remord” (“The Shadow of a Regret”), hold a magnifying glass to the parasitic, or systemic, quirks and scourges of our era.
And although Guillaume Beauregard is no longer involved in production, he’s still a go-to accomplice for Chassé, having carefully pored over the artist’s lyrics. “I’m a huge Vulgaires Machins fan,” says Chassé. “So when Guillaume doesn’t like something, he’ll tell you right away, and when he does like something, it means a lot to me.”
He also asked Gaële to help him fine-tune everything. “Even though it’s a band effort, most of the lyrics rest on my shoulders, and it was super-helpful to talk with her.”
The word “rock” permeates the artist’s vocabulary, but what does it mean, exactly?
“I think we really have a great album in our hands,” says Chassé. “I mean this unpretentiously, but I do believe it’ll be like a breath of fresh air on Québec’s music scene. You know, over here, the notion of ‘popular rock music’ is only one of two things: tattoos, strippers and bikes, or left-field stoners. We’re coming up with a straight-up rock option that can appeal to a larger audience, while avoiding the clichés of the genre.”
He grew up with Green Day, Pennywise, Lagwagon, Millencolin, Dashboard Confessional, and the rest of the ’90s punk cohort, and it shows: commercially viable songs that are accessible to the common denominator and chock-full of hook-filled, in-your-face melodies.
No doubt the former Tailor Made Fable frontman – and professional singer for corporate events – is ready to be heard. His offering is pumped to the hilt with raw, rocker phlegm that has its undeniable charm. “I’ve been isolated in creative mode for quite a while,” says Chassé. “I can’t wait to get out and play live for an audience. I’ll have succeeded when I’m the one people think of, when they think of Québéc rock.”