Dance club music doesn’t normally tell a story with words. It doesn’t entertain for several minutes with any musical concept, beyond the desire to dance. Yet, Robert Robert counts on a rare, opposite approach. His debut album, Hoodie bleu ultra, takes us on a journey, from beginning to end, of an alcohol-fuelled night where we Uber from one party to the next.

Robert Robert “[Dance] Club music also exists in the context where it’s played,” says Arthur Gaumont-Marchand, a.k.a. Robert Robert. The rhythms to which we dance often carry us towards such alcoholized circumstances, punctuated by sporadic flashes of light that slash the darkness with only momentarily. It’s not a genre of music we usually take time to understand. Yet…

“The people you meet during a night like that are important,” says Robert Robert. “They’re part of club music. If you’re like me, and clubs have been a second home for you for a long time, all of your stories are rooted in that music. Clubs are where you met your best friends, found your passions, and the people in your life.” Hence, for him, the necessity of finding the words to tell the stories behind those noisy, dancing nights.

A story, an adventure, an experience. That’s what Robert Robert wants to describe, using his rhythmic, dance-inducing music. Following two EPs and a two-song project launched in late 2019, the singer-songwriter and producer was ready to tell his story over eight songs.

“A friend told me the story of a second date that never happened because the girl never showed up,” he says. “And she left with his blue hoodie the first time. I had a recording of that on my phone. I love the feeling of someone telling me about their night. Following them through all the people they met and the places they went, I thought it really portrayed my universe quite well.” And that’s how, as uncommon a proposition as it may be, RR decided to give a story to the rhythms that have defined his  music for so long.

And even though he’s a longtime favourite of the Montréal electronic-music scene, his talent has soared in France where, as a matter of fact, his record label is located. “A lot of people make music like mine in France,” he says, adamant that his project is much more mainstream on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. “They have a very different rapport to electronic music over there. With this album, I wanted to do something that’s closer to home. I’d like to be able to say that I participate in  the music of where I’m from.” He feels that by placing his voice on dance rhythms, he’s injecting part of his identity in the mix. His words take him back home, in a way.

By collaborating with Canadian artists, or at the very least showing interest in their projects, Robert Robert realized that his ideas maybe weren’t as far from what’s going on here as he thought. “I really like Lydia Képinski and Les Louanges, for example. I wondered if I could come up with something I like that would include those people, and found out that it’s possible,” he says.

“I started playing with my voice in 2014, but singing is a new trade for me. It’s so different than producing tracks. Using vocals more and more over time lead me to have enough confidence to get to this project.” The artist  believes that adding a voice is disadvantageous, but he was adamant that he wanted to do it to fulfill his desire to express specific things. “Words help paint a better picture,” he says. “But if you sing with a masculine voice, people tend to imagine the person, the guy. It’s possible you’ll no longer recognize yourself. And then your track takes on a new meaning. That’s what I like about using lyrics in club music. It allows you to be more emotional in a musical context that’s colder.”

And even though his music is generally heard in dense crowds, where people are closer to him and each other, Robert Robert will have to, like all of us, continue living the coming months from a safe distance. Distance, however, takes on a new meaning when it prevents you from giving your music the life it deserves. “I’m anxious to carry on, but there’s always a way to benefit from that music,” he believes. “It can exist at home, at a party, outdoors. It can exist anywhere.”

Jazz begat funk, which begat disco, which begat house music. In clubs and warehouse parties of 1980s New York City and Chicago, house music began taking shape, and by the turn of the decade, a subgenre called “deep house” came to be. From that point on, a young man in Québec City saw the course of his life become increasingly clear.

The reason why you may not have heard about SOCAN member Fred Everything – unless you follow or are part of the deep house scene – is arguably because no one is a prophet in their own land… and because that genre has always preferred remaining somewhat under the radar.

Since breaking onto the international scene in 1995, Fred Everything—né  Frédéric Blais in Hull, Québec—has held club residencies in Montréal, Toronto, and Honolulu as well as regular gigs in London, Chicago, and San Francisco, and has headlined some of the biggest festivals and clubs in major cities across the U.S., Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and even South Africa and Russia, as well as popular party destinations like Ibiza and Croatia.

As a world-renowned producer and remixer, he has more than 250 releases to his name – including five full-length albums – while his respected label, Lazy Days Recordings, has launched nearly 80 recordings, not counting compilation albums, by a “who’s who” of the deep house world.

In 2019 alone, he garnered 1.1 million streams on Spotify, and he recently produced a remix for Dominique Fils-Aimé, who won the 2019 Félix award for Jazz Album of the Year at the ADISQ Gala.

You might wonder how or where, exactly, deep house falls within the spectrum of what’s widely called EDM (Electronic Dance Music), and Fred offers us a simple explanation: “EDM has become an umbrella term for electronic music in general, but it’s also a music genre associated with festival dance music and big ‘drops.’ It’s designed and engineered to appeal to huge crowds; it’s more formulaic and functional. I don’t like EDM, but I don’t have a problem with it. I think it can be a gateway for a younger generation into the wider world of electronic music.”

Although inextricably associated with the deep house genre, Fred sees himself as a far wider-ranging artist, who strives to blur the boundaries between genres, hence his “Everything” moniker. “I’ve worked my way through so many styles over the years,” he says, “but it’s true that there’s a common thread in my productions when it comes to harmonies, sounds, and textures. Sonic qualities are as important as musical elements to me.”

Fred was classically trained, for a little while, as a child. “I was never a great student,” he admits. “I think that’s mostly because I was more interested in being hands-on, even at an early age, and I didn’t understand how proper training would help me down the line.” It wouldn’t be long before he bought his first synth, an Akai AX-60, after working for a full summer washing dishes in a restaurant. He founded a few bands with friends, at the time more interested in the ’80s alternative/new wave sound, before discovering the whole house and techno scene booming in England in the early ’90s.

Seminal British labels like Warp and Network would become pivotal. “Looking back, I was always interested in electronic sounds,” Everything says. “Synths and vocoders fascinated me from a very young age. I was also a bit of a loner and an only child, so electronic music offered a safe alternative to create music on my own.”

Cue the rave scene. “After that initial period of playing live with a few of my bands, I went solo and played in raves in Québec City and Montréal,” says Blais. “After a while, I decided to leave my instruments in the studio and I started DJing, while continuing to make music at home. It’s only when I moved to Montréal in 1995 that I started signing music internationally and touring outside North America.” The rest, as they say, is history.

“My artist name reflects the liberty to defy boundaries that I want to have with my music”

With his international profile growing steadily from that point on, Fred would re-locate to London for a few years before briefly coming back to Montréal, and then re-locating to San Francisco for eight years.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the genre, actual – and good – house music albums are rare, because the genre is mainly single-oriented, as are most dance music genres. Many have tried simply collecting their singles and calling that an album, but that never works, because the golden thread that weaves through a great album, regardless of genre, is lacking. Fred, however, stands out as one of those rare artists to have released more than one bona fide – and good – deep house albums.

His 2004 album, Light of Day was voted Best House Album of the Year by DJ Magazine and he was invited to perform it with a full band at the prestigious Montréal International Jazz Festival. That same year, he won the Best Electronic Artist award at the now-defunct Montréal Independent Music Initiative (MIMI) Awards. In 2016, he was ranked the No. 1 Deep House Producer by Traxsource, one of the biggest online music stores for everything electronic and dance.

Gear Head
Many musicians have a tendency to be obsessed with their instrument or instruments of choice, sometimes to the point of collecting obsessively. Such is not the case for Fred, but we still asked what his favourite gear is, and why. “I always say that all you need is one nice polyphonic synth and one mono synth,” he answers. “Although I have much more than one of each, my vote would go for the Prophet 6 as the best modern polyphonic synthesizer and any Moog for monophonic. The Minitaur is a great entry point, but the Model D is the ultimate one. I also love Arp, Oberheim, and of course, classic Roland machines. The Arturia Beatstep Pro is also a great tool for me to sequence and trigger older equipment.”

Asked if we can ever hope to see him onstage as a live act again, he’s pretty adamant. “Not at the moment, but never say never!” says Fred. “It would most likely be by myself rather than with a band. My ultimate dream would be to have an orchestra perform my music for my 25th anniversary as a recording artist this year. Montréal Symphony Orchestra, in case you read this…”

Indeed, 2020 was planned as a year of celebration for the musician, who was due to embark on a spring-summer world tour as a DJ, for now – marking his 25th anniversary on the world circuit and the 15th anniversary of his label. But then COVID-19 derailed those plans.

Still, not bad for this one-man army, who also manages his own career and business! “I’ve had booking agents on and off,” he says, “but I’ve also done a lot myself, and never had a manager. It becomes very taxing, sometimes, and it makes it hard to concentrate on the creative side of my job, which should be the main focus. But over the years, I’ve learned how to juggle all of that.”

Keep on juggling, Mr. Everything!

She has a natural talent for winning, whether it’s on Canadian TV or in the centre of the circle in La Voix (the Québec franchise of The Voice TV singing competition). It’s as if doors open themselves before her like dominoes. Talented and ambitious, the singer-songwriter knows how to get the most out of the web to achieve her full potential. She shines like it’s always been her destiny to do so.

Alicia MoffetAlicia Moffet is one in a million, the authentic face of her generation. Except that, contrary to Britney Spears, or even Gabrielle Destroismaisons, the 21-year-old musician was picked and made a star by her peers. Numbers don’t lie: 390,000 followers on Instagram, 217,000 on her YouTube channel, and 5,500 tickets sold for her virtual record launch, at the peak of the current pandemic. There are very few Québécois vocalists who can boast such numbers online without any help from industry bigwigs.

Despite being courted by almost every record label, she decided to fly solo, and free of any producer. Today, she owes nothing to anyone. She, to quote Céline Dion, is the boss. She couldn’t be happier about that decision, especially now, at a time where there’s a wave of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment shaking up the Québec music scene. Such necessary denunciations tarnish the image of some music companies to their very core, and Moffet is glad she didn’t sign anything with anyone.

“I look at what’s going on and I’m even happier that I’m on my own with my small team,” she says. “It would be a nightmare for me to depend on someone who’s taking advantage of me. I have no idea how I would manage, to be honest.

“There’s no shortage of offers [from record labels], but I’m just not interested right now, because I’m waiting for one that’s in synch with my goals… It also affords me full creative freedom. I’ve done contests and all that, and my image was controlled, and I hated that. It’s partly for that reason that I chose to remain independent.”

And beyond her gumption remains a fundamental truth: Alicia Moffet knows how to sing, so much so that it feels like a truism to write it. Apparently unaware of who he was dealing with, despite her having won The Next Star two years before in Toronto, Pierre Lapointe said he was frankly impressed by her blind audition for La Voix in 2015. Back then, while she was still in her teens, Alicia had made Etta James’s “At Last “her own. That song is a hard one to sing for any singer.

“If you’re like that at 16 and you go through an experience such as La Voix, established singers are going to have serious competition in a few years,” Pierre Lapointe told her. You might as well say that Le Monarque des Indes coach on the TV competition, and creator of Deux par deux rassemblés, had used a crystal ball. Five years later, his opinion has been proven right.

“I was anxious to show people what I was working on, to show them that I work incredibly hard and that I can give them quality,” says Moffet. “I wanted people to remember that I’m a singer, first. Sure, I’m on social media, and I’m a mom, but I was anxious for people to remember me as more than a YouTuber.”

And one thing that people always notice about her – and comment on, with strings of pretty emojis – is the difference between her speaking voice and her singing voice. There’s also a whole universe of difference between Alicia’s vlogs or interviews, where she comes across as very self-confident but never arrogant, and the vulnerability she displays when singing her own lyrics. Her songs about failed romances seem light years away from the pictures and messages she posts on her Instagram account, mostly of the seemingly perfect family of herself, her partner (and biggest fan) Alex Mentink, and their baby girl. As so many of her peers, the singer-songwriter believes that the most beautiful songs are born in sadness.

“Honestly, you can’t believe everything you see on social media,” says Moffet. “I still have struggles, even though I’m aware my followers see and think everything is fine. I do believe that you can’t enjoy your happiness without a little pain. Life is full of ups and downs. I have sad moments every week, I’m often disappointed, and that’s fine, because I find inspiration in that. I have problems and concerns like everyone.”

With the help of co-writers from all walks of life – from Jonathan Roy to Camille and Laurence of Milk & Bone – the globally aspiring musician created her first album, Billie Ave, dedicated to her daughter. Bynon, aka Richard Beynon, penned the arrangements and instrumentation with her. “I must call him twice a day just to tell him how I love him and how amazingly well we work together!” says Moffet. “Olivier Primeau introduced us at a time where I was all about the Beach Club, in 2018,” she remembers, laughing. “He’s good friends with Sean Paul and he became my music dad.”

 With R&B accents, so rare in La Belle Province since the heyday of Corneille, Moffet’s songs don’t necessarily fit with the local radio formats. “I’m always thrilled to hear my song “On Your Mind”  on [Montréal radio station] CKOI, it’s like a dream come true,” she says. “That said, I’ll never write a song just so it can play on the radio, or become a hit. It comes from the heart, and I’m not very business-minded… I don’t have a Québécois sound, and I get that a lot. I don’t think it’s a good or a bad thing. My influences are all from Anglo pop. I love Christina Aguilera, for example. It’s not even by choice, it’s just what I like and listen to. So when I started creating music, I was influenced by that.”

Although she has a full plate with her new role as a mom, and renovations to her home this summer, Moffet hopes to come out of self-isolation with a new EP of original material. That way, she can go back onstage with a bigger repertoire of songs. “I’d love to open for an international artist on tour,” she says. “I don’t know who or when, but that’s the plan.”

As the saying goes, dreams don’t work unless you do. Evidently, that won’t be a problem for Alicia Moffet.