A year ago, Salomé Leclerc came out with a third album that, albeit with some degree of difficulty, would change her path forever. To let out those Choses Extérieures, the singer had to undergo exhaustive introspection – which led to an exercise in stepping out of her comfort zone, to test her limits and take a leap of faith. A year later, she’s glad to see the amount of ground she covered, and has no regrets about the decisions that led to the album.

“There’s no doubt that a third album is an important milestone, but I do feel I’ve really found myself with this record, she says. “By producing the album myself, I chose the harder path, one filled with highs and lows. But in the end, it gave me a tremendous amount of confidence in myself.”

Now, a year later, she’s ready to go to the ADISQ Awards Gala, where she’s nominated in many of the most prestigious categories – including Songwriter of the Year. Her nomination as Producer of the Year offers an unexpected but welcome validation. The road to get there was a long one: after asking singer Émilie Loizeau to produce her first album, and her friend Philippe Brault the second one, she wanted to stand on her own two feet. Brault was still around to provide her with advice in the early stages, but Leclerc fully embraced her project, and even played all the instruments for it.

“I now know I can make albums on my own, but it doesn’t mean I’ll always produce them,” she says. “The pressure is immense when every aspect of your project depends on you; there’s no one around to finish a song for you! That being said, I mostly feel like offering my services to others, in order to better step out of my comfort zone. I talk about that more and more, sending it out in the universe,” she explains.

One of the more judicious choices the young producer made was to let the singer take centre stage. Critics were unanimous when the album came out: they’d never heard her spellbinding tone of voice, with such clarity and power. Her lyrics, filled with melancholy, and even pain, were previously hidden behind a veil; whereas now, they’re out in broad daylight.

“I think that I wanted to present myself as a musician on my previous albums, a musician who can jam in the studio and onstage, which meant the singer came second,” Leclerc admits. “This time around, I wanted to protect the singer and her words, which led me to streamline, to trim the songs, the number of musicians, the arrangements… The confidence I mentioned earlier is what people heard in my voice.”

“I don’t want to make records the way I have up until now – I want to explore.”

Emboldened by these new experiences, she’s filled with new desires – the first being that she doesn’t want to wait another three years – her usual pace until now – before getting back in the studio. “I don’t know what shape it’s going to take: release an EP, work with someone as a duo, work on a project with a specific set of constraints. But one thing’s for sure: I don’t want to make records the way I have up until now – I want to explore.”

Might we one day see her lead a new project? Will she go back to being a session musician, as she was for Vincent Vallières, with whom she toured as a back vocalist and guitarist? Nothing is off limits, as long as happiness is part of the equation.

“During the harder moments, I asked myself what had attracted me to music in the first place,” she says. “I wanted to go back to the source, and I re-discovered the simple pleasure of playing: playing music too loud in my headphones, and just banging on my drums, playing guitar just for fun, without the goal of writing a song. It re-connected me, and made me realize that I want to be guided by simplicity and pleasure.”

There’s no reason to take your time when you have enough friends to ably carry everything you wish to say. Pierre Lapointe arrives with his third album three years, produced by a third friend in a row, Albin de la Simone, who’s allowed Lapointe to walk off the beaten path, with his eyes barely open. Déjouer l’ennui is a collection of “lullabies for children who grew up too fast.”

“Each project is the expression of a friendship,” says Lapointe, who tapped David-François Moreau to produce 2017’s La science du cœur and Philippe Brault for the production of 2018’s Ton corps est déjà froid.” I create very fast, so it’s the best way to avoid repeating myself,” says Lapointe. “If I’d made those three records as rapidly, and on my own, it wouldn’t have been as good.” He could have elected to learn the techniques for successful self-production, but that’s not where he wanted to go. “I voluntarily left that hurdle so that I have to turn to others for it,” he says. “That way, even if you work alone, you’ll always come up with something new.”

It is Albin de la Simone, present at our interview, who homogenized this story of ennui, that one can easily mold to one’s heart. “We started from the song ‘Le monarque des Indes’ [‘The Monarch of the Indies’],” says the producer. “We wrote it together and felt it would set the direction of the album. Everything that came afterwards was put through the filter of that experience, and we pushed aside anything that wasn’t caught in that net.”

Lapointe gave Albin a list of what he wanted. The starting point in question is a moment, a memory from the PUNKT tour during which Pierre and his musicians played “La plus belle des maisons” – heard on Déjouer l’ennui – centre-stage, around a single microphone. That emotion had to be re-born with the same essence. “I sent Albin Creole nursery rhymes, and songs by Manno Charlemagne, Haiti’s Richard Desjardins,” says Lapointe. That was how they would defeat ennui.

Several more friends participated, which allowed Lapointe to distance himself from his own perspective, and to inhabit many universes. Among them was Daniel Bélanger, who wrote the music for “Vivre ma peine.” “We had to fit Daniel’s guitars into our molds,” they say. The song “Pour déjouer l’ennui” was written by brothers Hubert Lenoir and Julien Chiasson, and re-worked alongside Lapointe to conform to the chosen direction. Philippe B contributed “Vendredi 13,” which Lapointe plays as “an homage to the one who was always close by.”

Drummer José Major was challenged by having to fit within the album’s soft approach, where big, percussive rhythms were rare. “He had the biggest challenge,” says Lapointe. “He had to play at one or two on a scale of 11.” “We wanted him to caress the skins instead of hitting them,” adds Albin. “That’s what created the instrument’s warmth.” “We brought everyone back to the essence of things by breaking their habits,” says Lapointe. “Like asking Philippe Brault to play guitarrón, which he’d never played before.”

Once he’s chosen his producer, Pierre Lapointe readily accepts all the changes in direction that may come. He allowed Albin’s wind to carry him toward new ideas. “This album actually does fill a gap, from which I thought his discography suffered,” says the producer. “My habits are diluted in Albin’s choices, and in the talent of my friends who collaborated on the album,” says Lapointe. “It allowed me to put my finger on what I needed: cooling down. It’s actually the first of my albums that I listen to for my own enjoyment. It sounds self-absorbed, but I hope it has the same effect on the people who listen to it.”

For Lapointe, whose humility is ever-evolving, all music is drafted from a central point, and the many hands that contribute to the music help it crystallize around that point. “Everyone pours their energy into something that belongs to everyone and no one at the same time,” he says. “I don’t feel the need to appropriate it, even though it’s my face on it.”

In 2021, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec will recognize the 20th anniversary of Lapointe’s career, but he’s just thankful to still be around. “I’m not one to do assessments,” he says. “I’m here, now, and tomorrow.” What he chose to do – in order to avoid worrying about the pressure generated by his desire to be counted among the greats – is to constantly take risks, and challenge himself to do new things. “Friends, work, abandon: it’s a lifestyle that I’m comfortable with,” he says.

According to Wikipedia, Apophis is a near-earth asteroid approximately 340 metres in diameter. It’s on a near-earth orbit that sees it cross our planet twice in each of its revolutions. It also happens to be the title of the most recent Choses Sauvages single, which is 3:41 long in the radio-edited version, but nine minutes long on the album, for their fans. Paroles & Musique met the band at 180g, a record shop and restaurant in Montréal, a year after the release of their first, eponymous album, to talk and share a plate of bacon and potatoes.

PHOTO For the guys in Choses Sauvages, the crux of the past year has been live shows. “We solidified things and took them further,” says Félix Bélisle, the singer and bassist. “We know our strength is the stage.” Tommy Bélisle (keyboards, vocals) agrees: the band is at its best when it’s band playing for a crowd. “The songs had been written for awhile when we started touring,” he says. “We wanted to go elsewhere, to explore and adapt our show.”

So the band has spent the past year on the road, alongside Foreign Diplomats and Half Moon Run – the latter, a band whose notoriety took the boys away from their usual crowd. “There were a couple of times when we played for nothing but white-haired people,” Tommy explains. “We played shows in 100% seated venues,” which led the band to explore the malleability of their material. Nothing is set in stone in the music of Choses Sauvages; it’s a jigsaw puzzle that’s constantly re-inventing its pieces.

After their debut recording, the band quickly started thinking about their sophomore album, because of the new electronic direction the band was exploring – and thoroughly enjoying. “Everything is different onstage,” says Marc-Antoine Barbier (guitar, vocals). “The next album will be closer to the way we actually play. It won’t be as slick. We really liked Manu’s [Emmanuel Éthier’s] production, but our dance-punk-party attitude is what we’re into right now.” “We’re really exploring the whole kraut electro thing right now,” adds Félix.

With that exploratory mindset facing the future, Choses Sauvages will go into full experimentation mode during Coup de cœur francophone, a week after winning or losing their first Félix Award at the ADISQ gala, where they’re nominated for Album of the Year – Alternative. Their “rewerk” show on Nov. 8, 2019, at Club Soda will see them de-compartmentalize genres, and stylistically stretch themselves as far as they’ll go. “We’re re-visiting the album with a more electronic approach,” says Marc-Antoine. “Some of the songs will likely make it on the next album. There’s less drums and more drum machines and we don’t want to stop to say, ‘Hello Montréal.’ It’s going to be 90 minutes of non-stop music.”

With their new sound, the band feels as if they’re killing two birds with one stone: there’s an audience for everything, and there’s an audience for what makes them happy. “We make music for ourselves, but we also there’s a hunger for this sound,” says Thierry Malépart (keyboards, vocals). “A lot of stuff was going on when our first album came out,” adds Félix adds. “Hubert [Lenoir] and Les Louanges were just starting to make it. We weren’t really hearing what we wanted to in the Québec music scene.”

Maladie d’amour [by Jimmy Hunt, 2013] was our point of reference, but we weren’t exactly there either,” says Tommy. “Québec has had its folk, its rap. Now it’s happy to have something else.” “Did people ask for that? Maybe,” says Thierry. “We knew that was where we were going.”

The band is very autonomous on this trip to the heart of the music scene, and the guys love being up to their eyeballs in their own product. Which is why their record label is a perfect match for them. “Audiogram truly gives us free rein,” says Philippe Gauthier Boudreau (drums, voice). “They jumped in when the album was completely done.”

One might conclude that their unfruitful attempts at music competitions was a good thing, in the end. Their DYI attitude shooed away all the bad news. “Francouvertes didn’t want anything to do with us,” Félix remembers with a smile. “Nobody wanted anything to do with us,” says Philippe. “That meant that once we got into the real game, we’d already self-produced our shows with no supervision. We only had Marie-Clarys [their manager] on our side.”

The band’s next album should be out in the fall of 2020, and it should feature the fruits of those endless nights of infinite jams played in apartments around Montréal, for a handful of friends who know how to party. “Drum machines are a big plus,” says Marc-Antoine. “It’s going to make a difference.” “We’re also going to allow ourselves to step out of the ‘song’ formula and make tracks that are six minutes long,” says Tommy.

The boys will hibernate together and figure out each of the band’s next tracks before setting out to conquer Europe. “And make new friends for life, too,” chuckles Félix. You read that right: friends. For life.