Ariane Moffatt and Étienne Dupuis-Cloutier take us on a track-by-track journey behind the scenes of their new collaborative album.
Don’t miss the discussion (left) that Paroles & Musique editor Eric Parazelli had with Moffat Moffatt and Étienne Dupuis-Cloutier about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
We’ve known her for quite a while now. Ariane Moffatt seems to age backwards, and she hides her secret of the fountain of youth. Étienne Dupuis-Cloutier is a behind-the-scenes hero that loves left-of-centre pop music. As a sought-after producer, he’s set the voices of Fanny Bloom, Dumas, Cœur de pirate, and Eli Rose in his backdrop of lush, fresh instrumentation.
Together as SOMMM, Moffat and Dupuis-Cloutier have created a turbo-charged electro-pop offering, with hints of rap, trap, and even jazz. Their music is perfect for springtime, right here and now, and couldn’t have come at a better time to heal broken hearts. The duo de-constructs its eight songs for the readers of Words & Music.
“Le ciel s’est renversé”
With its slightly supernatural intro and moving bassline, the opening song bridges the gap between Ariane’s usual universe and that of the upcoming SOMMM songs. It’s a poetic and dream-like introduction. Rosie Valland naturally finds her place here, inspired by Robyn’s “Never Again.”
“When Moffat told me she was thinking of asking Rosie to feature, she had just released her single “Blue,” and I was really a fan,” says Dupuis-Cloutier. “I really like what she does, I like her voice and her artistic approach. We clicked very quickly. And by having a timbre in mind, I even got melodic ideas.”
Thanks to its house music-inspired crescendo that leads to the chorus, “Aimant” is the first truly dance-oriented song of this project. A nu disco aesthetic has appealed to Moffat ever since the release of “Debout,” and that genre has also influenced the arrangements for the Petites mains précieuses tour. When collaborating with Dupuis-Cloutier, singer-songwriter Moffat fully embraces the genre:
“On this project, we were, like, ‘Let’s go in the studio to make current pop music!’ I’m not in an aesthetic concept, here, I’m just trying to write pop music like what’s hot now. I’ve had a taste while working on SOMMM and it’s a fun challenge, because it’s not any easier than writing a full emo, dramatic song.”
On this one, the songwriters looked towards Ruffsound, the man behind the beats and sounds of Loud’s biggest hits. They also worked with Mike of Clay and Friends to make this single even more infectious and life-affirming than it already was. It’s an ode to joy that’s made to play at full volume, with car windows rolled down, in the middle of summer, while driving to the beach.
But as Dupuis-Cloutier says, “it didn’t happen in one day!” The creative process of this fluid, light, and likeable song was indeed quite labour-intensive. “The mix contains about 100 different tracks. It’s huge, it’s very dense, but it’s the energy we were after. We wanted to give you the feeling that sound is coming from everywhere, and that each one of them is perceptible.”
“Essence” is a smorgasbord of succulent alliterations, and a door to the world of hip-hop that stays open until the second-last song on the album track. The song, recorded with LaF, ends with a jazzy segment reminiscent of “Tercel,” by Les Louanges – Moffat’s protégés, who also open for her on tour. This time around, however, it’s not Jérôme Beaulieu who sits at the piano, but Moffatt herself, displaying another one of her many talents.
“We decided to go for a little melodic freestyle,” she says, her face turning red in front of her cellphone screen.” I recorded that and sent it to Étienne saying that it would be cool that the song ends with something played on the piano. There’s piano throughout the track, but this is bluesier. The song is kind of a contemporary blues, a song for today’s youth, who are trying to figure out who they are. It’s fitting.”
“Get Well Soon”
Maky Lavender, a rising star on Montréal’s hip-hop scene, is the guest on this soulful, hopeful song. It’s minimalist and experimental, and features distorted flutes laid on top of a finely-syncopated beat.
“Instead of telling us he’d write his verse sometime next week, Maky followd-up on our request for a feature by sending us his takes,” says Dupuis-Cloutier, still clearly wowed. “Ariane was at a dinner function, she was getting the insigne of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres alongside Pierre Lapointe. I texted her saying she had to hear this. Seriously, it was just perfect. I had nothing to add or change. She had to hear this right away!”
Here, Moffat walks a fine line between singing and rapping, over her most trap-style recording ever in her career. Lyrically, she even dabbles with “Frenglish” in a very natural and convincing way. She’s daring, but without being a daredevil. She respects MCs too much to go overboard.
“I don’t pretend to be a rapper,” she says, “but my love of rhythm comes out in this kind of trip. But I can assure you, I’m super-careful to not come across as some kind of wannabe! I take immense pleasure in exploring such a playground, full of with phrasing like that.”
The single that kick-started this project – the first round, as Moffat puts it – wasn’t supposed to turn into a full-length project, yet their work with Fouki made them want another taste.
“Collaborating is in his DNA,” she says. “It was truly a great moment when he came into the studio. He was fully prepared, very impressive.” Dupuis-Cloutier adds: “He’s super-professional and collaborative.” Side note: both men play on the same garage league hockey team. “He’s really into teamwork, that Fouki. He has the same attitude when it comes to music as he does in sports.”
The last fllower in this bouquet is a romantic, lusty ballad written with Marie-Pierre Arthur, a hyper-influential singer-songwriter and one of Moffat’s old friends. They’ve known each other since their time at Cégep Saint-Laurent.
“She’s a great friend, but we have a drink more often than we collaborate on music, sadly. Or maybe it’s because we don’t drink enough? Whatever the case may be, we were looking for an opportunity to work together… There are many representatives of the new generation of rappers and singers on this album, but closing it with an artist I respect so much was important to me.”