Deep in the sky, a star dies, in a brutal, blinding explosion that sends shards of light throughout space. Les soeurs Boulay set out on a quest for this intense brightness, for what’s left after us. Their third album, La mort des étoiles (The Death of Stars), is carried by their adult voices, the voices of strong women who’ve grasped their fragility, and the fragility of the world. Co-produced by Connor Seidel, Mélanie and Stéphanie Boulay’s heady project sees them officially out of their teens, and confirms all of their previous choices.
“S’il vous plaît quelqu’un, faites quelque chose pour virer le courant” (“Somebody, please do something to turn the tide”), they sing on the title track. While we’re connected to everything that exists, we’re also navigating in a paradoxical era, where everything that allows us to communicate with each other also isolates us. “It’s a song about the downfall of humanity, but also the downfall of the reign of the image,” says Stéphanie. “We’re basically saying that we would love, in an ideal world, to not have to sell ourselves on Instagram. Apparently, God is dead and Man took his place, but it’s not mankind that’s at the centre of everything; it’s the omniscient stare of all of our networks, invisible, yet constantly judging us, and making us doubt ourselves.”
The Boulay sisters’ hiatus, following the 4488 de l’Amour tour in 2015, allowed Stéphanie to release a solo album, and Mélanie to take a maternity leave after the birth of her son. “It was clear it was only a hiatus, and it was planned for before my child,” says Mélanie. “People are afraid of a hiatus, because artists often don’t actually come back. But for us, it was the only way to find out who we are without the other one.” That hiatus also allowed Mélanie to get rid of the calluses she’d always had on her fingers. Each on their own, they heard and witnessed things that led them to the remains of those stars.
This third album arrangements shelter such subjects as a warm blanket in the winter, and are the result of collaborating with a prolific entourage. “We were used to working together, and we didn’t want to let anybody in,” says Mélanie. “We were afraid to lose our essence. But now, we have such confidence in ourselves as a duo that we’re not afraid of going out and getting all the best that others have to offer.” “We barely played on the album,” Stéphanie adds. “We delegated. We discovered colours we didn’t know we could have. We showed talented people what we’d come up with, and asked them what they heard in it.” So we can hear Marie-Pierre Arthur’s bass playing, and the meticulous guitar stylings of Joseph Marchand and Simon Angell, the latter a real savant of the instrument. To wit, his breathtaking fretwork on the album’s closer, “Immensité.” “I believe we hired the best guitar player in existence,” Mélanie says. “His playing sounds like the instrument is moving back and forth. It’s like the music is holding its breath.”
The sisters stopped denying themselves what they enjoy, and dove right into what they once loved, finding inspiration in Jean-Pierre Ferland, Michael Kiwanuka, Sinatra, and Julie Masse. “We learned new chords, and I got back to composing on the piano, an instrument that affords me a lot more creativity,” says Mélanie.
Ambition is no longer at the centre of their lives, now that the girls have taken heed of their impact on things to come, especially since the birth of Léonard, Mélanie’s son, who sees his name used as a song title on the album.
They obviously couldn’t ignore everything that came in the wake of the #metoo movement. “Il me voulait dans la maison” (“He Wanted Me in the House”) is an intense testimonial on psychological violence. “We watched the documentary on R. Kelly and realized that narcissistic perverts truly are everywhere,” says Stéphanie. Women lived through #metoo, they assimilated all of that. Now, the time has come to dissect it. “Invisible violence is very frustrating, because it leaves no evidence, and is often blamed on the woman,” says Stéphanie. “I lived it, so many women lived it. On the day we recorded that song, I couldn’t stop crying, and everyone had to leave the studio so that I could get on with it. I was crying from rage. Psychological, verbal, and economic violence goes unpunished, because it’s intangible.” “Au doigt” touches on similar themes, and describes the weight of what’s expected of women on a daily basis, in society. “Boys are sometimes afraid of being crushed, when all we want to do is walk by their side,” says Mélanie.
Politics aren’t spared either, since the society in which we live is still subjected to values that are imposed from above, and have a real impact. “We sang ‘La fatigue du nombre’ in front of 300 MPs and Senators, last May at the SOCAN reception on Parliament Hill. We sang, ‘Vous étiez jeunes avant nous votre feu a tout brulé’ (‘You were young before us, and your fire burned everything to the ground’). It was only once we were onstage that we realized what we were telling them,” the sisters say, giggling. “That’s the role of music: carrying messages. After that, it’s up to you to digest it at your own pace,” says Stéphanie. “What we were telling them, in a song, is that if no law comes into effect, all you’ll ever hear are songs by the same 12 people who have to means to make music.” “Music is a psychotherapy that you pay $10 a month for on Spotify,” her sister adds. “It’s more important that we think.”
The Mort des étoiles tour will be carried by the incandescence of stars, thanks to enticing visuals, and new arrangements that will help us embrace once more songs that we’ve known by heart for nearly 10 years. “We wanted to renew our love of those songs we were tired of playing,” says Mélanie. “We wanted to embrace our evolution, and the evolution of our audience.”