It’s only been two days since Jon Matte’s been back in Montréal. The Franklin Electric’s singer and frontman has spent the last two months in Australia, a transformative trip – as evidenced by his words, and his sparkling eyes.
“We were there to première our second album, Blue Ceiling,” says Matte. “We did open for Half Moon Run and the Aussie band Woodlock, but we also played top billing at a few venues for our fans, who discovered us during our first tour there. We ended our trip in the countryside, on the West Coast, by the Indian Ocean. There, we played in a barn for about 100 people, and that turned into a party that lasted all night. Moments like that are true gifts.” The Australian stint prepared The Franklin Electric for the official Canadian and worldwide launch of Blue Ceiling, which will be followed by the usual tour schedule.
Right from the get-go, with their first album This Is How I Let You Down, the Montréal band found an audience for its music in Canada, Australia and Europe. Jon Matte’s gang has toured Europe five times already, twice as headliners. There are a few elements that explain the travel-ready nature of their pop-tinged folk music. The Franklin Electric has opened extensively, mainly for Half Moon Run, their Indica labelmates. The other determining factor was their deal with German label Revolver, and the support of European distributor Believe, which ensure them an active representation throughout the continent. “When you have a team working for you, no matter how big or small, it makes a world of difference,” says Matte. “Next week, we’re Album of the Week on a German college radio station. And we’ll tour Scandinavia for the first time. We’re spreading out. But there’s still the States, where we have yet to make it.”
Being on the road is such an important part of the band’s DNA that Matte started writing Blue Ceiling on tour. “We were in a hurry to release a second album that sounded like our live shows,” he says. “We felt a sense of urgency. That’s why I started writing while on tour. But in actual fact, we had plenty of time and there was no rush. I must say, there’s a kind of despair in the act of writing, an obsession, like I simply can’t help it.”
In between tours, The Franklin Electric book studio sessions at Mixart, at Pierre Marchand’s studio, or in Indica’s house studio, all in the hope of capturing those songs written on the road. “After a year of recording sessions, I went back in on my own, feeling a sense of urgency, even though the album was done. So I sat behind various instruments – drums, guitar, piano, bass, trumpet – to get it out of me. And five new songs were created. I look like some kind of completist who doesn’t know when to stop, but I just couldn’t help it.” Regardless, the swing of things proved Matte right. Those five tracks now appear on Blue Ceiling.
There’s something trancelike that happens to the Hudson-born multi-instrumentalist when he’s in the throes of songwriting. Matte has a trick to get his songs out, to stimulate his improv method: he names everything that’s around him. “I’d like to have love songs in me, but right now they’re songs about transformation, peeling away layers that are keeping us from ourselves,” he says. “I don’t summon the themes I write about. They impose themselves. Often, I feel the music and mumble the words. This very out-of-control creative process worried me. And one day I heard the demo for ‘Beat It,’ and I realized that happens, even to outstanding creators like Michael Jackson. I’d love to tell you I’m organized, that I sit down to write on a daily basis, but that’s not how it happens… It all comes out haphazardly. My creative process is highly instinctive.”
And since Matte pens all the music and lyrics on Blue Ceiling, one wonders why he releases those songs under the identity of a band – an unusual situation in a musical world that often prefers strong, flamboyant personalities. “I cannot conceive this musical project without a family,” he says. “That’s just the way I am. You see, the work of Kevin Warren, my drummer, is essential, and I want to recognize the work of the people around me, so I prefer this collective identity. Besides, being alone onstage has never appealed to me. Not yesterday, not tomorrow.”
It’s that desire to share, to exchange, human-to-human, that defines the existence of The Franklin Electric.