Circa September 2007 – Fazer Magazine
Some Montreal Magic.
Interview with Julien Poissant.
Conducted by phone on Sept 12th, 2007. Torngat are a part of London’s very own LOLA Festival in September. Sadly, I missed their live performance. I heard from some of the London music hipsters Torngat put on an impressive live show.
Mike: Hi how are you?
Julien: Pretty good. I was wondering where the magazine was from. So it’s London, is it?
Yeah, it is. It’s all music based, I’ve been doing it for a year. It’s pretty small and grassroots but my friend and I both love music and we like writing about it, and now we go to shows and take photos and do something with it. So – there you go.
I’ve just been playing your new release through a couple of times and it’s pretty interesting music. It’s very kind of friendly and happy.
Yeah, it’s different for sure.
Do you draw inspiration for your music from any place in particular? Is there something or some band that you really aspire to sound like when you go and sit down to write music?
We never try to sound like somebody. For sure we have a lot of different inﬂuences. We’re three in the band and we all listen to different kinds of music. We all have common bands that we listen to but we also have our little clicks and our different areas, not areas but periods of music that we tend to go more towards, you know? I know I’m the rock guy mostly. I’m more into the classic rock. The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, the Beatles.
I grew up listening to that kind of music. We all listen to rock but Pietro is bit more jazz-oriented, but it’s all changing as we’re all exchanging music between us, we’re always listening to new music. Pietro for example listens a lot to Radiohead. So we all have inﬂuences that go pretty far. We listen to music from rock to John Zorn to the Penguin Café Orchestra. Did you ever hear Penguin Café Orchestra?
I haven’t but just looking over the information that was sent to me I notice it’s written up here on your bio and I’m interested in checking them out.
Yeah, I would say that’s probably the band that our sound tends to go more towards, but without sounding like them.
Have you guys ever done any ﬁlm music? Have you ever scored a movie or contributed something to a soundtrack?
We just did this year for the ﬁrst time actually. We just, 2 weeks ago was the ﬁrst screening of the ﬁlm, it’s called La Lilli à Gilles. And it’s a short ﬁlm of 15 minutes that’s done by director David Uloth from Montreal. And yeah we worked probably 2 months on that with him, on spare days.
I play a lot of soundtrack music. I like instrumental music and I like listening to how a ﬁlm is pushed forward with music, and I just played this disk through and thought I can totally see you guys scoring movies.
Yeah, it’s something we’d like for sure to get more into it. If the contacts and if we get approached for sure if the project interests us, we for sure we’re going to do it.
When you guys are putting your material together, do you consider while you’re recording your material what it’s going to translate like on stage when you play live or do you just kind of go for it after the album is done?
It depends. Our records were kind of different with that. The ﬁrst record we did in 2001, the way we composed was a lot more improvised based. So when we got to the session, the session was just a weekend, so it was the same kind of energy on the record that would be on the live shows. But the sound would be different cause it was ﬁrst time recording, so the technique of sound we didn’t get as much the analogue from we wanted to get, but the concept behind composing and the way we played was more the same. Now we’re starting to compose more and more our records. But we don’t want ever to lose that kind of spontaneous improvised like explosion on stage so we try to get our songs slightly rearranged for the live shows. And we try to incorporate either improvisation songs on stage or just stretch parts to make it more interesting, or just push the envelope a little bit. Now you guys actively go out and see concerts and shows as you’re all into music. Did you get out to see Osheaga (Osheaga is a two day music festival that went on in Montreal the same weekend as Virgin Festival in Toronto) at all?
Do you guys actively go out and see concerts and shows as you’re all into music. Did you get out to see Osheaga (Osheaga is a two day music festival that went on in Montreal the same weekend as Virgin Festival in Toronto) at all?
No actually not at all. I didn’t have a chance. I’ve been working a whole lot. So it depends on the time of the year, it depends on the band. I would say Pietro is probably the guy that goes to see a lot of shows in the band. We all do once in awhile. I tend to go see more shows when a band tours, really. When I’m waiting for that band to come in town, you know. While Pietro tends to go out more in the scene regularly. I’m more the composer, stay at home, work on my music 7 days a week. Once in a while when I get out to band I want to go see I’ll go out and drink a couple beers, you know? What kind of challenges do you have when you’re playing live? Is there stuff that’s really hard to translate from your material when you’re doing a live show? Especially this new record for sure, yeah. What happened is that this record we started really exploring
What kind of challenges do you have when you’re playing live? Is there stuff that’s really hard to translate from your material when you’re doing a live show?
Especially this new record for sure, yeah. What happened is that this record we started really exploring with the concept of over dubs and we’re three so sing the songs, we did like two over dubs of trumpets there was French horn, there was like over dubs of bass drum, tambourine, keyboards and now we’re three and we try to pull this together so I’ve been playing two things at the same time in the last shows. Like ‘La Rouge’ there’s a song I used to play, the title track ‘La Rouge’ I used to play xylophone and trumpet at the same time. And now on the new record, did you hear the song ‘Celebrating New’
The parts with all the trumpets. So that part I am playing a bass-drum with my right foot, tambourine with my left foot, I’m playing the electric harp with my left hand I’m playing trumpet with my right hand, all at the same time. So I had to practice probably for a month to get that line together and so parts like that are getting more complicated so that’s something visually also that gets interesting for the audience, to get to see one guy pull off four parts at the same time. And we kind of all do that cause in that same tune Mathieu will play his left hand on the keyboards, and he will also play trumpet, the counter-melody or actually he’ll play the, yeah he’ll play the counter-melody while Pietro is going to play four toms, tambourine and French horn at the same time. So we’re starting to incorporate the multi-instrumental at the same time. And I think we’re pulling it off. We’re really happy with the way things sound.
Have you put some thought into bringing in a fourth a member to help out touring?
No that’s something we decided a couple years ago, because our ﬁrst record we used to be 4 with a guy called Sylvain Delisle and unfortunately, well not unfortunately he had to quit the band cause he had a baby, he couldn’t follow us anymore and do all the gigs. So we had a big decision to make back then and we decided to, cause we had jammed in the past with a lot of different people and we really connected the 4 of us and later just the 3 of us, so we really have a special connection that’s hard to ﬁnd with somebody else. So instead of just ﬁnding somebody new to just get the parts in we just decided to work with what we had and we had to rearrange the way we were going to do stuff so that’s when Mathieu started to work the concept of doing the bass part with his left on the other keyboard. Kind of like the Doors which didn’t have a bass player. We just let ourselves, we gave ourselves the permission not to have the typical bass player. We assumed it and we went into a direction that would just make it our own sound.
Good. As a Canadian band do you feel you’ve got any challenges that you may not have if you were from the States or from France?
I guess I’m looking for your take on the music industry in Canada, maybe now compared to what it would be like if you were releasing albums say ten years ago.
Well, I think the biggest issue for me and I think for the rest of the band is up with the newer computers, and the downloads and all of that. It doesn’t really affect us. Between the States and Canada I guess it’s all the same. It doesn’t really affect us being from Canada. But I think we’re getting right now into the business of it because before we did everything independently. So I think the business part – we’re starting to get how it really works now cause we’re now signing with our publishing people, with the label, we have a publicist now, we have 2 different bookers, one for Quebec and one for the rest of Canada. So I think we’re starting to get into the game and we’re starting to discover how it works. But as far as challenging? I think … I’m not sure how to say it but we don’t see it as a … I’m not sure how to answer that to tell you the truth. I think we’re still learning a lot and we know where we want to go and we’re just going to get there. And we’re all patient musicians. The way we’ve always worked was to go step by step so we’re not trying to get intimidated by the whole surrounding of companies. We want to go step by step and get fan by fan and we don’t want to play that game, that politically correct game of the industry that sometimes occurs when you get into bigger, not bigger venues but to the bigger, I don’t know how to say that … well when you get into the bigger companies or you start to sell more you get into another kind of game. We want to keep our integrity. Your tour plans for the next 3 or 4 months. I know you’re coming to do LOLA Festival in London. I imagine you’re going to be pretty hard at the road for the next few months. Is it all headlining acts? Are you going to open for anybody? Mainly we’re pretty much headlining
What are your tour plans for the next 3 or 4 months? I know you’re coming to do LOLA Festival in London. I imagine you’re going to be pretty hard at the road for the next few months. Is it all headlining acts? Are you going to open for anybody?
Mainly we’re pretty much headlining I think. We got a couple of opening slots. I know in Montreal we just got that two days ago I think. At La Tulipe with Elini Mandell. We’re doing an opening for her at La Tulipe in October I think it’s the 25th. And the rest I think we’re pretty much headlining. I’m not sure for all the west coast that we’re going to do because it’s not ofﬁcially booked yet. You know, all the dates are being planned but we haven’t conﬁrmed everything yet so I’m not sure if every gig we’re opening cause most of the places in the west we’ve never played there before so I guess we’re going to see. But I think we’re headlining most of them. I’ve got one last question for you. I’m wondering who did the cover artwork for your CD? Her name is Sarah Mangle. A friend of the band and she’s based in Montreal and very nice girl. She does a lot of stuff for us. She helped us over the years doing posters for us, sometimes doing booklets for when we do shows. Once she did a story concept for our booklets, for instead of just having the typical booklets with the titles of the set we’re going to do, she actually did this story behind the whole titles throughout the whole pamphlet with drawings,
I’ve got one last question for you. I’m wondering who did the cover artwork for your CD?
Her name is Sarah Mangle. A friend of the band and she’s based in Montreal and very nice girl. She does a lot of stuff for us. She helped us over the years doing posters for us, sometimes doing booklets for when we do shows. Once she did a story concept for our booklets, for instead of just having the typical booklets with the titles of the set we’re going to do, she actually did this story behind the whole titles throughout the whole pamphlet with drawings, concept of the band. And so she’s always been kind of doing stuff as we went, posters, stuff like that. She’s a friend that helps us out and she always has good opinions and we love her a lot.
It looks very Parisian to me. Yeah.
She deﬁnitely has a style. For this cover, we inﬂuenced her by giving her the mood of the 1930’s or 40’s.
Nice. Listen I wish you best. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Hopefully, I’ll catch you live while you’re in London and doing some dates in South Western Ontario.