With their debut album Zubberdust!, Montreal's Avec le Soleil Sortant de sa Bouche have turned in one of the closing treats of 2014. TEN's Harry Guerin talks to bassist, singer and composer Jean-Sebastien Truchy and guitarist/engineer Sebastien Fournier.
Harry Guerin: Your label Constellation describes you as "Montreal kraut-funk", do you think that's wide of the mark or bang-on?
Sebastien Fournier: Indeed, we are from Mtl… Sound-wise, I would say it is both wide of the mark and bang-on. Maybe, in fact, it's on the neutral side of things: it just makes it easier for everyone involved to have a common ground or a reference. There's definitely some funk and some kraut [rock] elements on the record and there is no denying it. But that's not where it ends. I don't think it [the description] defines the interaction between the members of the band - although we do have some similar influences that show on the record - or defines the 'sound' of the record. The sound will probably change over time and we will have new influences. I think we try to see it as a non-binary thing: it's not zeros and ones or black and white. In one of the new tracks we are working on right now I'm really into including some traditional Japanese koto [stringed instrument] in it, which is the opposite of funk if you ask me - but the band seems to be down with it! It might work; it might not. We'll see how funk a koto can get, I guess.
Jean-Sebastien Truchy: For me, although I like how it sounds, Montreal Kraut-Funk, I think of what we do as just pop music. We are influenced by a lot of music, from noise to bubblegum pop and everything else in between. And we take that into consideration when we write our music.
'With the Sun out of His/Her Mouth' - a brilliant band name. Who came up with it?
SF: Jean-Sebastian. He was, in fact, using it before the band started, but we decided to keep it because it sounded nice and positive and it really reflected the music we wanted to play.
There's a tremendous euphoric energy to Zubberdust!. Was the goal to capture the live show in the studio or were you not thinking in that way at all?
SF: We thought about looping the guitars on Super Pastiche to make it more robotic but then we ended up doing it pretty much as a one-take and kept that. We recorded all the physical instruments at the same time because we only had two days to track all the bed tracks, so the live approach was our best option. But it doesn't mean that with more time and more budget we wouldn't have approached it differently, or in the exact same way! I think it really depends on the song and the circumstances. For sure, the live approach always makes for a more visceral record, which is usually a good thing. But a full-on studio album can be pretty inspiring too, and this is where the electronics on the record kick in… The record is half-live, half-studio, in fact.
JST: I think Seb sums it up nicely. We were looking for the best of both worlds. We wanted to keep our live sound and energy and take advantage of what a studio has to offer. As a first go at it, I think we did well, but I'm looking forward to what we'll do next in terms of studio use and orchestration, post-production etc.
What have been the most interesting responses you have received to the album so far?
SF: Someone saying we sounded like something that came out 44 years ago and that we sounded more dated then the original!
JST: Another one is: we're perfect, if you like 'mostly-instrumental mathy guitar sound'… I'm also a bit surprised to see that some people find the record a bit difficult, or demanding. I guess it can be on the first listen, but to me, to us, it was, and still is, a pop record. That said, there's a reviewer in France that pretty much got it. It was really fun to read that review.
Why do you think there has been so much great music out of Canada in the last decade-plus? Is it something to do with more confidence or just all the right things aligning at the right time?
SF: There has always been great stuff coming out of Canada… Simply Saucer, Neil Young, NoMeansNo, Nihilist Spasm Band, Voivod… Canada is maybe going full circle after a dead zone in time between 1985 and 1996… Think sci-fi… [William] K Dick and William Gibson.
JST: Montreal - I can only talk about Montreal, really - seems to have something good happening every 10 years or so. I think since the 60s there's been something worthwhile here in Mtl. I think the economic, social and cultural factors of the city have a lot to do with it. We are still somewhat of a cheap city to live in with tonnes of diversity and great things going on. Although, with gentrification on the rise, this could soon change.
Have you started thinking about how you're going to top this album?
SF: If you mean what's next, we'd like to tour Europe first and then maybe the US. If you mean how we're going to do better for the next record, then I'm not sure. Without wanting to sound pretentious, I think we raised the bar pretty high for a debut album, so hopefully the next one is at least 'as good'.
JST: Musically? It's a question that frightens me all the time, whether it's with the band or my solo stuff. That said, we've started working on the next record a year ago and I'd say it's 60-80% completed and it sounds pretty good up to now. But the fear of failing remains… Zubberdust! was the beginning of our pop experimentation. I think that with what's coming… Right now, we're focusing on circular patterns, instrumentally and vocally. Circular patterns and rhythms, I guess. We managed to push it further while remaining 'pop' by digging in more into our influences and mixing them all up as to avoid sounding like any of them - hopefully! - and, at the same time, come up with arrangements that go further than what's found on the first record. Stronger electronics, different instruments, wider palette of sounds and, hopefully, better vocal arrangements. But who knows? Maybe we'll scratch the whole thing in a month or two because of the fear of not being able to top Zubberdust! and start all over! Or not. Ha! That'd be funny.
If you could be taken out on a dream bill with a big band who would it be?
SF: Who else? Sun Ra!
JST: These questions are hard… so many names come to mind. But I have to say, Sun Ra would be fun indeed. If not, Jean Michel Jarre.
Zubberdust! is out now on Constellation Records.