Interview Music

Montreal band arc on their self-titled album 

The band is thrilled upon the release of their debut album on April 6.

arc is a local band composed of Stephen Venkatarangam, Adrian Aitken and Annabelle Brault who recently released their debut album to the public. Venkatarangam and Brault are also Ph.D. Candidates in Concordia’s INDI program. 

When they first started out, the band didn’t set out with any specific instrumentation or even a set compositional process. Later on, Annabelle knew she would play a synth, Stephen would play the guitar and Adrian, digital drums. 

The band members do not see themselves fitting in any specific genre of music. As their Bandcamp profile states, “arc blends the unpredictability of live modular synthesis with the warmth of traditional instruments, crafting spontaneous, one-time-only soundscapes.” The band is “a sonic dream collective mashing modular synth, ambient, IDM, psych rock, contemporary classical, raga and post-rock for your listening/visual experiences.” 

With songs running from five to nine-minutes-long, the five-track project was created by recording live improvisations. Such recordings captured in the process reflected musical moments like a slow-building theme that evolves into something new. “We felt the songs on the album captured this ‘arc,’” expressed Venkatarangam—hence the album name. 

A core element of the creative process was the incorporation of modular synths, which are instruments where you pick and choose different components to create your own instrument. This granted the band more freedom regarding desired tones and unique sequences or samplers. On top of the modular synth, arc blends more traditional instruments like flutes, guitars, analog synthesizers and drums. The band does not use pre-recorded tracks or even laptops for that matter (other than to capture the recording). As for the songwriting process, different members will take turns starting and then co-creating will happen spontaneously. 

The shortlisted group of their improvisations represented a snapshot of ever-evolving soundtracks: “A different person begins with a musical theme on whatever instrument they feel works, and the other two of us add to this theme and we see where it goes from there,” Venkatarangam explained. 

The band believes that nature counts as a source of energy and inspiration for them, which is reflected in their album cover. The visual is a photo of a stream behind Stephen and Annabelle’s place in Boucherville. “It was run into a video synth, another aspect of our collective and then made into the cover. I guess it symbolizes a snapshot of our collective stream of creation, which is what our recordings are,” Venkatarangam said. 

The making of the album was filled with memorable moments for the band, like the time when Annabelle was taking birdsong samples in India while creating wind sounds on her modular synth. “This created a unique atmosphere which allowed us to all add our own sonic textures and beats to it—it felt special creating it,”  said Venkatarangam.

But the birth of the album came with its challenges. The band would sometimes find themselves struggling with creating and recording music on the spot.  It also took a little while for them to find a consistent sound, learn how to record their tracks and learn how to play and incorporate their various instrumentations—particularly the modular synths.

Overall, arc’s sound on their debut album makes them a bit of a hybrid between a live band and electronic, ambient or IDM music. They incorporate a live electronic drummer, modular synths with unique sounds to create music that is moving forward, embracing technology, without being overly polished and produced. “We feel the music is still engaging and meaningful to us and try not to be overly self-indulgent or pretentious (i.e. shocking the listener) but authentic despite our experimental nature,” added Venkatarangam. 

arc wishes to create soundscapes that allow the listeners to generate their own personal meanings. The members also noted that their songs reflect what is going on in their personal lives, and leave a glimmer of hope or a moment of respite, reflection and/or positivity as they navigate the human experience in these uncertain times. 

“We think this album reflects us finding ourselves as a band, getting on the same page together and continuing with our creative arc,” expresses Venkatarangam. Although a debut album is a significant milestone, the members believe that it also just marks the beginning of them. “We hope we join the list of artists that bring a human element to the many genres we fit into,” shared Venkatarangam. 

If you’re curious about arc, don’t forget to catch them playing shows this year, like at  Brain Freeze Montreal (a local electronic festival series) on Sept. 11. 

You can also check out their live video-synthesis projections filmed at their home studio and shared via their social media at @arcbandmtl or their YouTube channel @arcband8649.

Interview Music

“Experimental music”: an honourable or a degrading term?

A look into experimental pop through one of Quebec’s most unorthodox collectives.

Experimental artists willingly alienate themselves from the embrace of mainstream media in exchange for artistic integrity and independent creativity. Though experimental art is as revered as it is rebuked by critics and music enthusiasts alike, the labelling of artists as “experimental” often influences social perception, affecting their credibility. Not only do these artists face harsher criticism, but they also tackle the very fundamentals of the medium and push technical and artistic boundaries.

Laval’s own Les Amis au Pakistan have based their style around “the weird and the vulgar”— not as a way to fight the system but to create psychedelic and unorthodox imagery and sound. 

Writer Joël Chevalier, producer Simon Tremblay, and their singers Solange Lavergne, Jacinthe Fradette, Caroline Fournier, Evelyne Mireault, and Katia Cioce believe that the labelling of their music and style as “experimental” is fair, but somewhat diminishing in regards to their unique musical prowess. 

Conceived as Joël Chevalier’s passion project, Amis au Pakistan was a fun way for the writer to express himself with his friends. It was only when Tremblay joined the group that proper expectations formed, as his sound enhanced the project. “There is a pop side to what we do; there is often a chorus in most of our songs. When Joël would send me his lyrics, it was always structured like pop music,” Tremblay said.

The term “experimental” only appeared when producers and labels caught wind of their music and decided to label the band as such. “I really had no idea about experimental music. I just wanted to hear my friends sing stupidities and laugh at them. Simon brought a musical side to it,” Chevalier said. 

With song titles such as “Beautiful Hamburger,” “Mystery of Monkeys,” and “Appelle-moi ta cochone” in their discography, it is understandable why their style could potentially put off the general public. That said, there is much thematic depth sewn into the weirdness. 

As of 2007, the band has released three studio albums, tackling themes of sexuality, love, death, and suicide throughout, all hidden behind a heavy veil of silly and goofy sounds and grotesque lyrics. Their latest E.P. titled Schnoutte, released in 2021, is alien-themed. 

One of the songs on Schnoutte is “Mutilée,” which revolves around the themes of suicide and the horrors of self-harm—something that’s not necessarily evident when listening to the song at a surface level. However, when immersing oneself into the amalgamation of low and dark sounds and the repetition of noises of pain and suffering, coupled with an eerie instrumental, a feeling of unease washes over the listener. 

Though the band receives criticism for their content, they agree that labelling their sound as experimental can shift the listener’s perception of the music, affecting commitment and attachment. After all, if someone deems art as “unserious,” their willingness to commit to the experience will diminish. 

Luckily, the band cares only for one another. As Tremblay said “People always ask us about our concept, why we make music like this, and it is never to make experimental music, it is to make music. I think what is experimental takes more effort, and humans tend to take the easy way out.” 

The question, therefore, turns towards experimentation as a product of the human condition. Experimentation is subjective. To some, it is synonymous with creativity and to others, with the perils of the unknown and unorthodox. 

Love or hate them, Les Amis au Pakistan exists without confinement in a way that’s true to them. Like all art, experimental music is a looking glass into the creator’s soul ready to be peered into and explored. It’s as valuable as any other form or genre of music, regardless of how strange and unsettling it might appear.

Interview Music

Satisfaction guaranteed with Concordia’s rock ’n’ roll band The Satisfactory

An introduction to the rising local band, The Satisfactory.

Everyone wants to be a rockstar but not everyone can. Three of Concordia’s very own are coming closer and closer to being the exception. Salvador Vaughan (a.k.a Sal), Max Moller and Viva Anoush Egoyan-Rokeby make up the entirety of local up-and-coming rock band The Satisfactory. 

The trio lived in Concordia’s Grey Nuns downtown residence last year for their first year in Montreal coming from Toronto. This is where they all properly met each other. “Sal was my neighbour when we were in residence and he would practise like 8 hours a day so I knew all the songs before we even started as a band,” Egoyan-Rokeby explained.  

The Satisfactory came to life at the start of the summer once all three returned from Toronto. Spearheaded by singer-songwriter Sal on the electric guitar, backed by Moller on drums and Egoyan-Rokeby on bass, the band always gives a performance worth seeing despite only having done it eight times. When asked about what prompted his decision to write and form a band, Sal cited his love for music and his desire to transform it into something tangible through performing. Anyone who has seen them live can attest to the acumen of this decision. 

Despite Sal largely being the one in charge, Moller and Egoyan-Rokeby do not feel like anything is being taken from them and they do not resent him. In a tongue-in-cheek response to this, Sal compared himself to The Beatles’ Paul McCartney during the recording of the band’s White Album but unlike the famously argumentative quartet, this trio guarantees that they never have any issues and get along great, apparently they’re just getting closer. 

When asked about the origin of the band’s name, Sal explained that he discovered it while looking through a cocktail book while high and that he found it cool. He then scoured Spotify to make sure no other artists had already claimed it. Despite the name, be assured that they’re a lot more than just satisfactory.

Sal finds writing inspiration in a mix of three different things, namely looking at his own life through a positive lens. This creative approach is akin to his rock idols, Oasis, a band he heralds for their heartening music along with love and eccentric nonsensical things à la “I am The Walrus” by The Beatles. Sal further describes music as something that has always been a part of his life, but something he only started taking seriously at age 13. Since then, his world has revolved around music and writing alike. The Satisfactory songs are typically humbly written when he’s alone in his room, just him and his guitar.

“I just want to be in a band and I’m ready to work my ass off for it,” Sal said.  This drive, ambition and talent is exactly why The Satisfactory has only been moving closer and closer to their goal of rock stardom, one string and a beat at a time.


The Lone Bellow: folk up-and-comers

The band draws inspiration from the love they feel from fans on their new self-titled album

The Lone Bellow emerged in 2013 with their self-titled debut album, and have been steadily touring, writing and recording new music since. Now, Brian Elmquist (guitar and vocals), Zach Williams (lead vocals and guitar), and Kanene Pipkin (mandolin), have released their follow-up record, Then Came The Morning, that seamlessly combine their folk-rock twang with gospel-infused melodies.

These Southern-born but Brooklyn-based musicians worked with The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner, allowing the album to feature interlaced melancholic moments between the electric guitar riffs and soulful vocal harmonies. The Concordian caught up with Brian Elmquist and Zach Williams to discuss the latest release, tour life and band dynamic, before their stop here in Montreal at Petit Campus on Feb. 26. 


The Concordian: Let’s start off a bit more generally. What prompted you to take up music and to form The Lone Bellow?

Brian Elmquist: I’ve always loved music since I was a kid.  I bought my first guitar with money I made mowing lawns around the neighborhood I grew up in.  I had been doing my own thing in Nashville and then New York.  Zach and I were working through some songs and we sang a song from the first record called you can be all kinds of emotional.  Kanene [Pipkin] was there at the first practice.  It was so powerful that we all decided to go all in.  We were in the studio for our first record six months.


Zach Williams:  I grew up around music in my family, but I didn’t start writing and singing until I was in my 20s. It started out as just a cathartic thing. I’d go to the open mics close to where I lived. I had my own thing for several years, and moved to New York City to pursue music about 10 years ago. We formed The Lone Bellow about four years ago and started out as eight friends getting together to play music. We started singing the first song at the first rehearsal which was called “You Can Be All Kinds Of Emotional.” Singing it together was something else.


C: You are Southern-born musicians, but a Brooklyn-based band. How have both these cities influenced your style?

BE:Well we all grew up with incredible story tellers all around us, so that’s an important part of the way we write.  I think being based in Brooklyn with a tight artist community just feeds the need to tell these stories as extraordinary or mundane as they might come.


ZW: Growing up in the south has probably influenced us a lot more than we are even aware of.  We’ve gotten to know each other’s extended families over the past few years of touring and I love meeting the people who helped raise my friends. Living in NYC has a small town feel to it after you’ve invested a few years into a particular hood. We’ve all lived a couple blocks from each other for years and had the chance to get to know our neighbours well, so living in the city has that small town feel. But, obviously, there is still that beautiful overwhelming sense of mystery that NYC has always given me. And knowing that so much good work is being created around you has a way of pushing you to work on your craft.


C: Your sound has been described as a mix between multiple genres including southern gothic, blues-rock and folk rock. How would you describe the sound and overall atmosphere of this album?

BE: Well it starts with the song.  If you can’t sing it on an acoustic it’s probably not worth recording.  We don’t approach the music we make from a genre we’re trying to wall around us.  We’d rather serve the song in the best way possible.  I feel like because we made this record in an abandoned-church-turned-studio, the room led us to a more gospel-infused rock record.  I feel like the space on the record is the most powerful thing.  It allows us to be as quiet as the music can be and find these big moments throughout.


ZW:We tried to be sensitive to whatever we felt like the song needed. Sometimes the answer was a French horn. Sometimes it was a strange electric guitar sound going through an old school projector. We didn’t really have genres in mind while we were creating the music.


C: Where did you guys draw inspiration for your follow-up album?

BE: Our fans.  We meet them every night after we play and take their feedback and stories were our songs have leaked in someway very seriously.  It sounds cliche, you can find all the inspiration you need listening to your fans.  And… They’re the ones paying our bills anyway.


ZW:  I feel that there were a few different things going on. Some of the inspiration is from personal situations, others are from family lore, and others are from having this grand opportunity to be able to play music in all these beautiful cities and towns and meet all these wonderful souls. Hearing stories of folks who took our songs and made it their own. We definitely had that in mind as well.


C: You worked with Bryce and Aaron Dessner from The National who have previously worked with other groups like Local Natives. How did his presence influence the sound on Then Came The Morning?

BE: I personally am a little too big of a fan of The National.  Aaron also a very unique guitar player so I learned so much during the process.  As a whole I think Aaron took a band member roll to this record.  And we were all in.  We had all these songs and ideas about sounds, but needed someone to filter it down so to speak.  I think they both also want to serve songs more than just going for a particular sound.  So in the end especially with their help they could get what was ambiguous in out head and there’s recorded.  So it was a beautiful process.


ZW:  They showed us an entire new form of creating. Twins who have been in a band making honest music they are proud of for 20 years is a special thing. The work ethic and ability to cut through the ideas was beautiful to be a part of. They have strong convictions towards creating fresh sounds and beauty.


C: You guys have toured pretty extensively in the last few years. What is tour life like? Any particular stand-out moments or memories?

BE: A sprinter van and 6 friends with lots of emotions.  It’s a blast and we have to take good care of eachother.  We have families and friends at home. It gets tough being away from them and we couldn’t do it without their support. One time I tried to climb a 15-foot fence in L.A. to swim in a reservoir.  There might have been whiskey.  I fell and ripped my only jeans somethin’ terrible.  I had to duct tape them back together to play Jay Leno the next day.


ZW: It’s beautiful and terrible all at once. On one side I get to be with my best friends in a van and play music for a living. I get to run through cities and forest that I would never have had the chance to run through. On the other side I have to be away from my wife and children.


C: What are you listening to nowadays?

BE: Little Feat, The Band,  Linda Ronstadt,  Shakey Graves, Tallest Man on Earth.

ZW: I love the Blake Mills’ new record. Also, the new Father John Misty, Sharon van Etton, and D’Angelo.

C: What feeling/idea do you want listeners to take away from this album?

BE: All the feelings. It’s a beautiful life that we all get to live. It’s hard and wonderful. It’s heartbreaking and inspiring. If everyone’s in it together, no one’s alone.


ZW: I think my highest hope would that it would be a part of all the other expressions of art. It helps a person stop. Just pause for a moment and take in something.


The Lone Bellow play Petit Campus on Feb. 26.


All Time Low reaching a high point

High school bands are common enough, but how often do they become household names? For All Time Low, that’s exactly what happened through ambition, talent and the love of music.

All Time Low plays Metropolis with Yellowcard on Wednesday, Jan. 16. Press photo.

Alex Gaskarth, Jack Barakat, Rian Dawson and Zack Merrick were still in high school when they established All Time Low in 2003. The pop-punk band started off covering songs, but progressed quickly – by their senior year, they were signed with Hopeless Records and had released their first studio album, The Party Scene.

In the 10 years since their founding, the band has been thriving: they tour almost constantly, and their fifth studio album, Don’t Panic, was released in October.

“This band has never really slowed down,” said Gaskarth, the band’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist. “We’re always shooting those new goals that we set for ourselves.”

As anyone with siblings or roommates knows, being with the same people for an extended period of time can create conflict regardless of how close you are. For these rockers, however, that’s never been a problem.

“We’re a band that functions primarily by being on the road and playing for our fans, so it’s easy to handle because it’s such a big part of what drives us,” said Gaskarth. “We grow every time we go on the road, and we get enough time off that we keep our sanity.”

Sanity-saving or not, time off doesn’t seem to be as essential to All Time Low as staying true to their roots. Their fourth album, Dirty Work, was produced by Interscope Records, and the experience wasn’t something the band wanted to define their work.

“There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” said Gaskarth. “People were giving suggestions where suggestions weren’t really needed. It made for a disjointed experience.”

After splitting with Interscope and heading back to Hopeless Records, they were determined to produce their next album their way. Gaskarth’s pride in the band’s integrity was palpable as he described the process of how their latest music came to be.

“We really prefer the approach we took with Don’t Panic – writing the album free of analysis from outsiders, working on it with one producer and not losing touch with what the album’s supposed to be,” he said. “The key point was getting back to the basics and making a true All Time Low record. It was the story that needed to be told about the band. There was definitely a moment when we could have been defeated, and we didn’t let it stop us.”

Their sense of loyalty isn’t limited to their band, though. They’ve also developed a strong relationship with their fans.

“The big thing for us is to really encourage people to be themselves and believe in who they are,” said Gaskarth. “We’ve been exposed to a lot of people who feel different or cast out, and a big message in this band is to know that you’re not alone and things will improve.”

With the new year in full swing, All Time Low is looking towards the future.

“We want to step up the live show in 2013. A big part of it will be playing the new albums and putting emphasis on songs that we haven’t focused on in the past – giving people that have seen us before something new.”

They also want to cover the world again – their music has spread as far as Southeast Asia, South America and Europe.

“Besides that,” said Gaskarth, “we want to put out something new that we can surprise people with. As long as people are there to listen, we’re going to keep making music.”


All Time Low plays Metropolis with Yellowcard on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $31.70.


Malajube taking a well deserved breather

After nearly a decade since their debut in the francophone cultural landscape, it’s time for Malajube to take a break. To close their 2012 tour, the franco-rockers have chosen to play one last show in the city they’ve called home for years — Montreal.

Malajube will perform at the Corona Theatre on Nov. 28. Photo by Joseph Yarmush

While originally from Sorel-Tracy in southwestern Quebec, the French indie rock band has won numerous recognized prizes. In 2006, Malajube won three Felix Awards at the Gala de l’ADISQ; they were awarded Best alternative album and Best cover art for their second album, Trompe-l’oeil, as well as Revelation of the year. The band reached national recognition that same year after being shortlisted for the 2006 edition of the prestigious Polaris Prize. With the 2009 release of Labyrinthes, the band again was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize.

With all of these in hand, they feel they are ready to take some time for reflection.

“With four albums in our pocket, the need has been stronger than ever to take the time for pausing,” said Francis Mineau, the band’s drummer. “It’s the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one.”

Next year, each group member plans to focus on their own personal musical projects, and many of them will be solo albums. It’s an opportunity to reconsider their individual places inside the collective. As Mineau described it, it will allow them to “take a breath of fresh air outside of the common project.”

A common project that they without a doubt wish to continue next year when they get back together. With gratitude, Mineau recalled “the amazing encounters along the way and the incredible opportunities seized on our path.”

It’s about taking a step back to get an overview of everything that has been done.

When asked what form this moment of reflection will take or what they want to do during these months the drummer didn’t have an answer. He may not have one until their final show at the Corona Theatre this week. But Malajube is confident about one thing.

“It’s not just about releasing another CD, just to release another CD,” said Mineau.

It’s about situating their upcoming musical creation inside the course of their career in order to determine what the next step will be. And first and foremost, pinpoint what they can offer to their fans.

At the end of it all, as Mineau underlines, the most powerful link is the musical one. It’s about erasing yourself behind your songs, and giving music as a gift to those that are present to receive it.


Malajube play the Corona Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 28. Tickets are $23 + ticket fees.


Cadence Weapon’s Dirt City state of mind

Cadence Weapon. Press photo

DJ-rapper extraordinaire and Montreal transplant Rollie Pemberton, a.k.a Cadence Weapon, has had all three of his LPs nominated

for the Polaris Prize and is already a Canadian music veteran. At 26 years old, he has already served a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate and learned to transcend the limits of the hip-hop genre.

Pemberton grew up in Edmonton and began rapping at the age of 13, describing his interest in music as “inevitable.”

“I grew up around rap music so it seemed like a foregone conclusion that I’d end up trying it out,” he said. His father, Teddy Pemberton, was a campus-radio DJ who introduced hip-hop to Edmonton with his show ‘The Black Experience in Sound’.

Pemberton also cited Nas as a huge inspiration, “I became obsessed with the song ‘Half-Time’ by Nas. I got an instrumental of it and taught myself how to rap by rapping over that beat.”

His eclectic approach to hip-hop is a result of his musical influences. His uncle Brett Miles — a saxophonist and the frontman of the Magilla Funk Conduit — encouraged him to perform at a young age. Pemberton also cited Edmonton’s thriving punk scene as an inspiration.

“The only bands that were around were hardcore bands and punk bands so I would go to those shows, and there are elements of that that have influenced me,” said Pemberton.

After a year at journalism school in Virginia, Pemberton decided to move back to Canada to pursue music.

“I had all these ideas for songs and I’d been working on music the whole time and I wanted to put something out before someone stole the idea out of my head,” said Pemberton.

But he didn’t completely distance himself from journalism. The rapper reviewed music for Stylus and Pitchfork before he became known as a musician. Now that the roles have changed, he tries not to think about what critics say.

“If I have a bad review it feels like it’s karmic retribution for the sins of my past life,” he said with a laugh. “I’m going to make the music I make, no matter what.”

Pemberton described his latest album’s title, Hope in a Dirt City, as a state of mind. “Colloquially we refer to Edmonton as ‘dirt city’, but it’s not just an Edmonton thing,” the rapper said. “When you’re in a dirt city state of mind, it’s like making the most out of your circumstances or rising up against the darkness.”

He had a specific process in mind for the album, saying that he “wanted to have more of an organic sound.” After making demos of the beats for the album, he took them to a live band in Toronto. “We jammed them out and we replaced all the samples with live instruments. It’s kind of a mix of different styles that came together naturally.”

His music is considered a cross between electronica and hip-hop, and the rapper tries to convey this in his performances.

“[The show] features all these different genres of music and goes out in all these different directions,” he said. “It’s definitely unlike any rap show I’ve ever seen.”

Cadence Weapon’s show at Il Motore with DJ Co-op is the last date of his Hope in a Dirt City tour. He’s been touring mostly non-stop since the album dropped in May, supporting Vancouver rock-duo Japandroids and the three-piece band Liars along the way. Pemberton is looking forward to the show, which will feature fellow Montrealers and a few of his personal favourite artists, Mozart’s Sister and Karneef.

But ‘vacation’ isn’t part Pemberton’s comprehensive vocabulary. “I’ll probably hang upside down in my closet for a week straight after the tour,” he said, but then it’s right back to the drawing board.


Cadence Weapon plays Il Motore (179 Rue Jean-Talon Ouest) on Saturday, Nov. 17. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.


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