From Montreal to Groenland

Local band launches new album, A Wider Space

Groenland, French for Greenland, is a cold, far-away arctic island that remains mysterious to most of us. It’s also a fairly new indie-pop band based in Montreal. Their 2013 debut album, The Chase, was nominated for best album of the year at ‘L’Autre Gala de l’ADISQ’. Which is the award show of the music industry association of Quebec. The band’s newest release, A Wider Space, is coming out on Sept. 16.

The band initially started with Sabrina Halde and Jean Viver Lévesque. Halde is the lead vocalist—she also plays the ukulele, keyboard and percussions. Lévesque is in charge of programming, keyboards, electronic sounds and percussions. Today, there are six band members: Jonathan Charette on drums, cellist Marianne Bertrand, Ariane Grut-Pelchat on the violin and Simon Gosselin, who plays bass and of course, Halde and Lévesque.

Coincidentally, all members of the band attended Cégep Saint-Laurent, which is where Halde and Lévesque first met. “If we didn’t meet our bandmates while we were studying there, we met them afterwards,” said Lévesque.”Afterwards” turned out to be at a party a few years after graduation—that’s when Groenland made its debut. “Sabrina and I were [at the party] and we decided to start jamming on a staircase together, singing and having fun,” said Lévesque. “Only 6 years later, we bumped into each other again and said, ‘Hey! Didn’t we jam at that party together?”

Shortly thereafter, Halde and Lévesque began working at a coffee shop together and realized they shared similar tastes in music, admiring artists such as Feist and Thom Yorke. “We started to jam and practice more often and it really clicked,” said Lévesque. Halde said that was when they both realized they were ready to start a band together. Halde and Lévesque initially wanted to be a duo at first, but it eventually changed. “We were like, ‘It’s boring only being two, should we get another person to join?’ Then, when our third person joined, we were like: ‘It’s boring being three, let’s be four,” said Lévesque.“Now at six people, we are complete,” said Halde. “We don’t want to change this.”

Groenland is instrumentally diverse, which differentiates them from other indie-pop bands. “We play the violin, the cello, along with the ukulele, the bass, a lot of piano, keyboards, percussions, drum machines and steel drums for that smooth Caribbean sound. We also combine that with brass instruments,” said Halde. They recently returned from a concert in Lavaltrie, Quebec and the FME Music festival in Rouyn-Noranda. “We were playing our new songs—the audience was open and attentive. So far, it’s been going smooth,” said Halde.

Groenland will be performing for POP Montreal at Club Soda on Sept. 22. Photo by Jerry Pigeon

Since the release of their first album The Chase, both Halde and Lévesque have devoted all of their time to Groenland. Their first album sold over 32 000 copies in Canada. In 2013, they performed at Osheaga, and during spring and summer of 2015, they toured Europe, performing in Germany, the Netherlands, France and England. “In Germany, the public was quiet and attentive during the whole show but as soon as we would finish playing our last note, bang, they would start to clap and scream,” said Halde.

They also performed with Mac Demarco and Half Moon Run in Trois-Riviere during the “FestiVoix” music festival in summer of 2014. “The concert was like a dream. We were hanging out with Mac Demarco and the guys from Half Moon Run by the river,” said Halde. Lévesque said it was the best festival they have ever played at. “That weekend we did three incredible shows. We went to Quebec, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and then at Metropolis here in Montreal to perform with St. Vincent,” said Lévesque.

Groenland is now on their way to play a few shows in Vancouver. “We are less stressed to perform there because not many people know about our music in the west coast. They will be discovering something new by listening to us. We feel more relaxed about this,” said Lévesque.

When it comes to their writing sessions, the bands works together, trying out different riffs. They compose as if they’re putting together a puzzle—combining different sounds together. The instrumentals are usually developed before the lyrics. “I am crazy about creating melodies and instrumentals,” said Halde. Lévesque said keeping a positive group energy is the most important thing during practices and writing sessions. “If you are not exactly sure of what you want to create, the others will feel the doubt. Discouraging practices can really affect your creation process negatively,” said Lévesque.

Halde’s dream would be to collaborate with Thom Yorke. “I know it’s cliché, but that would be crazy. He’s my long-term inspiration. We would love to collaborate with Beck and James Blake.” Final word of advice from Halde for all aspiring musicians: “Just be open-minded and listen to yourself and others. You have to battle your fears. To create something is to jump into the unknown. It’s risky. You have to accept the fact that it might not work out.”

Groenland will be performing tunes from A Wider Space at Club Soda on Sept 22. for POP Montreal.  The show starts at 8:00pm and tickets are $32.25 at the door.

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