Les traductions pour les articles avant l’automne 2013 ne sont pas disponibles pour le moment.

Control.

It’s a treasured commodity, the ability to call your own shots, and when you consider it in the context of a recording artist in the music business, as rare as liquid plutonium.

But with its fifth album Synthetica, Toronto’s Metric have achieved the unthinkable: Singer and synthesizer player Emily Haines and guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Shaw – the exclusive songwriters for the band – along with bass player Josh Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key are now determining their own destinies and answering to no one. With the exception of Haines and Shaw’s publishing deal with BMG-Chrysalis Music, Metric’s business is insular, operating their own MMI label, building their own T.O.-based Giant Studio, forming their own management firm and reaching the world through label-licensed partnerships.

Buoyed by the global success of 2009’s Fantasies – which sold nearly 500,000 copies, a million singles, earned the band two Juno Awards (for Group and Alternative Album of the Year in 2010), and helped secure their total independence –Metric’s 12 year career has yielded them a confident maturity and empowerment that’s evident in the sound throughout Synthetica.

: “We started getting into these really deep, heavily-distorted synth sounds that are really the sonic identity of the whole thing.” – Jimmy Shaw

The 11-song album boasts a synth-driven sonic canvas that includes such gems as the percolating “Artificial Intelligence,” the explosive “Youth Without Youth,” and even a boisterous duet between Haines and Lou Reed in “The Wanderlust.” It also signals a new creative dawn for the foursome, one that’s free of external pressure.

“The whole process felt more natural – more like us than ever before,” says Shaw on the line from New York. “At the end of the day, when you listen to it, it sounds the most like us. It’s just us having the time and space to explore everything we really always wanted the band to be. It’s everything we’ve tried to do all coming together in one sound.”

The changing circumstance surrounding Metric’s business also energized the band, creating some new precedents in shaping the album. For example, Metric began working on Synthetica in 2010 within 24 hours of concluding the Fantasies tour in Miami.

“We were literally in the studio the next day,” confirms Shaw, who also produces Metric (Synthetica was co-produced by Eight And A Half’s Liam O’ Neil). “We finished the tour in Miami and we just wanted to keep rolling. We were feeling really good at the end of that run, and we were feeling inspired, so we just took that energy and ran with it.”

Emily Haines, who writes the lyrics, also behaved against type.
“I normally don’t write on the road,” admits Haines, in a separate interview, also from New York. “This time, I had a lot of fragments – not songs, but very clear lyrical passages. Sort of a vision of the kinds of songs I wanted to write.

“So the process for me was actually gathering from various corners of various devices and scraps of paper, and kind of consolidating all those ideas into one massive book, which I then brought into the studio. »

For the sonic template, Shaw went on a vintage synthesizer-buying spree – ARPs, Moogs, Rolands – forming a compartment in Giant Studio that he calls “synth world.”

“The studio is in a building right behind my house, and in order to get to my car, I have to walk through it,” he explains. “Every time I left the house, I would walk through, hit ‘record,’ walk over to the synth, play something for 10 minutes, and then leave. That’s where a lot of the writing came from, for me.

“Right away, those little seeds had an energy to them that we just tried to keep throughout the making of the record. Then we started getting into these really deep, heavily-distorted synth sounds,” that are, like in the beginning of “Artificial Nocturne” and “Dreams So Real,” “really the sonic identity of the whole thing.”

Shaw says the creative process between him and Haines works different ways.
“Usually it’s a musical idea that I’ll present to her,” he says. “I’ll write a whole song – an ‘A’ section and a ‘B’ section – with bunch of instruments and drums and a beat. I’ll send it to her, and usually she’ll throw it into GarageBand and start singing over top of it.

“Then we get together and form it into a completed song. The other process is that she’ll come in with a completed song and I’ll start to ‘Metricize’ it: Speeding it up by 20 bpm [beats per minute], and then suggest things like moving a section over there…Why don’t we say that line three times in the chorus… Or instead of doing that, chop it all up.”

For Haines, her album priority became lyrical clarity, and Shaw feels she’s achieved a breakthrough on Synthetica.

“Emily has a way of lyrically tricking, and I’ve tried for years to get her instead to tell me how she feels, » he says. « We’re finally at the point where she’s doing that more than we ever have in the past.”


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L’ex-rédacteur en chef de Voir Montréal et toujours chroniqueur littéraire Tristan Malavoy, auteur de trois recueils de poésie et de deux disques de chansons (l’aérien Carnets d’apesanteur, 2006, et le plus organique Les Éléments, 2012), possède un parcours créatif atypique. Épris de la magie des mots depuis toujours, il cultive également une passion pour les mélodies pop, toutes simples, qui s’entêtent à tourner en rond dans la tête. C’est dans l’alchimie de ses univers poétiques et chansonniers qu’il trouve sa place, discrète mais singulière – en adéquation parfaite avec sa personnalité – dans le paysage musical francophone.

Pendant des années, donc, Tristan a eu deux parcours parallèles. Adolescent, dans son coin de pays, à Sherbrooke, il monte régulièrement sur scène avec des amis pour interpréter les tubes de l’heure : Stephan Eicher, Daniel Bélanger, du vieux Dubois et compagnie. Il a aussi développé une trajectoire d’auteur, fréquenté les festivals littéraires. On l’invitait souvent à venir dire ses poèmes sur scène. La musique s’est immiscée progressivement, et ses lectures sont devenues poético-musicales. L’idée d’un enregistrement a germé. Carnet d’apesanteur a été créé. Cet alliage de musique, de poésie récitée et chantée dans un format avec couplets et refrains, très intuitif au départ, est devenu une sorte de signature qu’il pouvait pleinement revendiquer.

En fait, il l’avoue lui-même, dans son œuvre, la voix et les mélodies sont utilisées comme véhicules attractifs de la poésie. Ce sont ses chevaux de Troie pour permettre à la poésie de se ménager une place dans nos quotidiens.« Je suis peut-être un peu emprisonné dans l’image du gars de lettres qui sort de son atelier avec des mots plein la tête et qui va les travailler avec ses amis musiciens, admet Malavoy. Pourtant, la musique est présente très tôt dans le processus. J’ai toujours aimé l’efficacité pop d’un Benjamin Biolay, par exemple. Et même si mes sources poétiques premières sont plus du côté de poètes comme Gaston Miron ou Roland Giguère (NDLR : qu’il revisite sur Les Éléments), un auteur-compositeur français comme Jean-Louis Murat m’inspire aussi beaucoup par ses textes, qui sont de la véritable poésie. Il a réussi de petits bijoux de bonne pop intelligente et lettrée. J’aspire moi-même à créer de petits objets comme ça, qui nous rentrent dans l’oreille sans qu’on le réalise trop. »

En ce sens, le petit dernier de Tristan Malavoy, Les Éléments, s’est enrichi de couleurs pop plus assumées. Au contact du réalisateur Alexis Martin, et avec l’aide de ses autres complices musiciens, Jean-François Leclerc (piano, claviers), Simon Godin (guitares), Yves Labonté (basse, contrebasse), Jean-François Gagnon (trompette) et l’appui vocal de la jeune Amylie, les chansons de Tristan laissent dorénavant passer plus facilement l’émotion, même si son interprétation feutrée se trouve encore à mille lieues des débordements de sentiments bruts d’usage courant dans la chanson québécoise. « Je ne suis pas contre l’idée de faire sentir mes émotions, explique Tristan. Il y a des moments où l’intensité est au rendez-vous, c’est clair. Mais récemment, quelqu’un me disait reconnaître chez moi davantage l’approche brésilienne, plus contenue et feutrée dans l’interprétation vocale, que la tradition québécoise des chanteurs à voix qui s’époumonent. J’ai l’impression qu’au Québec, quand on ne met pas ses tripes sur la table comme interprète, on est tout de suite considéré comme un chanteur de second plan… Ce n’est pas parce qu’on ne hurle pas qu’on est moins bon. Chez moi, ça sonnerait faux. J’aime bien l’idée qu’il reste de la place pour l’émotion de l’auditeur. »

On l’a dit, dans sa « job de jour », Tristan Malavoy est chroniqueur littéraire. Il décortique, analyse, apprécie et juge l’écriture des autres. S’il admet candidement ne pas réagir très bien lui-même aux critiques, il avoue volontiers qu’il a développé « une plus grande acuité de regard pour déceler les faiblesses dans mon écriture ». Il se dit tout de même très éloigné du critique littéraire lorsqu’il se retrouve dans son atelier à jongler sans filet avec les mots et les mélodies : « Autant je peux contrôler mon écriture dans le cadre d’une chronique, savoir où je m’en vais avant même d’avoir débuté, autant en poésie je n’ai aucune idée dans quoi je vais me retrouver. Il y a un saut dans le vide à chaque fois. Quand je me plonge dans l’écriture poétique, j’ai comme l’impression de devoir inventer un langage. Cultiver la métaphore qui invite au rêve, c’est quand même ce qu’il y a de plus beau en poésie. Rapprocher des mots qui, au départ, n’étaient pas faits pour aller ensemble, créer un nouvel espace sémantique, c’est quand même le gros trip derrière l’écriture pour moi. » Un trippeux de mots, quoi. On en redemande!


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Les traductions pour les articles avant l’automne 2013 ne sont pas disponibles pour le moment.

Toronto roots-rockers The Skydiggers emerged from the city’s vibrant club scene of the late 1980s, when Queen Street West and its environs were bursting with young performers packing acoustic guitars and great songs. The band’s 1990 self-titled debut included the ballad “I Will Give You Everything,” the video for which earned them heavy rotation on MuchMusic and led the way for the breakthrough album Restless and a Most Promising Artist Juno Award. While many groups from Queen Street’s heyday have since disbanded, The Skydiggers continue to write and perform: their eighth studio album Northern Shore was released in April, with a national tour that followed. Singer Andy Maize tells Words + Music about the vocal and songwriting inspirations that produced the Skydiggers’ first radio hit.

Take me back to when the song was written: where were you in your career?
It was pretty much the first song I ever wrote, before the Skydiggers existed actually, around 1985. I had been singing with Andrew Cash and I remember he had one of the first portastudios, a cassette four-track studio. So I went over to his house with an idea for this song. That’s where it started. Later, when [guitarist] Josh Finlayson and I were playing as a duo called West Montrose, I showed it to him and we worked on the arrangement together. The Skydiggers formed shortly after and that was a song we were always working on.

The song has an unconventional structure, with only a few lines repeated throughout, almost prayer-like. What inspired you to write in that way?
It’s true there are only about 16 words in the whole song! I didn’t really think of it as unconventional. At the time I was a big R.E.M. fan. I loved the way they used counter-melodies and I realized that as a kid I would love singing rounds, like “Frère Jacques,” when you’d have two or three different parts of a song going. I guess that was something always inside of me. So when I used Andrew’s portastudio I got to try out all the counter-vocals and harmonies and I could see that they would work together. I didn’t have any proof before that.

How did a ballad become the Skydiggers first-ever single?
The fellow who first spotted us was Mark Smith, who saw us play our weekly gig at the Spadina Hotel. He was working for the Canadian branch of Enigma Records, which was run by Derrick Ross, and they had been given the green light to sign domestic acts. Derrick did all the radio promotion and he always had a vision for that song, right from the first time he heard it. He said, “I need some changes to take it to radio.” We were young and thought we knew everything, so we were initially reluctant, but we went back into the studio with [producer] Michael Phillip Wojewoda. He sped it up slightly, and we added another chorus at the end. And Derrick was right; it did very well for us.

The band will go out on tour this year with a new record. How does it feel to perform a song from 1985 in 2012?
We sing it at every show, and it’s a pleasure to do it. We’ve even played it at several weddings. The great thing about music is that we all have moments in our lives associated with certain songs, so when people come to see us we want to make sure we’re not only playing new material but we’re playing people’s memories


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