Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche: The Camp Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Intricate, unique sound achieved through samples and instrumental layers as a nod to ’60s pop arrangements.
File next to: Fly Pan Am, The Redneck Manifesto, the Hotel2Tango recording studio
Playing: Camp Wavelength, Sunday, August 30 at Artscape Gibraltar Point
Get your ticket here!

After almost three years perfecting their sound in the Montreal music scene, Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche burst into the recorded music world with their debut album, Zubberdust!, released on Constellation Records in 2014. The collective efforts of Sebastien Fournier (Panopticon Eyelids) and Jean-Sebastien Truchy (Fly Pan Am), along with Eric Gingras and Samuel Bobony (who recently took over for Nasir Hasan as drummer), Avec le soleil is meant as a tactical endeavour into the modern revamping of ’60s and ’70s era compositional arrangements. Urdu for “fantastic” (a contribution from Pakistan-born Nasir), Zubberdust! lives up to the sentiment. With energizing melodic arrangements and looped instruments, as well as the careful use of samples and wordless vocals, the album transcends language barriers in its ability to provoke both emotion and musical appreciation in the listener.

In this interview, we hear from Sebastien Fournier, one of the compositional leaders of the group, as he discusses musical process, the Montreal music culture, and what’s next for Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.

Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche started taking form in 2011, meaning that you had been playing around Montreal for a few years before dropping your record Zubberdust! in September 2014. What made you decide you wanted to record?

We always wanted to make records, it just took us way too long to do it initially. We used to be eight in the band, and by the time we got to the studio, there was only four of us left. We had to figure out ways to play what other people were playing when they were in the band, as most of it was already composed years prior to the recording. This is mainly the reason why we had been around for a while before the first record came out — people just leaving the band and a heavy rotation of personnel.

Zubberdust! has such a strong identity for a debut album. Were the ideas of strength and empowerment as a theme something that was also conceptualized with Jean-Sebastien, or did that grow from the songs you created with the members?

Jean-Sebastien and I really took the time to conceptualize how we wanted to sound like before we started playing together. We both study Buddhism, so the empowering and uplifting vibe came naturally within the concept. The idea of togetherness, of being a part of — I don’t know, I guess you could say it was conceptualized, but then grew as we all worked together as a band.

A hot topic today is “appropriation,” in terms of taking from other cultures without a sense of respect. What have your past experiences been with other cultures and how have you found a way to borrow and learn from them?

As far as the musical influence of Afro-beat in our music, that is something we always talked about openly, mostly in how the songs are structured and the idea of cycles and repetition. We’ll never mention Fela Kuti enough when we talk about our music. On a day-to-day life, Jean-Sebastien and I have been working at Casa del Popolo and La Sala Rossa here in Montreal for a long time, so we get to work with many, many, many bands from all backgrounds and cultures. I think working in this type of environment opens you up creatively and socially.

So Montreal as a city and music scene has created a good meeting ground for these exchanges?

I would say mostly Casa/Sala — not really Montreal itself. Maybe 15 years ago the scenes were blending together more, but now it kinda feels like it’s all little groups of people always playing with the same people. Working at Sala lets you meet a wider range of people, from activists, anarchists, free-jazz and psych-rock musicians, to contemporary classical and art performers and on and on. JS has been friend with [Chicago jazz drummer] Hamid Drake for a while, and every time he’d come to town we’d ask Nasir to go see him play, because Hamid is a f**king god on drums.

So definitely all the young musicians of Montreal should get over there and expose themselves!

Of course! They should be as curious as possible, and Suoni Per Il Popolo [Casa/Sala’s festival in June] is a good time for that because the quality is top.

You may get asked this all the time, but many people are surprised you define your record as “pop.” Could you explain your understanding of the genre and how you feel you fit into it?

To me or us, what makes pop music is all the arrangements around the melody of the song. We definitely thought of all those modular and synth lines as some kind of orchestration you would find on a record such as l’Histoire de Melody Nelson by Serge Gainsbourg or Sgt. Pepper by The Beatles. I mean, The Beatles were pretty fucked up but still considered pop, right? I guess if we had lyrics it would be easier to believe we’re playing pop music. I think people should break the rules, or at least not be concerned with them. Science wouldn’t go anywhere if it was concerned with rules, so same applies to music.

Now that you’ve conquered your pop album, what next for Avec le soleil soratnt de sa bouche?

Honestly, we just want to play as much as possible. We are going to Europe in November for about a month and we will play a bunch of shows there. We are also writing for our new album right now.

Will you be sticking to the format of the album, or will the audience get a glimpse into the pre-Zubberdust! jam days?

We use sequences now, so we can’t really go wild and improvise the way we do at the jam space when we “paint” the first layer. Live we will be playing some new material and some old stuff too, but nothing pre-Zubber. We should be recording a new album soon if everything goes as planned —most of it is already composed.

Hopefully it does! Can we get a taste of some of the ideas musically you’re thinking of doing? Zubberdust! was based heavily on experimenting with arrangement. Will that be the next album’s focus as well?

Yes, I think the arrangements are very well part of the band’s sound, so of course we’ll try to push these ideas further. I think it might sound a bit more aggressive thanZubberdust!. Sam’s drumming is a lot more machine-like than Nasir’s, so it gives the music this post-punk element to the new songs.

– Interview by Natalia Ramirez

Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche plays Camp Wavelength Sunday, August 30 at Artscape Gibraltar Point (Toronto Island). Get your single day tickets here! Or better yet, join us for the whole weekend and get a Festival Pass!