Local & Liminal: Les Monstres Terribles

I first heard Les Monstres Terribles at Il Motore when they opened for Alexei Martov, LOFTS, and Photo.Real. I was immediately intrigued. Thus, right after their set, I walked up to the lead vocalist, boldly interrupted his conversation with a pretty lady, and asked for an interview with these compelling bards.

Nicely enough, Quentin Mitchell (vocals), agreed to the interview and I had the opportunity to sit down with him, Scott Wood (vocals, electric guitar), Laura Shrum (bass, double bass) and Rachelle Arsenaul (keys) at Cafe Italia in Little Italy. Mike Beaton (drums), the last (but not least) member of Les Monstres Terribles, was at a hockey game during the interview. We can respect that (even if we don’t understand it).

390133_10151141687992309_590358342_nLes Monstres Terribles began back in Victoria, where Quentin, Laura, and Scott, who had been playing in a mutual friend’s band which out of necessity disbanded, decided to take some songs written by Quentin to the stage. They played around Victoria, even putting together and performing with an orchestra of eleven people. The name of the band was inspired by Quentin’s love of Gorillaz in terms of the plurality of the name and Gorillaz’ collaborative nature. At the time, Quentin had been working on art where he would turn inanimate objects like amplifiers into monsters. His love of the french language and ideas at the time of maybe attending McGill for music combined with aforementioned to give: Les Monstres Terribles.

Two years go by, they decided it was time to go and decided to move to Montreal: “None of us had ever been to Montreal, but we had always been intrigued by the rumors of the magical creativity that goes on around here”, said Quentin. The three friends drove for ten days, making their way to Montreal, after selling their possessions in a huge garage sale and saying good-bye to friends, coming to la belle province with no job or apartment prospects. Once here, they began looking for a drummer and found Mike Beaton who had just arrived in Montreal form Nova Scotia. They worked with several keyboardists and finally found Rachelle Arsenault, who is now a permanent member of the line up.

Their newest album Le Loup et Le Lapin, which they launched at Club Lambi, was originally intended to be a double EP. The imagery of its title and artwork is intended to depict two different sides of a coin: the darker and lighter aspects of their music. The tracks on this album, reveal melodic rock, echoes of fanfare, and a compellingly melancholic nature. Comparisons are difficult, but in an effort to orient the reader try to imagine a combination/pastiche of Arcade Fire, early Patrick Watson, and The National. Of the nine tracks on the album, “That Melody” and “ Graveyard Shift” are the standouts.

564212_10150652471572309_1225272134_nIn terms of inspiration, Laura finds her inspiration in her jazz background and the carnival and circus feel combined with some pop and folk styles. Next, Scott is inspired by “alcohol and drugs”, life in general, and Tom Waits. As for Quentin, he cites “whisky, women, and woe”, Gorillaz, Portishead and Radiohead. The band’s songwriting is moving towards an experimental nature: telling stories with soundscapes and trying anti-narrative lyrical approaches. The song “Waves” on Le Loup et Le Lapin is a good example of this experimentation. Moving away from the familiar arena of heartbreak (re: Women and Woe), for Les Monstres Terribles playing with song structures and trying to keep songs interesting to play technically are strong influential factors in their current songwriting.

In light of the flurry of films like Twilight (Hardwicke, 2008), Beautiful Creatures (LaGravenese, 2013), and Warm Bodies (Levine, 2013), I asked Les Monstres Terribles which supernatural creature/monster they would like to be if they were to be in a romantic tryst with a human. Quentin went with werewolf, in keeping with the theme of their album, naming. Laura would be a hobbit, although Scott feels that she would make a better garden gnome. As for Scott, who sports a killer mustache, he would be a chupacabra. Last but not least, Rachelle would be Superman, who is technically an alien, but declined to reveal her kryptonite.

Les Monstres name Jacky and Judy (now closed) as their favourite venue in Montreal and their show at Club Lambi as their best show so far lauding the sound technician. Their next show is this Sunday, February 10th at Café Chaos(2031, Rue Saint-Denis) for Buckfest 2013.

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