The events page for Pop Montreal 2022 reads like the menu of a pre-pandemic buffet. With over 200 shows, many of which are showcasing up and coming artists, it’s a veritable smorgasbord, and I’m eager to dive in. Before I’ve gotten halfway through the calendar, I break out a pen and paper, making lists, organizing blocks of time like Tetris pieces.
I’ve got a shiny press pass, so I’m free but not unfettered: Wednesday is a weird day to start a festival, and I’ve got a desk job. There’s some comfort in knowing that even if I had the days off, I wouldn’t actually be able to see everything, and isn’t that the secret tragedy hidden at the bottom of every all-you-can-eat outing?
The Pop people made a fab Spotify playlist so we can sample everything and plan accordingly. Here are a few of my takeaways:
We’ve got the Born Ruffians (I think I’ve heard that name? They have a strong Spotify following, at just over half a million). The tunes are spacey and dreamy.
The Linda Lindas broke out during the pandemic when a video of the teens punking out in a library with their original song Racist Sexist Boy. It gave me full L7 / ’90s Hole vibes, and I promised myself I’d see them live. It’s an all ages show, and fun moms are bringing their wee punks. I’ll be there.
I’m struggling to describe Thanya Iyer’s surreal tunes, but thankfully her Spotify bio is perfect: “Thanya Iyer’s experimental movements radiate an effervescence of twinkling rock filled nights, clubs of electronic intensity, and church-like hyms”. I couldn’t have said it better myself; I tried. You can catch her for free, Thursday at noon at Jardins Gamelin.
With Wayne Snow’s loungey dance tunes, it’s no surprise he’s already got a strong following. Shuffling through his repertoire gave me disco glitter makeout vibes, which is perfect as both dancing and kissing are wonderful sweater weather activities.
Sisi Superstar will be bringing candy pink pop vibes when she opens for Canada’s Drag Race winner Priyanka, who will of course be serving up a show to dance to.
JayWood’s coming to us from Winnipeg, and bringing his unique, self taught talents. His tunes are groovy with some rock, beautiful acoustic bits — it’s the fusion you didn’t know you needed. His Spotify bio uses words like “psych funk” and “electronic groove”, but you should probably give it a quick listen and then go see him live.
My dudes, I could go on and on, but honestly, this all starts tonight, so less reading, more listening. Get them tix, and get your POP on!
POP Montreal 2022 runs September 28-October 2. Full schedule and tickets at popmontreal.com
Born Ruffians kicked off POP Montreal this past Wednesday with an energetic, intimate show at La Sala Rosa. The show was the first of many for this Canadian indie band’s RUFF tour, during which they plan to play across Canada, in the US, the UK, and Europe.
The tour celebrates the release of their new album, RUFF, which will hit stand on October 2nd. RUFF is the band’s fifth studio album, and the first one they will be releasing since their last album, Birthmarks, in 2013.
I was lucky enough to have a chance to chat with Luke Lalonde (vocals and guitar) and Mitch Derosier (bass) about their experiences since becoming an internationally recognized band in the indie rock world.
Sisi: You guys are from Midland, Ontario, but now live in Toronto. How was the transition of being from a smaller town to playing in larger, more metropolitan cities?
Luke: It all happened when we were 18 or 19, and time just moves differently at that point. We went through many changes in life, like moving out of our parents’ house, going to school for a year, and then dropping out to do music full time, and eventually going on tour. Life felt so momentous.
For me, there was definitely an adjustment period that I didn’t realize I was going through until I started looking back now, ten years later. I was having a lot of personal issues that were hard to deal with, and I was very hard to be around. I just kept my head down and kept going, and it wasn’t until about five years later when I popped my head back up and realized, ‘woah, that was kinda rough.’
Mitch: It didn’t feel like there was much of a transition, because everything happened too fast. But in reality, there really was. You just don’t really have a choice in the transition, because everything we were doing as a band was things we had to do. We didn’t really have a choice but to deal with the craziness of it all.
Sisi: When was the moment you guys realized you finally made it as a well-known band? How did it feel?
Luke: To me, it feels like that’s always happening, and we continue to grow and strive for more and more. For a band like us, we never hit that level of Arcade Fire success, where it’s just guaranteed sold out shows everywhere you go. But we’re also not toiling away in obscurity. We do enough to make a living and tour comfortably, so that always leaves us really appreciating everything we have.
I think it’s a good thing, because sometimes you see people get fame, and they get really fucked up once it goes away. We don’t have fame, we have this thing that you just appreciate but not come to expect.
Mitch: Other bands may think the same way we do, but I feel like we’re such a self-conscious band. We reflect a lot on what we do, and we’re learning from our experiences.
Sisi: You guys have a new album coming out on October 2nd, called Ruff. I went on the website watchruff.com and stumbled upon a very special countdown, where 1.3 million photo frames are played over the course of a month until the date of the record release. I thought it was a super creative idea. What inspired you guys to have this?
Luke: John Smith, the guy who helped us put the video together and directed it; it was his idea, really. We wanted someone to help us pull a bunch of creative ideas together and to be the creative director for this album, so we sat down with him and brainstormed.
We have full control over the sound and lyrics of the album, but we wanted something visual that could tie it all together. We wanted something really hypnotic and dreamy, but we also wanted to creep people out and make them laugh simultaneously. It was kind of David Lynch inspired, but with a bit more humour.
All the vignettes are different scenes, and they all kind of escalate and get crazier as the month goes on. It’s essentially 12 hours of footage, slowed down to a month.
Sisi: Does the theme of the countdown reflect on the theme of the RUFF?
Luke: Well, not really. This album is a lot more personal in a lot of ways, so maybe if being too personal is creepy, then maybe.
Mitch: Maybe not creepy, but its darker. I feel like [Luke] was being very straight up and was coming from an honest place when working on this album. As he said, it’s a lot more personal. We were looking for something that made our audiences feel the record in a different way, it wasn’t just going to be another pop rock record, you know what I mean? There’s something else to it compared to what we’ve released before.
Sisi: What was your favourite public event you attended as a band, aside from live shows?
Luke: We did this series of videos with Matt Johnson, a Toronto based director/writer/actor. He did this web series a while back called “Nirvana the band the show.” For before Birthmarks came out, we did these in the studio videos, where Matt acted as the producer. He basically just improved for a few hours and pieced it together. It turned out really funny and it was a good time.
Mitch: Another funny thing we did together was attend the Junos. It was such a weird experience, because we never expected to be there. It never felt like that kind of thing we thought we would be recognized for. We always felt like we were catching up to other Canadian bands, so it felt like we didn’t totally belong there.
We didn’t expect to win, which we didn’t. It was a fun thing to experience as a band because we’re not a band that goes to award shows, like ever. It felt like a funny accidental thing.
Luke: It felt surreal to be walking around people like Jim Cuddy and Fred Penner. It was a crazy experience. It was weird and it was an anomaly, but it was fun. You don’t think they’re paying attention to you, so it was like “oh, you noticed us?”
Sisi: After a long, stressful day, what kind of food would you crave for if you could have anything in the world?
Luke: Mine is really lame… A salami sandwich. It’s not like I want to indulge, it’s just what I want. With some crackers, hummus, and some cheddar cheese. And maybe also some pea soup.
Mitch: I was raised eating potatoes, so I love roasted potatoes. Sometimes I crave Kraft Dinner as well.
Luke: Yeah, usually at 3 in the morning. Aside from that, I guess I would want something really expensive, like a really nice cut of Kobe beef.
When I think about what I want in a show, the first thing that comes to mind is stage presence. The performers have to want to be there (or at least act like it), otherwise I won’t either. If they’re not having fun, I’m not having fun. That being said, I had so much fun at M for Montreal.
The first band I saw was Midland, Ontario’s Born Ruffians. The set was short, but it was full of energy. To be honest, I’m getting bored of the whole “perfectly polished, four-piece indie rock band” thing, but Born Ruffians is a breath of fresh air. Luke LaLonde’s unique vocals are what attracted me to the band in the first place, and seeing him onstage belting them out was so satisfying. The band looks like they’re there because they love playing music, and that’s it. Its fun and refreshing, and they play in Montreal often, so go see them!
My M for Montreal journey also brought me to Club Soda on Saturday for Mac DeMarco. As I expected, it was absolutely insane (in the best way possible, of course). From stage dives to making out with half-naked boys onstage, Mac DeMarco came ready to have a good time. The whole thing felt like a house party, which is hard to achieve in a sold-out venue as spacious as Club Soda. The best thing about the show was the fact that his antics, as well as those of his band, never seemed staged. Just like Born Ruffians, they were up there for the sake of having fun, they just have a more extreme way of doing it.
I guess the moral of the story is be cool and I’ll think you’re cool. Or, to put it more eloquently, have fun, whatever you do. It makes all the difference.
Photos by Ellie Pritts and Maximillian G. San Juan for M for Montreal
M for Montreal starts this Wednesday and with four days worth of concerts, panel discussions and workshops, it’s the usual overload of stuff to see and do. Here’s our list of top musical acts to see at this year’s festival.