Last Tuesday, I braved the Jekyll and Hyde weather and made my way to the cozy Verre Bouteille to meet up with Erik Evans and Daphné Brissette of bluecrass folk eight-piece Canailles. In light of the launch of their sophomore album Ronds-Points, Canailles’ upcoming local shows and ensuing tour, I sat down with Evans and Brissette — who took the time despite the flurry of preparations — for a couple of beers and boisterous conversation about generating their new record and an intimate look at some of the titles on Ronds-Points.

Last September, when I last interviewed Evans, the band was off to begin working on a “baby brother” for their roaring debut Manger du Bois (released in 2012), which they toured for three years. Determined to produce new material, Canailles took off to a cabin for days on several occasions during the late summer and fall. With four songs already started, they began writing and composing what would later be a motley of raw ‘swamp’ folk tunes.

Similarly to the the process for Manger du Bois, the four main singers — Brissette, Alice Tougas St-Jak, Dan Tremblay and Evans — are responsible for a big chunk of the writing. This time, JP Tremblay, the drummer, and Annie Carpentier, who plays the washboard joined in. Evans and Brissette explained that they worked collectively to work the songs, deadline in mind, to build on each others strengths.

The recording process took about two weeks in studio at the Treatment Room, where they recorded Manger du Bois. They worked under the direction of Erik Villeneuve (Avec Pas D’Casque, Bernard Adamus). Thinking of the number of voices and instruments, I asked if they recorded track by track:

“No. That’s ‘illegal’ in our case,” Brissette said passionately. “We play folk. Our thing is a question of mojo and being in the moment: to try and make people feel like they are in the room or in the middle of a concert when they hear the recording. I often say, folk is ‘gras et sale’ [it’s thick and dirty]. That’s what works for me, makes me vibrate. In reference to the recordings of Alan Lomax, he toured the states, took recordings of prisons, old farms, lost bayous. That’s where you have the nature of the sound. Those are our big inspirations. So we are looking for that at the same time as production quality.”

Touring is not the place for writing new songs, and even when back in Montreal the writing hasn’t seemed to flow. Both agree that going out to the cabin, a sort of isolation, has worked best for them.

“During tour, you’re exhausted, you’re in production mode. When shows are done, you want to do other things. On mornings, you want to sleep and it’s hard to see when there would be time. The free time we have is for resting,” Brissette said.

“And we don’t do much of it,” Evans laughed.

Recalling my earlier conversation with Evans, I asked about the party atmosphere on tour. They answer with amusing complicity.

“Well, there are teams on tour,”explained Brissette. “We have teams in our group.”

“We are ‘Team de Marde’ [team of shit or troublemakers] with Annie, the washboard player,” Evans expanded.

“There’s the ‘double checks’ who are really dedicated to doing things well, and the ‘misunderstood poets’,” described Brissette.

“The ‘misunderstood poets’ refuse to be in that team, because they don’t understand that they are misunderstood poets, reinforcing their position,” Evans added.


Both Brissette and Evans agree that there is indeed a lot of partying on tour. One of their favourite gigs during their last touring wave was a show at Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. Spotted by a festival programmer during a showcase, Canailles was invited to play the Sakifo Festival, with festival opening act Manu Chao. They found the festival extremely well organized and beautifully located, right by the ocean.

“The next day, the papers spoke of us as ‘créole cousins’. Réunion is a former french colony and with a diverse population. I think they understood us and we understood them when speaking better than French speakers from France,” Evans said.

I asked whether tour experiences like this one translated into the material on Ronds-Points.

“I have the impression that there is a sort of jet lag with what we go through and when it comes out in song form,” Evans replied. “At least for me, I feel like Ronds-Points talks about things before our last tour and that the next one will speak about what we lived on tour. In the creation process, I was not trying to get rid of issues but to get stuff off my chest.”

“At the same time,” interruped Brisette, “I think the only song related to our last tour is ‘Texas’. It was something we just couldn’t not put out. Erik couldn’t not, he had something definite to let out.”

“When you listen to ‘Texas’, it recounts an entire evening on my way to the airport to go to ‘Texas’, to SXSW,” Evans explained. “During that night, I was with another band member, I lost my passport, things got weird. It didn’t end too too well.”

Canailles recently launched a video for the first single off their album. The director who shot it had also shot their two prior videos and both Brissette and Evans spoke highly of him. As for the song itself, ‘Titanic’, according to Brissette is a rallying call.

“In the past, there were tons of shitty times, but we are stronger than that,” she said. “‘Titanic’ is a lot like the hockey theme, a team tune.”

Evans wholeheartedly agrees.

To feed my curiosity, I ask about the track ‘Coeur de Gawa’ and what exactly a “gawa” is. They laugh.

“A kind of typical people at shows,” Evans started to say.

“A little too into it,” Brissette continued. “The term comes from the 80’s up in the Saguenay. It’s an attitude that people who are way too into it have. People with mullets who listened to metal back then.”

“Yeah, they’ll get drunk and spill their beers all over the speakers. We love them, but … So, when Dan wrote the song, he was talking about his ideal woman, who would be a gawa,” Evans finished.

The album isn’t a “comfortable” one, Brissette explained. With Ronds-Points they weren’t looking to produce a direct sequel to Manger du Bois. Rather, to craft  something that fans would recognize while at the same time surprising them.

‘Mon Chien est Mort’ is one of their favourite tracks from Ronds-Points. Both of them underline its transformation from its initial state as a sad song penned by Dan Tremblay — whom they affectionately call ‘le barbu’ [the bearded one] — alone and down in the dumps by the river to a ragtime survivor hymn cherished collectively.

Brissette’s favourite songs on the album are ‘Fromage’ and ‘Breaker’. Evans also has a soft spot for ‘Breaker’.

“It gives me such a feeling, a strong emotion,” he said. “With the two singing in unison, it gives me a weird feeling like a film credit roll right after an abrupt and troubling ending to a film.”

After our talk, Evans was off to see the Les Hay Babies show before joining Brissette for birthday celebration karaoke. I asked them about their karaoke guilty pleasures. Brissette names ‘Runaway’ (original by Del Shannon) and ‘Une autre chambre d’hôtel’ by Gild Roy. As for Evans, he takes a moment to think, and names ‘Seul au combat’ by Quebec kitsch artist Les B.B. and ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael. Much respect for that.

It was the biggest downpour of the summer in late August, when I sat at Cagibi, drained in sweat and rain, waiting to interview one of my favourite local bands. When Erik Evans of Canailles arrived, I had already helped myself to a few rosé ciders. Luckily, Evans turned out to be extremely down to earth, joining me in drinks and a conversation style interview as the rain poured on hot Montreal pavement umbrellas sprouting like dancing mushrooms across the city.

Canailles began with the casual meeting of five people jamming in Parc La Fontaine. The original members were Daphné Brissette (vox), Dan Tremblay (banjo, guitare-pelle, vox), Alice Touga St-Jak (accordéon, vox), Annie Carpentier (planche à laver, vox), and Erik Evans (mandolin, vox).

Although now strong players on the local music scene, in terms of musical ambitions, Evans explain that “there was no plan or anything when we began. We were just jamming and having a really great time. Someone who’d heard us playing at the park invited us to play at their bar. Eventually we played more shows and it snowballed from there.”

Joining the original five on this journey are Benjamin Proulx-Mathers (guitar, banjo), JP Tremblay (percussion), and Tony Le Tigre (double bass, vox).

Evans recounted that recently, Canailles recalled their beginnings and how they’d once hoped to get the chance play up north in Tadousac. Only a couple years later, the band has traveled to Tadousac and beyond, going across Canada, the U.S., France, Belgium, Germany, and even all the way to the Indian Ocean. At the time of this interview, Evans had been back in Montreal for only three days and estimated that the band had spent a total of one week in their home town during the summer. Indeed, Canailles has been touring extensively since the release of their first album entitled Manger du Bois playing over 150 shows since last February. a0667007248_2

In 2012, Canailles released Manger du Bois with Grosse-Boîte. Since then it has reached the top of my musical charts – the only Québecois band represented. Manger du Bois is decidedly folk with references to hill billy country, blues, and punk trash attitudes all mixed up in a musical gumbo that packs a punch.

The lyrics address the stuff of everyday life with a tongue-in-cheek in-your-face manner that is decidedly refreshing. Favourite tracks are ‘‘Bien-Être,’ ‘ Dans mon litte,’ and ‘Muraille de Chine.’ The lyrics are written by four of the original members including Evans, Brissette, and St-Jak, Tremblay. Notably, the Canailles crew recorded their debut with local musician, magician, producer, and playwright Josh Dolgin (a.k.a. Socalled).

In terms of musical influences, Evans couldn’t speak for the rest of Canailles. But he noted that there are common influences in old North American folk music and music from Louisiana. As for Evans himself, he is currently listening to Tom Waits, The Beatles, Radiohead. In terms of contemporary music, Evan’s nodded towards Avec pas d’casque, a Québecois band with folk and grunge influences.

“At this time in Quebec, Avec pas d’casque is the richest in terms of poetry and ambience,” he said.

Evans and I discussed Québecois music and both agreed that for a long time it was largely mediocre, although now nostalgia has painted some of these acts in an ironic nostalgic light (i.e. Les B.B.). Recent changes to the music scene at large has seen a new generation of musicians breaking the mould and, in the case of Canailles, the very limits of language barriers. More than often, Québecois artists are limited to French-speaking audiences limiting the reach and affect of their musical contributions.


Evans attributed Canailles ability to move beyond language borders to having had the luck in their beginnings of playing with bands that opened doors for them, including names like Lake of Stew, Bad Uncle, and more. Furthermore, once Grosse-Boîte took interest in the band, they began booking showcases like SXSW and others that helped bring their sound to diverse scenes.

“In the style we are in, it would be easy to fall into patterns and try to squeeze expressions into our songs,” Evans said in answer to my question about writing songs in the colloquial language of Quebec.

“I find adding joual expressions like ‘swing la bacaisse’ for the hell of it uninteresting. The texts we write reflect how we actually talk,” he said.

One of the expressions that puzzled me, as a native of rural Quebec, is ‘manger du bois.’ I had to ask and Evans obliged.

“The expression ‘Manger du bois’ [eating wood] comes from one of our tracks in which the main lyrics are ‘j’irai pas manger du bois’ [I won’t go eating wood],” he said. “This came from annoying experiences like going to a bar and being served pretzels, something I find borderline insulting and mostly super boring. Finally, no other choice, you end up eating one and then finally eating the whole thing. These please nobody. People will tell you that pretzels are good in salsa or dipped in mustard but really, it’s the salsa and mustard that taste good. Pretzels are like wood, they are the epitome of boredom. So, the idea behind it is to fight this boredom with what you got.”

This week, Canailles released a limited 7” entitled Le  Cirque, with tracks ‘Le cirque’ and ‘Manger du bois’ from their recording sessions with Socalled. This release comes as a gift to fans as Canailles announced their returning to the studio, or “lapinière” [burrow] to, as Evans put it, “work on making a baby brother for Manger du Bois.