We spoke with Gayance about her long-awaited debut album, Mascarade

The producer and DJ will return to Montreal from her new home in Amsterdam to launch the record and accompanying film this spring.

by Dave MacIntyre

You know what they say: you can’t rush greatness. Aïsha Vertus, better known as Gayance (the Haitian Créole word for “joyfulness”), has officially released her long-gestating debut album Mascarade.

The album, out today on London-based label Rhythm Section, comes after she’d released several singles starting in March 2021, leading to her self-releasing her first EP, No Toning Down, in October of that year. Having DJed for roughly a decade, Gayance taught herself how to produce on Ableton Live during the earlier stages of the pandemic.

Musically, Mascarade is a groovy, blissed-out mishmash of genres from all corners of the globe. Traces of styles like house, funk, soul, jazz and hip hop can be heard throughout, as well as various genres of African, Caribbean and Latinx origin. A relatively short listen at just under 30 minutes, the album very much lives up to her self-described sound of “jazzy-house with Brazilian spices so you can make out with your crush.”

Admittedly, the Haitian-born, Montréal-Nord-raised producer/DJ hadn’t been thinking too much about it in the weeks leading up to release day, instead focusing on relaxing and resting before jetting off to Brazil for two weeks.

Mascarade was also completed in April of last year, when it was mixed and mastered. “There’s nothing to do. People can just listen to it. That’s fine. It’s not mine anymore,” she says while letting out a huge laugh.

Though she’d been splitting time between Montreal and various other places in the world (specifically countries like Belgium and Brazil), Gayance is currently based in Amsterdam, where she spoke to Cult MTL from. “I was tired of going back and forth,” she tells us about the physical and financial toll of frequently travelling between Montreal and other countries.

“Every month since last spring, I was doing one month there and one month here, over to Europe and then back to Canada. It was very fun. I was very grateful to be able to do that. But it was starting to cost a lot, and (the jetlag) cost a lot for my body. I was just like, ‘You know what? I might as well just base myself here.’”

While she attributes the album’s delay partly to how much time it took to get pressed, Gayance also had a parallel project on the go that would contribute to the hold-up. That project? Shooting a music video for the single “Nunca Mais” (directed by Montreal’s own Maïlis), which took a bit of a detour before production began.

“We had a crazy idea, and then there was a very key member of the team who could not attend the shoot that day,” she adds. “Kind of Mercury retrograde type shit. Then, we had to cancel the shoot. We were like, ‘What?!’ We still had some funds to do it. 

“Before the pandemic, I was planning something with all my friends for my 30th (birthday). Everybody would go to Brazil together, but it obviously never happened. But I was like, ‘Listen, I’m going to do it regardless of the sky falling apart. I just want to go to the forest there.’ Then Maïlis was like, ‘You know what? We could just follow you.’ We took two weeks, we wrote something, and then I flew. I was scouting for a month. The month after, she came with a camera crew. We came back with 10 days of shooting, like 16 hours. We were like, ‘Let’s just continue (the shoot) throughout every season in Quebec.’”

In Gayance’s words, Mascarade is the story of her 20s. As with anyone’s 20s, many a life lesson can be learned, and many a memory — good or bad — can stay with you forever. For Gayance, her 20s were spent learning what her boundaries were, and how to  check them — something she admits she hasn’t been great at doing. (This theme also directly influences the standout track “Shore Apart.”) 

“I didn’t know what boundaries meant, really,” she continues. “I wasn’t crossing people’s boundaries, but I let a lot of people get into mine. That’s why I had a few burnouts. Your body has to recuperate from this, and sometimes it takes a long time. It can take you three months to fully recover. It’s not cool.

“(I’ve learned) so many things. We could talk about life for hours. To me, it’s hard to talk about those things, so that’s why I do art instead! (laughs) It’s more subjective, and people can also interpret it in their own way… For me, what was interesting with the visual part of (the album) was all these people working on it and were also bringing their own story into this. Everybody can relate to those emotions in some ways. I just want people to feel validated.”

One song in particular, “Moon Rising (10 Years),” took the shortest amount of time to complete for the album (the title track took the longest), and has a very personal backstory serving as its primary influence. Gayance’s late grandfather led a choir group, and was one of the first to bring congas into churches in Quebec, an instrument that features heavily in the track. “It was kind of an homage, but it’s also a spiritual song,” she says. 

Gayance would also get to play a number of festivals across the pond last summer, including Down the Rabbit Hole in the Netherlands last July, where she got the chance to meet none other than Erykah Badu. “I had the most childish reaction ever,” she admits.

“I was closing the stage at 4 a.m. or something. Then, they gave me the hotel (room) for a longer time. I was like, ‘Yo, I really want to stay and watch Erykah Badu perform.’ I didn’t care about (meeting) her or whatnot. I just wanted to see her perform. 

“Because we were backstage and we’re artists, I saw her. I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ I was just emotional. I was like a kid. Also, I was kind of ashamed afterwards because I was like, ‘Wow, she’s just a human — come on, Aïsha!’ (laughs). She was just like ‘I see you, girl,’ just giving props.”

Mascarade also features some equally eclectic local artists in Hua Li and Janette King, who both appear on “Clout Chaser’s Anthem,” made together during a PHI Centre residency in Sainte-Adèle in the Laurentians; Judith Little D, who sings on “Lord Have Mercy” and “Moon Rising (10 Years)”; and electronic trio Raveen, who feature prominently on “Shore Apart” “Lord Have Mercy” and the title track — the latter of which Gayance says is a critique of white people.

“I’ve known (frontman) Éric (Séguin) for eight years now,” she says. “We hadn’t done musical projects together, but we’re always musically connected in some ways, and did some parallel collaborations… With (the title track) ‘Mascarade,’ if you think about the lyrics, I feel like it was important to have someone like Éric singing it with me. It really brings out the intention of the song.”

Though Mascarade is her first proper album, Gayance has been a fixture in Montreal’s scene for what feels like a lifetime. She first started DJing in 2013, and has also been involved with POP Montreal (working there as a music programmer) and the PHI Centre (where she curated a hip hop exhibition). Gayance has worn many other hats during that time as well, having hosted a mix series entitled WITCHES BREW on n10.as, and doing music journalism work for outlets like Radio-Canada, VICEThe FADER and Red Bull Music Academy.

She also co-directed and produced PIU PIU, a 2012 documentary spotlighting the then-bubbling Montreal beat scene comprised of local rappers and producers. That doc includes cameos and/or interviews with the likes of Poirier, High Klassified, Tommy Kruise, KNLO, Vlooper and, most notably, Kaytranada (back when he still used his old stage name, Kaytradamus).

Spending such a long time deeply involved and invested in Montreal arts and culture means seeing significant change and evolution happen before your eyes, as well as building connections with various local movers and shakers (she mentions Narcy and Stina Baudin as examples). This is despite certain aspects of the scene — government funding, more specifically — still leaving something to be desired. 

“There are so many people I’ve met from that period who are still doing amazing things,” she says. “The thing that I’m very sad about sometimes is that I feel like the government should give more money to initiatives brought up by those artists. Those people have something to say, and we should have all the resources to do and say what they have to do, and do what they have to say.”

Having spent so much time internationally in recent years, Gayance’s travels in Europe and Latin America haven’t just presumably helped her rack up plenty of Air Miles, but they’ve taught her about life and music in ways she might not have necessarily learned in Montreal.

“People’s lifestyles are more relaxed. It taught me to chill a little bit, also,” she says. “When you grow up in North America, there’s something about the fast life: you go home, you work, you don’t even eat because you’re working. I feel like that’s much more praised in North America. But in Europe, it taught me to relax a little bit. People were more chill.”

Despite her time spent thousands of kilometres away from the city that moulded her, Gayance wants to protect Montreal’s nightlife in whichever way possible. “They’re trying to shut down the nightlife everywhere, low-key, but it’s not as intense as it is in Montreal,” she adds.

“Our nightlife is very important, because this is literally the essence of the city. This is why the city is what it is during the daytime, you know what I’m saying? Montreal is Gotham City! (laughs) I would love to bring some ideas that I’ve seen in Europe to Montreal. We have a very good nightlife, and if the city wasn’t doing some crazy shit to the people, maybe it could strive a little bit more and have even more exciting things.”

The remainder of this year will be a busy one for Gayance, as she gears up to play festivals (including Horst in Belgium and Dekmantel Selectors in Croatia), perform with a live band and release a companion short film for Mascarade. She hopes to have the film — shot in both Canada and Brazil — shown in festivals and “have its own life, as well.” There’s no exact release date for it yet, as she’s still trying to find a distributor.

Gayance will also be making her return to Montreal — full band in tow — on May 20 for Mascarade’s release party at the PHI Centre, where she’ll also be showing her short film. She’ll make a stop at Sans Soleil Bar beforehand to chill with friends she hasn’t seen in a while (“I fucking love this place,” she says about the latter).

As far as what Mascarade says about where Gayance is currently at as an artist, her answer is pretty simple. “I’m just trying some shit,” she says. “That’s what I would say. I’m still experimenting — with sounds, and the whole craft of producing in general.” ■

This article originally appeared in Cult MTL. For more on Gayance, please visit her Linktree.


Montreal, meet Bibi Club, the king and queen of living room party music

We spoke with the local indie/dream/jangle pop duo whose debut album Le soleil et la mer has made waves internationally, and quickly earned them a following here at home.

by Dave MacIntyre

Bibi Club, comprised of real-life couple Nicolas Basque (one-third of Plants and Animals) and Adèle Trottier-Rivard, have emerged as a force within Montreal’s music scene in a relatively short time since their debut album, Le soleil et la mer, was released last August on Secret City.

Mixing genres like indie pop, jangle pop and dream pop (as well as jazz, folk, post-punk and plenty of others in between), their tunes immediately stand out with their heavy use of reverb, bilingual vocals and glistening instrumentation. Bibi Club’s palette of influences is a diverse one, too: Stereolab, Suicide, Alice Coltrane, Air, Mount Kimbie and Talking Heads, to name a few.

Le soleil et la mer had been recorded between 2020 and 2021, during peak pandemic times. The duo attributes the delay to indecision as to whether or not to self-release the album, coupled with not having a team at the time to help guide them. 

“Because we’re a couple, we were like, ‘We need to have people to help us out, because we’ll go crazy if that’s all we do with our lives,’” Basque says. “We got lucky. We found management, then they helped us out and we sent the record around. That’s why it took a while. It’s just long. Every label and everybody in the music industry was exhausted because they had to cancel and rebook so many things. They had a pile of records that were not released, or had to be released, or that they maybe didn’t even want to release anymore.”

The past half-year since the album came out has been exciting for the duo — a busy time, of course, but one where it feels like a foundation is being built. While the logistics can be challenging at times, since the couple have children at home (one child together and two from Basque’s previous relationship), Basque says they’re “really well-surrounded” by their families and their team.

“We’ve been travelling a lot since the release, which is great. Not really eco-friendly or planet-friendly (laughs), but I’m quite happy about that,” adds Trottier-Rivard, who mentions they’ve been meeting tons of new people while touring, as the band recently performed in Brazil and have played shows in France on several occasions.

“I feel we’re learning a lot about ourselves, playing live,” Basque adds. “When the codes are different, you start almost forgetting about yourself, and you can let loose in a different way. There’s something that’s been really fun about playing in places where nobody knows who we are. It’s almost like you’re the underdog. You have to not really convince them, but invite them to be part of that musical experience.”

Bibi Club March issue cover Cult MTL
Bibi Club on the cover of the March 2023 issue of Cult MTL

Their partnership started out as a musical one before gradually blooming into something more. Trottier-Rivard met Basque while she was touring alongside Plants and Animals, and while she’d also been working with their frontman Warren Spicer on an album for Ludovic Alarie. 

The two met through Spicer, and Trottier-Rivard then started coming to Plants and Animals’ sessions. She and Basque would also go to the same shows in Montreal (watching artists like Suuns and Moonface), and occasionally play together on stage. While on the road in Canada and the U.S., the two started sharing musical ideas with one another, which they’d continue upon returning to Montreal.

“I was working on some ideas by myself, but I knew that I needed someone else to share ideas with,” says Trottier-Rivard. “Nico was this huge artistic revelation (for me). I was like, ‘That’s the person I want to share those things with.’”

The two had another band prior to Bibi Club, which started as a project with video artists. “It was a bit more epic and darker, in a way,” Basque continues. “At some point, we took the time to start working on the record, and we were like, ‘You know what? We want to start from scratch. That’s not what we want to be musically.’”

After resetting their musical approach, Bibi Club released their self-titled debut EP in May 2019. The name originates from their living room where they and their loved ones — their “bibis,” aka their children, friends and family — would come and have a mini dance-party. It also pulls from the Arabic word “habibi,” meaning “darling” or “my dear” (Trottier-Rivard’s aunt is from Morocco, and would frequently call her “bibi” growing up).

“Adèle calls everybody she likes ‘bibi,’” Basque continues. “At some point during the pandemic, it was madness in the house. Through all the sounds, she’s like, ‘I think I’ve got a name for the band! What about Bibi Club?’ We’re like, ‘Ah, that feels right!’ 

“There’s also something (in the name) that felt connected to the music. There’s something a bit joyful in the music. At the same time, we always try to keep tension. So there’s the ‘club’ part, but at the same time, it sounds like it’s not a ‘happy’ project.”

Trottier-Rivard, who says that dichotomy reminds her of artists like British post-punks Dry Cleaning, adds that she and Basque are inspired by “music that has a certain spirituality or depth, but is still joyful, playful and not dark.”

As a temporary respite from their lives as parents (their kids are often around while they’re rehearsing in their basement and/or recording demos of new songs on their phones), Basque and Trottier-Rivard took LSD one night during lockdown. “It was a long journey,” Trottier-Rivard says of their eight-hour trip — no travelling puns intended.

“It had been six months. Schools were closed,” adds Basque. “At the time, we were living in a smaller apartment, the five of us, and doing school at home. We were going crazy. At some point, we booked the studio, and we were like, ‘We can’t just be parents. We’ve got to be artists.’” 

The two had an instrumental number they’d been wanting to track whilst in the studio. “I didn’t have to sing on that song, so we thought, ‘We could get high!’,” Trottier-Rivard says.

Though it was a fun experience, their booked studio time meant they’d be going down the rabbit hole during broad daylight. By 4 p.m., the song was tracked and recorded. “We did two takes, and then it was just like, ‘Oh, that’s just too much for us!,’” Basque says while Trottier-Rivard takes a swig of water next to him and nearly spits it out laughing.

The end result of their afternoon acid-fuelled adventures? “Bellini,” the nine-and-a-half minute instrumental that serves as Le Soleil et la mer’s woozily danceable penultimate track. “That’s the LSD song,” Trottier-Rivard adds.

In case you’re reading that and asking if that’s why it wound up being such a long song, it was already structured that way beforehand. Right before COVID hit in March 2020, Basque hosted a dual-night event at Ursa (Martha Wainwright’s community space on Parc Avenue) where he and different friends would jam and improvise. Adèle was there with him one night, and already had “Bellini”’s chords locked down. Basque wrote the melody, and the two tested the song out that night. 

“A lot of friends after the show were like, ‘You should record that song! There’s something good in that jam,’” he continues. “We always had it in the back of our mind… It was improv, so I had a timer for 10 minutes. We knew what would happen at each moment. But when we recorded it, it was the inner clock! (laughs)”

Another track borne from one of those jam nights at Ursa was “Femme-Lady,” which Cult MTL placed atop our Top 52 Montreal Songs of 2022 list. While jamming there with Erika Angell of Thus Owls, Basque was working on a beat and chord progression he’d eventually bring to the studio, where Trottier-Rivard would lay down vocals.

“We could imagine a group of people singing that song,” she adds. “At some point, we invited my sister and my mom to sing at the end. It felt like a genuine thing to do, to reunite for a song and have the three of us sing together. We had our launch at POP Montreal last fall, and we had a group of friends singing this song with us on stage.” 

The “Femme-Lady” in question is also neither a femme nor a lady, but an “ugly” pineapple-shaped chandelier given to Trottier-Rivard’s sister by their mother that they randomly decided to christen with that name. “Because (Adèle’s) mom and her sister were on (the song), we kept the inside joke,” Basque says. “At the same time, there’s a meaning behind it. It resonates in a weird way, ‘femme-lady’ — it feels like it’s from another era, or something!”

Bibi Cub haven’t just been making waves locally, either. In March, they’ll be heading to Austin, TX for SXSW and Boise, ID for the Treefort Music Fest. Shows have also been booked later this spring in France, Germany and Wales, as well as for the Great Escape festival in Brighton, England in May. The duo have also headed back into the studio to record more new music (“We have a bunch of new ideas,” Trottier-Rivard says).

In late January, they travelled all the way to Brazil to perform at the SIM festival in São Paulo. Alongside fellow Montreal artist Fernie (who was born there and speaks Portuguese), Bibi Club spent an “intense” week down in Brazil’s biggest city, where they played two shows. 

“We saw some beautiful things, beautiful plants. We ate some amazing food, and also met really nice people,” Trottier-Rivard says about their experience. The duo played two showcases, including one for the Brazilian indie label Balaclava, who’ve had artists play POP Montreal in the past.

“They were asking us, ‘Do you know Beaver? Do you know Dan Seligman?’” Basque adds. “It felt like we made friends… Now we have people we know over there. Musically, it was a rich experience. We came back burnt out from the whole thing, and at the same time, enriched from all the meetings! (laughs)”

Clearly, Basque and Trottier-Rivard make quite the musical pair, and not just a romantic one, and they’ve jokingly referred to each other in the past as “both our favourite artist to work with.” So what makes their mutual musical chemistry come so naturally? They speak the “same musical language” — in fact, Basque thought Trottier-Rivard was the best singer he’d ever heard from the first time she tracked vocals next to him, and Trottier-Rivard has felt a similar euphoria while hearing him play guitar.

“Once, I cried during Nico’s guitar solo,” she continues. “I’d never cried during a guitar solo in my life. He was playing with his other project, and it’s like he was dying onstage. I started to cry. It was really moving.”

Though they bring different areas of musical expertise to the table, their skill sets complement one another nicely, whether they’re focused on the more creative or technical side of their music. Since it’s just the two of them while in the studio, it also gives them a lot of space to themselves to experiment.

“We get the chance to try things for the first time,” Trottier-Rivard says. “I’ve been trying a bit more to engineer (songs) — more than I ever did in the past, because Nico let me try.”

The dynamic of performing live as a duo is also one they enjoy, and Basque describes it as “a bit like being in a circus without a net. If one of us stops playing or singing, everything falls apart. It demands that we have to be focused and ready, but it’s really nourishing at the same time. It’s wild, so it’s fun.” ■

For more on Bibi Club, please visit the band’s website.

This article was originally published in the March 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

Football Saved My Life: Gildas Awuye on his soccer story and Montreal art initiative

An interview with Awuye about how his experience with the sport inspired him to give back to football.

by Dave MacIntyre

Football — or excuse me, soccer — has always been more than just a game. Gildas Messan Awuye has taken this to heart, so much that he’s telling his footballing story by building an art initiative literally called Football Saved My Life.

The Montreal-based photographer and entrepreneur developed FSML to raise funds and increase accessibility for those wanting to pick up the sport. With Football Saved My Life, Awuye marries his love for both football and art, and uses them to give back to the community. Its first project, FSML0001, is dedicated to Montreal’s Ringleaders Football Club and Canadian footballing culture in general, and includes a self-curated, 300-page photo journal-style book all about the club and how his involvement with it shaped him.

Having moved to Canada at the age of four from Togo in West Africa, Awuye calls Montreal home, though he also spent a couple years in Ottawa. For the past decade, he’s been working in art, design and fashion, having co-founded Atelier New Regime alongside his brother Koku and fellow co-founder Setiz Taheri.

After eight years with the streetwear brand, Awuye sold his shares to his two older brothers in 2020, all while not being sure what was next for him. But his love for art, fashion and design never wavered, so he started a boutique consulting agency offering services for creative direction, design, and fashion production called Messan Studios, which he’s been doing for the past three years (Football Saved My Life is his side hustle). But football has always been his passion, and one Awuye has been trying to harness during that time.

“Around 2018, I started this this book idea that had no legs, really,” he says. “I just had a bunch of pictures from my travels with my soccer team, the Ringleaders, and I started this book. 

“A couple of years later, it turned into this bigger project that is now Football Saved My Life. The seed was planted when I started that book. I realized that I had something tangible there that I could turn into something a bit bigger.”

For Awuye, playing footy as a kid was a life-changing experience. One day, at the age of 10, he’d been playing with some friends in a park in Ottawa while a local coach happened to be watching him. That coach later offered him a spot on his team. Though Awuye lacked the necessary funds to join, this wouldn’t dissuade the coach from finding a way to get him on the squad.

“I told him that right away, and he was like, ‘Oh, don’t worry about that. We’ll figure it out. There’s a place for you if you want to play,’” he continues. “That stuck with me for the rest of my life. I got these opportunities where the community surrounding football really helped raise me and make me the person I am today. I always thought, ‘How could I give back to football eventually?’ 

“As I was growing up, I always thought maybe I would coach one day, and be able to do the same thing [for other kids] that coach did for me. It wasn’t just not paying for football, but also driving me around to practices and to games — being that support system so I could actually enjoy the game… I could be a role model in that way, and give back to kids.”

In March 2020, shortly before the pandemic’s onset, Awuye signed up to help coach a team in LaSalle, where he played in his youth after moving to Montreal from Ottawa. After only one practice, COVID hit, and everything became indefinitely postponed. Realizing he didn’t yet have enough time to be a coach, Awuye decided to find other ways to give back to the beautiful game. 

While developing his book, he saw it growing into something involving products and art projects he could sell and wield into a new stream of income. After deciding he wanted to tell stories related to football and those involved with it, Football Saved My Life was born.

“I had no plans on starting this project,” he admits. “But as things started adding up in my head, I’m like, ‘Well, I love art. I love football. I want to give back. How can I bring all of that under one umbrella?”

So when has football actually saved Awuye’s life? He points to 2018, when he and his nearly 40 Ringleaders teammates travelled to Iceland to play some intra-squad football on a random field in Reykjavik — in fact, his book’s original title was Ringleaders Saved My Life. 

While there, one of Awuye’s teammates asked everyone to tell her what she should know about the Ringleaders. His response? “Ringleaders saved my life.”

Bold as that statement may be, his teammates agreed with the sentiment. But when it came time to work on the book, Awuye realized the title would be difficult to explain to broader audiences who aren’t aware of the Ringleaders, hence why “football” was used instead.

“(Players on the team) understand what that community did for us, because we all have a similar story,” he continues. “We all fell out of love with football at some point, like around 18 or 21. Playing competitively is not as easy anymore. If you’re not semi-pro or pro, there’s nowhere for you to play, really. We all have that story.”

He also credits the Ringleaders as a support system for one another, calling it “a big part of keeping us all together.” For example, Awuye leaned on them while experiencing mental health issues as he was building his business.

“If I didn’t have the Ringleaders at this time, I really feel like I wouldn’t have made it,” he adds. “That community really helped me. There’s that in recent years, but during the years when I was younger, (football) was my escape. 

“It’s crazy to say that at 11 years old, you’re battling that many demons. But I did, and football was always an escape for me… Many times along the way, football’s saved my life. It’s always provided that safe haven where I could go kick a ball.”


The community aspect of the project is a very important one for Awuye, who wants Football Saved My Life to inspire kids in a similar situation to his to play the game and grow as footballers, and use the sport as an escape just like he did. “Even if you don’t have the money to pay for for football, you should have access to it, because the benefits are huge,” he continues.

Awuye — who idolized Cristiano Ronaldo growing up, and also loved watching fellow Portuguese ballers Nani and Ricardo Quaresma — owes a great deal of gratitude to the coach who took that chance on him all those years ago, despite only playing one year under him before moving to Montreal. That coach even knows about the project, and Awuye sent him a copy of the first FSML book upon its release. The two still keep in touch. “He’s just an amazing, amazing guy,” Awuye says.

Football Saved My Life intends to improve accessibility by helping foot the bill for a portion of kids’ registration fees, removing an important barrier to entry for those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. 16% of funds raised for the project, such as products bought on the FSML website, will go to partner organizations able to help give kids a chance to play competitively.

“For me, it was accessible because I didn’t have to pay the full fee,” Awuye adds. “If I knew I had to pay [all of it], I wouldn’t have played. I would’ve just kept playing at parks with my friends.”

FSML0001 consists of both a photo book and concept jersey designs, but Awuye says the types of art used from project to project will vary. “The next project could be sculptures,” he says. “I really want it to be just (about) finding other football fans. If you’re an artist or a sculptor, we could make some sculptures and sell those sculptures. We’ll give back 16%. Or we can make tables. I really want it to be diverse. 

“As a footballer, you’re a creative person. I want to showcase all the things you can do that have to do with football, even if you don’t make it pro. There’s football photographers, football journalists. Those are fun ways to stay involved with the game… I just want to find creative ways to tell footballing stories, all the while raising money.”

With Canada’s men’s soccer program reaching new heights despite an early exit from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and with the women’s World Cup coming up this summer, there’s plenty of reason to see an initiative like Football Saved My Life gaining traction in 2023. Better yet, the feedback it’s gotten so far is described by Awuye as “incredible,” and unexpected given the personal nature of the statement it’s named after.

“When I first started it, I made a few T-shirts for promo, for friends and family. I started giving them out and was like, ‘Nobody’s going to wear this. It’s too deep. Who wants to walk around with ‘football saved my life’ on their chest?’. People really relate to that message… Now, I’m getting all these stories of how football had an impact on their life. It’s been very special.”

As far as what FSML has planned for 2023 and beyond? The main objective remains to give as many kids as possible the opportunity to play. For now, an art show to celebrate the initiative’s launch was scheduled for this month, but has been moved to January due to ongoing renovations at its venue. 

Awuye also intends to close the loop on FSML0001 by March, as well as continue spreading the word about the initiative and form new creative and business partnerships. He ideally wants to do four projects per year, but admits he’s a bit of a perfectionist and unsure if he’ll “have enough juice” to develop them at that clip. He also doesn’t want Football Saved My Life to become a burden.

“That’s four opportunities to raise money, but I think it’s going to take a little while to get there,” he says. “For right now, I’m trying to not put too much pressure on it… It took me four years to do the first one. Ideally, it’s not going to take four years for the next one. But there’s no perfect date… They’re in the works, slowly. I don’t want this project to be draining in a sense. I want it to be fun, light, and give back in a good way.” ■

This article originally appeared in Cult MTL.

Montreal band les Shirley define what it means to be a Shirley, and to get Shirley’d

Our November cover story is an interview with Montreal trio les Shirley, who recently released their sophomore album More Is More.

by Dave MacIntyre

What, exactly, is a Shirley? For Raphaëlle Chouinard, lead vocalist and guitarist for les Shirley, it means being someone’s good friend or buddy — their ride-or-die, basically, even if you don’t identify as female. In fact, the Montreal trio even use it as an expression to describe the experience of seeing them play.

“We bring so much energy onstage, and people who see us live are definitely like ‘Oh shit!’ They receive tons of massive energy,” she says. “We always say after the show, ‘You’ve been Shirley’d!’”

The band’s second album, More Is More, is out today, and sees the band taking their blistering garage rock sound in moodier, more esoteric directions — all while never losing their trademark spunk or raw energy. Musically, the album evokes bits of punk rock, grunge, shoegaze, dance-punk, post-punk and even dream pop.

Though two members, drummer Lisandre Bourdages (Chouinard’s former bandmate in electropop outfit Syzzors) and bassist Sarah Dion are also in NOBRO (Bourdages and Dion play keyboard/percussion and drums in that band, respectively), Chouinard is the only member speaking to us for this piece, as her bandmates were both on tour with NOBRO in Europe. (The members of les Shirley also sometimes work as hired guns for other artists.)

Despite the pandemic being a “fearful” time for Chouinard as artists around the world suddenly saw their schedules emptied (les Shirley had plans to play multiple festivals in 2020 before COVID hit), it gave her and her fellow Shirleys an opportunity to make a new album. The end result would be More Is More, the band’s sophomore LP and follow-up to 2021’s Forever Is Now

The first thought entering your head as you read that last sentence might be, “Why such a short gap between albums?” According to Chouinard, we can partially blame the pitfalls of being an up-and-coming musician trying to make money off your art in today’s precarious musical climate. 

“The reality of being a musician nowadays is that you need new material to tour. You need to feed the booking agents with new material constantly,” she says. “That was part of it. But also, we had all these songs. We were writing a lot during the pandemic, and we just thought, ‘You know what, why not make another album?’

“Also, the cycle of an album is shorter than before. In the ’80s and ’90s, you could release an album and wait for four or five years in between. Some people do it, but I feel like you need to feed the people — you need to feed the beast.”

Those who enjoyed Forever Is Now can expect deeper lyrical subject matter on More Is More, particularly as it was written through the ups and downs of our ongoing COVID reality. “A lot of nostalgia, melancholy, addiction. It’s all about that,” Chouinard says. 

“For me, it was a tough time at first because I deal with a lot of anxiety. I think that a lot of artists have anxiety nowadays, so they can totally relate. We’ve been trying to find some psychologists lately, (but) they’re all overbooked. People are in desperate need of help right now. I hope that people will relate to that in terms of the ups and downs, and the deeper side of les Shirley. We’re showing this other face that we didn’t show in our previous album and EP, which was a bit more on the light side of things.”

More Is More was also produced by the band alongside Marie-Pierre Arthur, and Chouinard “couldn’t have hoped for a better fit” in a production collaborator for the album. “We respect her so much as an artist,” she says. 

“We were really, really big fans of her music prior to knowing her personally. She’s such a Shirley — she is the definition of a Shirley! (laughs) It definitely was an amazing contribution to the album… Sometimes we’d get stuck with some parts of the songs, and she’d always be coming in with fresh ears and fresh ideas for us.”

You can hear a strong ’90s influence on songs like lead single “Nothing Compares,” which is focused lyrically on loss and the overwhelming knowledge that something you cherished will never return. Inspired by a major life event that shook the band to its core, the track was written during the band’s first day in studio for More Is More, at the start of a three-week stint recording the album back in May. 

“The very first day we came into the studio, there were a lot of emotions, a lot of baggage. We ended up crying basically the whole day,” Chouinard says. “I don’t know why, but we just picked up the instruments, and Sarah came up with this lick. She played that, and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ We came up with the song right on the spot. This subject really reflected where we were at that time.” 

There’s also “It’s Time,” a pulsating, hard-rocking feminist anthem all about smashing the patriarchy. The riot grrrl-esque tune begs the question of how far female representation has come in modern music over the years — especially in punk circles — since the days of bands like Babes in Toyland, Bikini Kill and L7. If you ask Chouinard, that kind of representation in music has been improving since her teenage years.

“When I think about when I was in high school, and the bands that I was listening to, I can’t think of any all-female bands,” ehh says. “I can think of some frontwomen, but that was about it. Today, we’re doing a better job at it. There are more and more girls popping up. In my inner circle of friends, there are a lot of kickass female musicians around.

“I see it when we play as les Shirley, as well. Sometimes we’ll play in front of young girls, and I can see the sparkle in their eyes — the realization that ‘I can do this!’ There’s still some work to be done, but we’re definitely doing better. There’s more and more space for women onstage. The next step would be for festivals to understand that a 50-50 split with female-led projects on the lineup would be amazing. But we’re getting there.”

les shirley cult mtl magazine november 2022 cover
Les Shirley on the cover of Cult MTL’s November issue

Les Shirley’s sonic palette isn’t simply restricted to punk or garage rock, either. Songs like “Hands on the Wheel” give off strong shoegaze vibes, specifically Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. Chouinard even confirms to us that these two bands inspired them for this tune, though it actually began life as a completely different-sounding song.

“If you listen to the demo, it has nothing to do with (shoegaze) at all,” she continues. “Even the lyrics — everything had changed. The only thing that remained was the chord progression. I think that’s because we went into the studio not knowing if that song was actually going to make the cut or not. We liked it, but maybe not enough to put it on the album. 

“It was Ryan Battistuzzi, our sound engineer, who was like, ‘No, there’s such potential with this chord progression! But I really see it as a Slowdive, shoegazey song.’ At first, we were like, ‘What? No.’ Then he’s like, ‘No no no, just trust me.’ We just trusted the process. When it came time to record the lyrics, I had none. I was like, ‘Okay guys, give me 20 minutes.’ I sat in the little vocal booth, and it just came out.” 

Though les Shirley are a three-piece, Chouinard admits it’ll be challenging for them to perform this album live as a power trio. During the band’s three upcoming launch shows in November (in Montreal at Fairmount Theatre on Nov. 24, as well as dates in Quebec City and Toronto), they’ll become a sextet with two extra guitarists and a keyboardist, adding new layers to their live sound — and ensuring that fans get properly Shirley’d.

Beyond this, Bourdages and Dion will return to the studio with NOBRO in December, but les Shirley plans to reconvene for a tour in 2023 (including in Europe). Chouinard says a “secret project” is also in the works with Montreal rappeuse Calamine — a rap-rock EP, to be more precise.

“You know when Linkin Park came out with that album (Collision Course) with Jay-Z? Think about that,” she says. “That’s what we’re going to release, sometime in 2023.” ■

This article was originally published in the November 2022 issue of Cult MTL.

More Is More launches at Théâtre Fairmount (5240 Parc) on Thursday, Nov. 24, doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m., $40.82. For more on les Shirley, please visit Bandcamp.

Les Louanges Prepares For Impact With Crash

The Francophone singer-songwriter brings us back into his musically omnivorous world with his long-awaited sophomore LP.

By Dave MacIntyre (Photo by Alex Blouin and Jodie Heartz)

  • Published on January 19, 2022

For Vincent Roberge, life’s been coming at him fast. Under his artist name, Les Louanges, he’s experienced a whirlwind of success over the course of the last five years. The Quebec City native was awarded Francophone Album of the Year at the Junos for his 2018 debut, La nuit est une panthère, which was also shortlisted for the 2019 Polaris Music Prize. On his home turf that same year, Roberge cleaned up at the ADISQ Gala—Quebec’s equivalent to the Grammys—taking home three awards.

His sophomore album, Crash, is due out Jan. 21 via Bonsound, the Montreal-based label responsible for amplifying other emerging Francophone artists like P’tit Belliveau, Lisa Leblanc, and Franky FadeCrash is a robust musical offering that puts Roberge’s multi-instrumental talents and brilliant producer mind on full display. Consisting of 15 soulful tracks steeped in pop sensibility, the album takes cues musically from the likes of Frank Ocean, Colin Stetson, and Prince’s 1987 album Sign o’ the Times. With three music video singles already out into the world — “Chaussée,” “Quest-ce que tu m’fais,” and “Crash” featuring French R&B sensation, Corneille — Roberge is already feeling the momentum of his latest body of work. 

On the train from Quebec City to Montreal, RANGE spoke to rising artist about his new album, his upcoming Quebec tour, and the surreal nature of transitioning from playing arena shows one day to a house show the next. 

How has the pandemic and Quebec’s curfew been treating you?

At first, it gave me the break I needed. When it first started, I’d been on tour for two and a half years and I didn’t have time to take a break. It helped me avoid a potential burnout. But after, it’s been shitty, like for everybody else. (laughs)

You’re about to release your second album, Crash. Aside from its English title, what would you say sets this album apart most from your debut?

Since the first album, there’s been a lot going on in my life—my personal life, and on a professional level with music. I had a lot more to talk about. The first album was more me dreaming about my future life, or talking about what I wanted to do. But for this one, I had a lot of things on my chest. Since the first album, I’ve worked my ass off, and definitely picked up some cues along the way. I’m more aware of what I like and what my strengths are. What sets this album apart is that I’m way more confident and in tune with myself.

What are some of the biggest things you learned about yourself in the last three years since the release of La nuit est une panthère?

I’m still asking myself that question! But the pandemic and the whole album process gave me time to reflect. A lot of the songs talk about aspects or events that were part of those three years. Maybe I’m more sure of myself now—it’s not something I learned from it, but I’m more at peace with the things I’m good at, and the things I’m not. 

You’ve performed for large crowds in Montreal and Paris, but in May you’ll be performing at a microbrewery in Frelighsburg, QC, right? How do you feel about the contrast?

I’ve got a funny anecdote about that! You know the Belgian singer, Angèle? She’s a pretty big deal in French-speaking countries. I played before her show at the Bell Centre [in Montreal], and it was the biggest show I ever did. I’d never played in front of 10,000 people before. It was completely unreal. But the next day, I was playing in Frelighsburg, and the contrast was out of this world. You go from playing in an arena where people knew the lyrics and were very into it, to being back in the van the next day to play for 100 people in a house. There are still people there who pay for my show. Also, Quebec is not that big, so there’s a lot of contrast. I’m from Quebec City originally, so I can play two nights there in front of 2,000 people, but you’re also going to play much smaller gigs.

What’s the incentive for Quebec artists to play smaller towns like Lavaltrie, Frelighsburg, or St-Irénée, rather than just Montreal, Quebec City, or Sherbrooke?

The thing I love the most is playing my music in front of people. I want to play. Even if it’s a smaller gig, it’s a win-win. I get to play and introduce people to my music, and get paid. I’ll play in front of whoever wants to hear me. It’s not about the numbers or capacities. 

That’s also why I’m working on a European tour. It’s still hard for French-speaking artists to break into the rest of Canada or the US. You can live a good life being an artist in Quebec, but that’s just how it is. So there’s no other choice. For now, I’m freaking blessed. Most of the shows are sold out. It is what it is, and I’m just happy to play.

What else do you have planned for 2022?

My album’s been done since July 2021 so I’m already working on new stuff. I want to go on tour. I also do some production work with people. Right now, I’m trying to work with a new rapper from Montreal. I liked how he sounded, and tried to dabble in beat making. I’m a big fan of rap, too. I’d really like to establish myself as someone you can go to for producing music. That could lead me to more contracts and gigs. It gives me an occasion to do what I love the most.
I was in France and Belgium in November. I went there to do some collaborations with other artists. When the album’s out, I’m not going to take a two-year break before getting new stuff out, that’s for sure.

Lavictoire: This Montreal entrepreneur is building a community for soccer creators

“There’s a growing interest for not only the game, but running a business, idea or service in the space of soccer. I thought it would be great to put everyone together in a meaningful way.”

by Dave MacIntyre

An online community for soccer fans to carve their path in the industry used to be an unthinkable concept — but that’s exactly what Yvan Delia-Lavictoire has built.

The Montreal entrepreneur is the founder of Lavictoire, a platform allowing content creators with a passion for the beautiful game to grow their personal brand and their projects, as well as network with fellow creators and “solopreneurs” and find job opportunities. Through Lavictoire, users can find new sources of income and find inspiration from their peers’ endeavours.

Creators on Lavictoire are encouraged to interact, exchange ideas, flex their creative muscles, attend workshops and use tools such as worksheets to build their content strategies with. Users can also curate their feeds to get updates about soccer-related topics that interest them, as well as use the site without ads.

For Yvan, creating this kind of community has been many years in the making. Thanks to his father, Yvan developed a passion for soccer at a young age (he supports Arsenal), and played for many years before ultimately deciding not to turn pro. Instead, he found a new outlet for his love of the game around 2010.

“At that time, blogging was big,” he says. “Sharing content online was just starting to become a thing, so I jumped on the ‘blogging bandwagon’ and I built my first platform there. That led me to discovering the digital world in many, many aspects — ranging from social media, to building your own website, to understanding what marketing was, or what it could become, on digital platforms.”

From there, Yvan would score gigs working for the Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal), Major League Soccer, Bell Media and RDS. The marriage of both his footballing passion and his digital marketing prowess led to him starting his own agency, which has been in business for five years.

He nonetheless wanted to start a more sustainable, community-focused business venture — and one that could, as its website says, help users “reach our professional, lifestyle and financial goals with the game we love.” Thus, Lavictoire was born.

“From a North American perspective, there’s a growing interest for not only the game, but running a business, idea or service in the space of soccer,” Yvan adds. “I thought it would be great to put everyone together in a meaningful way, but also where everyone can learn from each other, and learn what I’ve learned, in one space.” 

Yvan launched the Lavictoire platform in the fall of 2020 — right in the thick of the pandemic’s pre-vaccine phase. The goal was to build a community of football fans during a difficult time, to help them find new ways to enjoy the game off the pitch. For those who have strategies and/or ideas for their football content, but don’t know how to put them into action, Lavictoire might just be what the doctor ordered.

Instead of simply relaying news about the game, recycling old content or sharing memes, Yvan wanted to help creators build their “own meaningful story” with football.

“It’s helped people build up their own confidence and say, ‘Hey, if there’s one guy in Ukraine doing this, how can I apply it and build it in my own country or region?’” he adds. “There are about 5 billion football supporters around the world, so there are 5 billion ways to explain a story with football.”

Lavictoire’s membership base already includes creators from Australia, Poland and the western United States, in addition to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Aside from giving football creators the opportunity to share their journey with like-minded people, Lavictoire also helps them connect and build relationships. Not only can they make new friends and draw mutual inspiration, they can also hold each other accountable for their progress.

“There’s a sense of encouragement and optimism, rather than just comparing each other with how well this person’s doing [versus] how well I should be doing,” he adds. “It’s a great way for people to find inspiration, and find that added motivation to keep doing whatever they’re doing in the football space.”

As of now, two memberships are available to purchase for creators looking to join Lavictoire. The Squad membership, which grants users access to the community, is free. A Pro membership, which costs a one-time fee of $59 CAD, is an all-access pass to the space: paying members can join co-working sessions, attend online workshops, watch replays of interviews and access templates, workbooks and documents, among other perks.

Locally, the project has already drawn attention. Adrian Sousa, a Lachine-based YouTuber known for his soccer channel RabonaTV (which boasts more than 214,000 subscribers), first caught wind of Lavictoire while stumbling upon Yvan through social media and mutual connections. Once Yvan realized Adrian was based in the Montreal area, he reached out and the two began trading messages.

“When I found out he had this Lavictoire football community set up, I absolutely wanted to be part of it,” says Sousa, who helped provide some feedback to Yvan about the project during its infancy. Since content creation can sometimes be a lonely endeavour, he views Lavictoire as a way to interact with like-minded football creators working toward similar goals.

“I recently started a podcast, and there was actually a podcast workshop in the Lavictoire football community that was extremely beneficial,” adds Sousa. “It’s [a tool for] making connections within the industry, whether it’s through job postings, networking or getting to know other people who have found success — taking what you can from their success stories and trying to apply that to your own.”

With the Omicron variant currently wreaking havoc and causing postponements to matches around the world, an online platform like Lavictoire isn’t just a unique one for the football community — it’s also perfect for today’s COVID climate. This allows for greater connectivity between creators, even if done virtually.

“People saw the value [during the pandemic] of being able to work from home, and to take that to the next level and work from home for yourself,” Sousa says. “This is the ultimate tool in being able to find a way to start, narrow down what exactly you want to do, and then have a group of people around you who have experience, and are going to help you nurture your process, as well.”

The Lavictoire project also comes during a truly exciting time for Canadian soccer. Our national team program reached new heights in 2021, with the women’s team taking home gold at the Tokyo Olympics, while the men’s team have risen to 40th in the FIFA Men’s World Rankings. After eight matches, Canada — led by young talent like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David — sits atop the CONCACAF Hexagon table, putting them in an excellent position to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Locally, there’s CF Montreal in MLS, who were in the playoff mix last season before missing out on the final matchday. Regardless, football culture in Montreal is strong and passionate — and “surprising,” as Yvan puts it.

“Whenever I describe the [football] culture to people from outside of Montreal, they don’t believe it, or there’s a bit of skepticism around it,” he adds. “But before these unprecedented times, there were people travelling here [for matches]. Once they discovered the city and what it had to offer for football, they were always very surprised about how rich the city is culturally, and also how educated the people were with their football.”

As far as Sousa’s concerned, Montreal is “the football city in Canada,” with the CF Montreal fanbase’s outrage over the club’s rebrand — and their subsequent banning of the ultras from Stade Saputo — being proof of how deep football runs in the city’s sporting culture.

“Of course, I’m biased, and I’m sure people in Toronto will argue with that, given that they’re also a very multicultural city,” he says. “But I think Montreal just hits a little bit different, with the European flair the city has. And I think it’s only going to grow from here.”

Lavictoire’s focus for 2021 had been on building its membership base, as well as bringing more attention to the project. For 2022, Yvan plans to help “elevate” his users’ stories based on the community’s wants and needs, via tools such as workshops, products, and courses. He’s also looking to host a Lavictoire public event at some point, though it remains to be seen when that can happen under the current circumstances.

For now, his long-term plans are to help the platform’s 1,000+ members develop their football stories, and building an educational space to help them learn and grow.

“A lot of people go the freelance route, or build their own business. But there’s also people building their own career in football — that’s one of the big things I’d like to see in the community,” he adds.

“There are a lot of professional routes being built right now for football… and there are different roles you can occupy in football that can be presented, and that maybe not a lot of people know about. We want to put ourselves in that space.” ■

For more, please visit the Lavictoire FC website.

Originally published on Cult MTL’s website.

Legault wants more Quebecers in hockey — that’s where his priorities are

The Premier has embarked on a project that’s simultaneously self-indulgent and an example of Quebec-first election-year optics.

On Thursday, Premier François Legault unveiled a new plan for revamping hockey in the province of Quebec.

The Premier has assembled a committee featuring a who’s who of Quebec hockey personalities, including former Habs like Stéphane Quintal, Jocelyn Thibault (who Hockey Quebec recently appointed as their new executive director) and Guillaume Latendresse; former NHLer/present-day RDS anchor Marc Denis (who is leading the committee); and former Canadian women’s team players Caroline Ouellette and Kim St-Pierre (the latter of whom was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame). 

Alongside nine other members, this committee is designed to propose solutions for how hockey in Quebec could better itself going forward, which they’re expected to do by April 1, 2022. Their primary motive will be to increase participation within the game among young Quebecers, in addition to fostering national pride in the province.

That same day, Premier Legault announced plans during a press conference to meet with embattled NHL commissioner Gary Bettman “in the coming months” to discuss the possible return of the Quebec Nordiques to the NHL. La Presse reports that Legault has even gone as far as to appoint Quebec’s Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, to spearhead talks with Bettman and potential investors.

In a vacuum, these plans seem prudent for improving conditions for a sport Legault deems to be “part of [Quebec’s] identity”, especially as participation in hockey has noticeably declined in Quebec in recent years. One need only look at the state of minor hockey in this province to understand that something is off — or at least, relative to the rest of Canada.

The QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) has struggled to produce first-round talent over the past 10 NHL drafts compared with the CHL’s other two leagues, the WHL (Western Hockey League) and OHL (Ontario Hockey League). Between 2012 and 2021, only 32 players — an average of just over three players per year — from the Q have been selected in the first round. The WHL and OHL have produced 59 and 74 first rounders respectively within that timeframe. 

There are also only 51 Quebec-born players who have played in at least one NHL regular season game this year. The number of Ontario-born active players who have done so? 169. Clearly, all is not well right now with Quebec’s approach to developing quality hockey talent.

This fact no doubt bothers Premier Legault, who has publicly lamented the lack of Quebecers on the Montreal Canadiens roster specifically. In a way, it seems as if Legault is the type of person who’d rather pick David Savard and Cédric Paquette in his fantasy hockey pool over Cale Makar and Connor McDavid.

For any place to truly become a hotbed for young hockey players to learn and grow in, an excellent grassroots system is necessary. Ideally, this should also allow for greater participation among young players from lower-income families (particularly given how expensive playing hockey can be) and/or visible minorities — two things Legault seemingly hates, but two things that are also necessary for maximizing Quebec’s talent pool of future NHLers.

A quick reminder, also, that not a single person of colour is on Legault’s 15-person committee for improving Quebec hockey. This from the same person who insists there’s no systemic racism in this province. This includes Indigenous communities, in particular — with whom Legault has had a fractured relationship, such as in his refusal earlier this year to make Indigenous People’s Day a statutory holiday in Quebec.

All of which brings me to the bigger issue here.

It’s difficult not to interpret this announcement as Legault disproportionately prioritizing his love for the game, as well as his pro-nationalist interests, while on the job. Quite simply, Quebec society has infinitely more pressing issues to be worrying about right now. There aren’t enough physicians in our healthcare system (whom the provincial government has gaslighted in response). Wait times for family doctors are years long. Religious symbols are still banned from being worn in public. An opioid crisis is also ongoing in Quebec, one involving nearly 600 deaths just last year. Leave it to The Rover’s Christopher Curtis to drop truth bombs like this one:

Affordable housing remains a major issue, especially when Legault himself clearly has no clue how much apartments in Montreal are rented for nowadays. Immigration rates, which have famously decreased under Legault and his CAQ government, will be rising next year, but such an increase is primarily due to an ongoing labour shortage.

Oh, and we’re still in the midst of a whole-ass pandemic.

To Marc Denis’s credit, he acknowledges the importance of a robust grassroots hockey system. He also isn’t wrong when he says that, “if we keep doing the same things over and over, we’re going to get the same results we’re not liking.” Geoff Molson, Marc Bergevin and Dominique Ducharme would do well to take cues from this statement with regards to the Montreal Canadiens’ violent tire fire of a season thus far.

Speaking of the Canadiens, here’s a side note. Having more Quebecers in the NHL as a result of the Premier’s plan isn’t going to solve the Habs’ problems. This team hasn’t had dibs on the rights to young Quebec players in a very long time. It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that basing choices for player personnel, coaching and management on identity politics is incredibly limiting for a sports franchise — a topic Habs Twitter loves to beat like a dead horse.

David Savard Montreal Canadiens Habs Quebecers hockey
2020-21 Stanley Cup winner David Savard, playing poorly with the Montreal Canadiens this season

The Canadiens organization has handicapped itself in this regard for many years, perhaps because Molson may still be spooked by the 2012 protest outside the Bell Centre over hiring unilingual anglo Randy Cunneyworth as interim head coach. Regardless, this hockey club’s responsibility shouldn’t be to act as an embodiment of Quebec nationalism. Its responsibility absolutely must be to win hockey games. Having a stronger francophone presence within the team is only worth it if that team is still good enough to win a Stanley Cup.

Just so I’m clear: if many future Habs players end up being Quebecois and also genuine difference-makers, then great! But having Quebecers on your team for the sake of it — especially given the subpar play of Savard and Paquette in particular this season — isn’t going to get you far in a league with 31 other franchises and obscene amounts of parity. 

The Canadiens will have to always prioritize the best players, regardless of nationality, to build a Cup-winning team. That’s just how the modern NHL works.

Don’t get me wrong, Quebec hockey does need an overhaul in philosophy and structure from the ground up if they want more Quebec-trained players to achieve excellence in the sport. But the societal climate surrounding it makes this whole initiative seem rather insignificant by comparison.

Frankly, it feels as if François Legault is putting his own selfish passion for hockey — as well as him being up for re-election in less than a year — above the wants, needs and everyday lives of his constituents. And that isn’t right. ■

This article originally appeared on Cult MTL’s website.

Carey Price doesn’t owe you shit

by Dave MacIntyre

“While support for Price has been largely positive during his absence, some people feel so entitled as to assume that he owes us an explanation.”

Man, this city can be a toxic place when it comes to hockey. On Friday, it was announced that Carey Price will be returning to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, Nov. 8. His return will largely be to develop a timeline for when he’ll be able to step back onto the ice after undergoing offseason knee surgery. He’ll also be completing his month-long stint with the NHL Players’ Assistance Program for mental health reasons, the specifics of which are unknown. In keeping with the program’s after-care process, he will not be making any public comments upon his return, as his doctors haven’t yet given him the green light to do so.

Without Price, the Habs have utterly floundered out of the gate with a record of 3–10–0 after the first 13 games of the season — good for the bottom of the Atlantic Division and third-last in the NHL, which puts the Habs right in the thick of the Shane Wright sweepstakes. A combination of slow starts from their best players, a badly constructed defence corps and a limp-dick power play have all contributed in varying ways to the team’s horrific performances to date.

Additionally, Carey Price has been a part of the Canadiens organization for the better part of two decades, and has elevated mediocre-to-bad teams in front of him for many of those years with some truly superhuman performances in net. Though he remains a beloved figure in this city, he’s also endured more than his share of vitriol whenever he’s performed poorly — particularly since he eats up $10.5-million of the team’s salary cap.

While support for Price has been largely positive during his absence, some fans and at least one reporter on social media feel so entitled as to assume that he owes us some sort of explanation, since he’s such an important player and boasts a gigantic yearly salary to the detriment of the team’s roster budget, all while the Habs are playing extremely poorly without him.

Fuck off.

He doesn’t owe any of us anything. Neither did Jonathan Drouin before he eventually chose to tell his story in an interview with Chantal Machabée of RDS. Carey Price is his own human being, with his own set of emotions and boundaries, both of which he is fully entitled to.

Carey Price at the Hockey 911 conference, Sept. 22, 2021.

With the Habs and their players, there seems to be a real sense of arrogance and entitlement among much of the fanbase when they aren’t winning hockey games. Hockey players are not robots you can program to your liking, unless you actually coach them. They are real people with real feelings who also happen to be very good at their chosen sport.

To treat them otherwise isn’t just dehumanizing and lacking in empathy, it also insinuates that their mental well-being is irrelevant and unimportant compared to their proficiencies on the ice. This brings to mind the “shut up and dribble” mentality parroted by the Laura Ingrahams of the world (even if that debacle was about LeBron James and Kevin Durant publicly criticizing then-President Trump).

This has gone beyond hockey itself, for that matter, on several occasions this year. Naomi Osaka famously pulled out of the French Open back in May to focus on her mental health, which resulted in support and backlash from fans and media alike (looking at you, Piers Morgan). A month prior, Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard opened up about his own struggles with mental health, and how he turned to alcohol following relentless abuse online from United fans.

Confusingly, some still feel compelled to label him as a scapegoat for the team’s on-ice failures — when he’s not even playing — after having just led the team through an exhilarating run to the Stanley Cup Final. People may also point to his status as the team’s best player, as well as his high AAV, for why he owes it to the public to be an open book about his personal struggles — something that arguably perpetuates the “they’re millionaires, they’ll be fine, they can tough it out” myth surrounding mental health in sports.

It takes a special kind of mental toughness to handle playing hockey in Montreal when things aren’t going well. And when your name is Carey Price, the resulting pressure from fans and media can increase tenfold. It’s on both of those groups of people to set a healthier, more positive example for players when push comes to shove, to help make it a place they want to play in long-term. Watching sports as a fan hasn’t shown itself to be very beneficial for mental health, either, with multiple studies having shown increases in domestic violence cases after sports teams lose (and even after they win).

Kyle Beach with the Chicago Blackhawks

A player’s personal well-being is also bigger and more important than the sport itself, and it’s high time that we stopped prioritizing winning hockey games over literally anything else in life — which is exactly what the Chicago Blackhawks did when Kyle Beach reported his harrowing account of sexual abuse at the hands of the team’s video coach while Beach was a prospect in the organization.

This type of attitude also serves as proof of why the conversation surrounding mental health de-stigmatization is so necessary, and particularly during a global pandemic. For every bit of progress the conversation makes, there are always some who don’t seem to care about it, understand it or value its importance.

Mental health is also not something you can flick on and off like a light switch. As someone who has experienced depression and anxiety on many occasions in life (both of which have been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic), it is vital that you seek help and support however you can. This can include therapy, crisis hotlines, confiding in loved ones, journaling, exercise — whichever method works best for you. 

Though we don’t know the exact reasons for Carey Price’s mental health issues, his stint in the Players’ Assistance Program shows he’s willing to take charge of his well-being, all while showing his fans that it’s okay not to be okay. Seeking help is a statement of intent for improving your mental health, rather than ruminating and letting your feelings eat away at you. You’re also fully within your rights to be as public or as private as you want about what caused you to seek help in the first place. Point finale.

It’s Carey Price’s prerogative to publicly share whatever he wishes about his personal issues whenever he’s ready to do so. In the meantime, please respect both his wishes and his privacy. ■

If you or someone you know is struggling or in distress, call Info-Social at 811 to be directly transferred to a social worker. You can also call Wellness Together Canada at 1-866-585-0445 to speak with a counsellor free of charge, or text WELLNESS to 741741.

POP Montreal Celebrates Two Decades of Music and Community Building

The iconic international music festival turns 20.

by Dave MacIntyre

Published on September 20, 2021

Over the past two decades, POP Montreal has given a platform for countless artists to perform in one of North America’s most musically vibrant cities. Each year, Montreal plays host to shows across many of its world-class venues during a five-day span and now they’re celebrating a major milestone.

“The cultural landscape [in Montreal] for music is really dominated by one overarching corporation,” says POP’s co-founder and creative director, Dan Seligman. “The fact that we’ve been able to build, grow, do cool stuff, and find our niche within the city is something to be proud of.”

After holding a hybrid festival last year, with shows available online and in-person at limited capacity, POP Montreal will again use a similar setup. Some major gets include Atlanta-based rapper Cakes da Killa, spellbinding Montreal-via-Guadeloupe chanteuse Malika Tirolien, Atikamekw singer/songwriter Laura Niquay, and local Polaris-winning rap dynamo Backxwash.

Veteran local acts like the DearsIslands, and Suuns are also on hand, as is Efrim Menuck of Godspeed You! Black Emperor with his project ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT, alongside La Force’s Ariel Engle. RANGE is also presenting two showcases at this year’s POP: Alicia Clara at Clubhouse Rialto on September 25, and Antony Carle at Ursa on the 25th.

Beyond music, POP will feature visual art, film screenings, their famous Puces POP fair, children’s activities, industry conferences, and even a parade during the final day. Shows and events will also take place at their new Mile End outdoor venue, L’Entrepôt77—built within the space of an abandoned warehouse that had burned down a couple years prior. “It’s not quite as big or exciting or wild as a normal edition [because of COVID],”Seligman says. “But I’m pretty happy with what we’ve put together in terms of programming.”

With Quebec’s provincial government having officially enforced vaccine passports, proof of full vaccination must be shown by attendees. Tickets will also not be sold at the door, so all purchases must be done ahead of time. “There are still restrictions, but they’re not as bad as last year,” he adds. “We feel like we have a good handle on how to produce an event [during the pandemic] that’s safe and still enjoyable.”

Over the years, POP Montreal and its eclectic lineups have acted as a showcase for many of the city’s biggest musical success stories, including Arcade Fire, Stars, Wolf Parade, Grimes, and the Unicorns. POP has also played host to multiple international artists who’d go on to hugely successful careers, such as Interpol, the xx, Beach House, Franz Ferdinand, and the Black Keys. “I’m proud of helping build the scene and the fabric of the city’s cultural milieu,” Seligman says. “And helping build a community of artists and musicians who make their homes and livelihoods in Montreal, and look forward to the festival every year.”


Alicia Clara: Performing at a RANGE sponsored showcase, Alicia Clara is a Swiss-born singer/songwriter who now calls Montreal home. Having released her debut EP, Outsider/Unusual, in February, her hypnotic, guitar-driven dream pop will be on display on September 25 at the Rialto Theatre’s Clubhouse—providing an intimate live setting for her bewitching musical output.

Saturday, September 25th, Rialto Clubhouse, 6 p.m.

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT: Members of GY!BE and La Force teamed up during the pandemic’s onset to form this super-duo, who’ll be making their live debut at this year’s festival. Their noisy-yet-ethereal tunes are based around vocals and, according to their POP Montreal bio, “electricity, buried lightning and very old scales.” In other words, quite a sonic experience!

Saturday, September 25th, LEntrepôt77, 8 p.m.

Antony Carle: Playing RANGE’s showcase at the Martha Wainwright owned Ursa, Antony Carle is a Montreal-based singer-songwriter with a big voice and an even bigger onstage persona. Their smooth, synth-drenched 2019 debut album The Moment would be followed up by last year’s The Bitch of Living EP, and most recently the single “Felicity,” a captivating duet with fellow Montreal-based artist Ouri.

Saturday, September 25th, Ursa (alley), 4 p.m.

Backxwash: From Montreal by way of Zambia, Ashanti Mutinta (better known as Backxwash) has taken the city’s scene by storm—and seduced both the Polaris Music Prize jury and Anthony Fantano along the way. Her third album, I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses, brilliantly fuses her dark lyricism and explosive delivery with industrial-heavy beats.

Sunday, September 26th, LEntrepôt77, 6:30 p.m.

Cakes da Killa: Initially slated to perform at last year’s edition, New York-bred/Atlanta-based rapper Cakes da Killa will be the only international artist performing at POP in 2021. Some readers may recognize him from competing on Netflix’s Rhythm and Flow, and he’s since made waves with his strongly house-inflected take on rap—most recently on EP Muvaland Vol. 2.

Thursday, September 23, LEntrepôt77, 8 p.m.

Dorothea Paas: With debut LP Anything Can’t Happen having garnered a nod on the Polaris longlist, Toronto’s Dorothea Paas has gone from backing vocalist to U.S. Girls and Jennifer Castle to an undisputed talent in her own right. Her smoky, gorgeous voice makes for a pitch-perfect complement to her eclectic take on folk music.

Wednesday, September 22, Rialto Rooftop, 6:30 p.m.

Laura Niquay: Hailing from the First Nations reserve of Wemotaci in Northern Quebec, Laura Niquay also found a spot on this year’s Polaris longlist with her sophomore LP (and first in six years), Waska Matisiwin. Performing in her native tongue of Atikamekw, she puts a unique and entrancing spin on her indie-folk sound, delivered through her trademark husky voice.

Thursday, September 23, Rialto Theatre, 10:50 p.m.

Malika Tirolien: This Montreal-based singer-songwriter comes by way of Guadeloupe (an overseas department of France), has a Grammy nomination under her belt, and had previously made her name by performing with Cirque du Soleil and singing with Texas jazz ensemble Snarky Puppy. Her sophomore album Higher, released in April, blends jazz, rock, hip hop, R&B, soul, and funk with her rich, dynamic voice to make what she calls “high soul”.

Saturday, September 25, LEntrepôt77, 5 p.m.

Hot Chiiild In The City

The synthetic soul artist finds his way in L.A.’s immaculate song machine.

By Dave MacIntyre

Published on July 22, 2021

Packing up and moving to L.A. requires a giant leap of faith for any artist chasing their dreams. For Montreal-bred musician/producer Yonatan Ayal, it took plenty of behind-the-scenes work and sleeping in his car before he found success with his experimental soul project, Chiiild.

Composed primarily of Ayal and guitarist Pierre-Luc Rioux (also a Montreal native), Chiiild is known for his experimental, genre-defying take on soul music, with elements of indie rock, pop, electronic, jazz, and R&B. Fittingly, “synthetic soul” is the name of the genre often used to describe Chiiild’s music (it’s also the title of their 2020 debut EP), as it represents a dynamic mélange of influences with soul music acting as the guiding principle.

Debut album, Hope For Sale, is one Ayal hopes listeners will fully embrace and enjoy from start to finish. Additionally, making his lyrics and songwriting more conversational was a major point of focus after the Synthetic Soul EP. “With the first record, there’s a bit of a barrier between you and the listener. You don’t even know who’s listening,” he says. “After Synthetic Soul, I started to see who was listening, and how it affected people. I was like, ‘Oh okay, now we can have a direct conversation, because I know who I’m talking to.’ Lyrically, Hope For Sale represents that.”

Ayal grew up in Brossard, located on Montreal’s South Shore. When asked how his upbringing in the Montreal area shaped his perspective on music and art in general, Ayal mentions the city’s diverse palette of cultural influences, as well as its abundance of musical talent. “Montrealers have real taste,” he says. “What was playing on the radio growing up is what shaped me. There’s the music you choose, and there’s the music that finds you. Montreal is very eclectic in that way.”

Ayal, whose previous moniker was xSDTRK (pronounced “soundtrack”), saved up money and moved to Los Angeles with the goal of making the right connections with the right people. Having already known fellow producer and Montreal native Billboard (who’s worked with Madonna, Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, Robyn, and Dua Lipa) in L.A., his path in the industry began to feel more clear thanks in part to their relationship. “I was like, ‘Okay, it seems like you can go here and all these records are made here. So let me just be there and see what I’m made of. That’s how I ended up in that song machine,” he says.

With influences as wide-ranging as Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, Moby, and Craig David, it makes sense that Hope For Sale is similarly eclectic. Traces of The Beatles’ psychedelic baroque pop (“Wasting Time”), atmospheric indie rock (“Sleepwalking”), and haunting piano balladry (“Lotus”) are heard at various points, with Ayal crediting Bon Iver as a guidepost for its creative process.

Having worked on various projects for other musicians, Ayal eventually began craving the freedom to focus on his own musical endeavours. Starting Chiiild gave Ayal a greater opportunity for agency and creative self-expression. “You’re working on all kinds of stuff, and people are selling you everything left, right, and centre, until you’re just fed up and you’re like, ‘I’m going to do my own thing,’” he adds.https://www.youtube.com/embed/tOMFcO2JXlU?controls=0&rel=0&playsinline=0&modestbranding=0&autoplay=0&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Freadrange.com&widgetid=1

Part of finding success is in paying your dues first, which Ayal learned through living out of his car in an L.A. grocery store parking lot. The biggest lesson he learned from the experience about making your way in the industry? “When you have a house, you might not shower one day, and it’s no big deal,” he says. “But when you’re feeling really shitty, you haven’t had a good sleep, and you have to go meet somebody, be presentable, and feel good about what you’re doing, not being able to shower is the difference.”

Prior to Chiiild, Ayal would write and produce for artists like Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Jessie J, Chloe x Halle, and Jack Ü (Diplo and Skrillex). In 2015, Ayal’s first job in L.A. would be as a drum programmer for Rob Thomas’ third album, The Great Unknown—a gig he found in an online ad posted by producer Keith Harris, and won after competing against nearly 1,500 applicants.

“That job really helped me build a life here,” he says of working for the Matchbox Twenty frontman. The two did not meet in person, however, as Ayal worked mainly alongside producer Matt Serletic while Thomas sent voice notes with ideas for songs. “It was a really great experience,” he adds. “There was a programmer who also programmed [Jay-Z’s] ’99 Problems’. It was cool to be in a room with such talented people. The producer, Matt, also produced [Aerosmith’s] “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” I’m just soaking all this up. This is all music that I grew up on.”

Hope For Sale sees Ayal team up with British songstress Mahalia on single “Awake”, and Jensen McRae also appears on a remix of album track “Gone.” Furthermore, Chiiild’s music has been featured on TV shows like FOX’s The Resident and HBO’s Hard Knocks, received co-signs from Zane Lowe and Joe Budden, and he most recently performed “Sleepwalking” and “Pirouette” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “It was really great to be able to showcase what Chiiild is,” he says of his experience performing on the late night talk show. “We’ve been very reserved and kind of let the music speak for itself. In this particular case, people got to see what the full, finished product looks like. It provided context, and to do it on such an iconic platform, I’m super grateful.”

With plans to tour Hope For Sale this fall, Ayal hopes the album will be enjoyed and understood by listeners, particularly with lyrics that represent what it means to be human. “It’s hope for sale, because sometimes you’re optimistic and sometimes you’re losing faith,” he adds. “It’s the whole human experience.”