Montréal band Barry Paquin Roberge combines kitsch and musical precision on his sophomore album Exordium to Extasy, which comes at the same time as spring, to break the prevailing gloom of the (hopefully!) last gasps of the second wave.
It’s already been a year since the pandemic started undermining our lives, but the group manages to make us forget about this saddest of milestones – thanks to their 4/4 beats and guitar work of which Prince wouldn’t have been ashamed. Never before have we needed their disco-tinged glam rock as much as we do now.
At least, that’s what Étienne Barry has heard in the vast majority of the feedback he’s received since the release of the band’s turbo-charged new offering, that has nearly therapeutic properties. “Let’s just say it’s really like a ray of sunshine that breaks through the clouds at the end of February. when people are sick and tired of having nothing to do because of this somewhat ridiculous curfew,” says Barry. “We can’t get together, can’t go out at night, but now, at least you can dance in your living room and go crazy. I really think this is the perfect music for that.”
Initially made up of three guys, the band doubled its lineup, as well as its impact, for this collection of 10 fresh recordings. The opener, “BPR Strut (Join Us and You’ll Be Fine),” sets the tone: welcoming and unifying, it’s your invitation to a party overshadowed by an apocalyptic menace; a funky anthem that makes you feel the urgency of shaking your money-maker. After all, if the world is about to end, might as well take advantage of it while we still can.
“We’re fans of the disco era, but we also really dig anything on the absurd spectrum of things” says Barry. “We enjoy making fun of ourselves. In the end, Barry Paquin Roberge are 40-year-old guys who wear their aunts’ clothes!”
Guys? Sure, but not just guys. Anna Frances Meyer, one half of Les Deuxluxes, is one of the new recruits. She plays flute on a few songs, most notably “Eyes on You,” and her utterly distinctive voice stands out – even when she’s singing in unison with the rest of the band. No matter what project she’s involved in, she’s always recognizable.
The newly minted sextet also includes Sébastien Paquin, boss of the band’s record label, Costume Records. As one of the original three, he not only plays guitar and bass for BPR; he also plays the networking game to get the project moving forward. “It’s still a small operation,” says Barry. “They’ve only recently grown into a four-person team. They’re true artisans of the cultural scene. But in the end, it’s a winning strategy because we have a lot more freedom.”
Marketing a nu-disco album, produced by established rockers, with members of Les Deuxluxes and Les Breastfeeders to boot, can be quite a challenge. So, Mr. Barry, what’s your marketing strategy? “It’s clear that rock is not as hot right now,” he says. “Barry Paquin Roberge is just dance music. It’s just pop music, something catchy that people can enjoy unpretentiously. It reaches a broader audience, I think. I think everyone loves Donna Summer. When you hear her on the radio, it’s impossible not to tap your feet. That’s what we’re counting on.”
Filled with irony and prone to bouts of delirium, Barry Paquin Roberge’s work as a whole is to be taken on a second level. “Some people don’t seem to get that second degree, and they’re offended when they see musicians having fun,” says Barry. “We see it in some of the criticisms thrown at us. But for us, ultimately, all we’re doing is making fun of pop’s conventions. We’re poking fun at disco and glam, but we do it in the spirit of fun. We try to stay true to that era; it’s a truly deep vintage trip.”