Beat SexuKnown as DJ Charny, a nod to the small railroad town where he grew up, guitarist Jean-Michel Letendre Veilleux shows us his love of dancing on this, the first real Beat Sexü album. Concocted over a period of five years in close collaboration with Jean-Étienne Collin Marcoux, this album allowed the pair to project themselves well beyond the limits of the 418 area code. From being mentioned in the nightly news on the Côte-Nord region of the CBC to the four stars the album earned from La Presse, their music has attracted a lot of attention.

“We weren’t expecting that,” says Veilleux, who everyone calls Jim. “It feels like this relationship that’s going around in circles, like f—k-buddies that have been together for two years but never said, ‘I love you’ to take things to the next level. We’d done everything together, but we hadn’t committed.”

His roommate and colleague Marcoux explains the wait more pragmatically. “I wouldn’t call this a side project,” he says, “but we were busy with so many other things that this always ended up being pushed aside… That’s what happened with Anatole. It had to come out as fast as possible because of Alex’s record contract… We were working in the studio, but we made ourselves available to him. Not that we weren’t willing participants, just like when Hubert Lenoir asked me to go on tour with him… But it was still time we were supposed to devote to Sexü.”

Veilleux and Marcoux are also the co-founders, artistic directors, and maintenance men of Pantoum, the epicentre of Québec City’s independent music scene. They were, however, longing to reveal their own material after welcoming so many bands into their studio and rehearsal spaces.

After several lineup changes, Beat Sexü recruited keyboardist and backing vocalist Odile Marmet Rochefort (ex-Men I Trust) and bassist Martin Teasdale. The quartet sealed the deal with the final version of “Plumage,” the album opener that they debuted during the Francouvertes five years ago. The song has evolved considerably since then. Veilleux explains: “Our basic idea is to make people dance. Jean-Étienne and I have always loved dance music. I loved Justice back in 2007. Later I got into house music and discovered cumbia, Brazilian, and African music. We wanted to embrace those influences.”

We’re undeniably dealing with the same band – their desire to make us move remains the same – but the arrangements on Deuxième Fois have grown more refined. “We used to sound very disco rock, but we’ve grown out of that,” Marcoux admits. “I already do disco with Gab Paquet and Anatole. We still love it, we’re still Giorgio Moroder fans… But the thing is, there are so many more types of dance music that let us explore different sounds… Disco is quite archetypal, and you quickly hit a threshold because the 4/4 time-signature is limiting.”

As the band’s drummer, singer and lyricist, he let his enthusiasm run free when it came to choosing percussion. Marcoux plays the vibraphone on “P.S.” while on “De jardin à courge,” he unexpectedly, liberally uses a cuíca. “It’s everywhere in Brazilian samba, especially from the Rio area,” he says. “It’s a skin over a steel drum and the skin has a bamboo stick glued in the middle of it. You use a wet cloth and rub the bamboo stick while you change the pressure on the drumhead with your other hand. The most well-known music with cuíca in it is probably the Austin Powers theme song.”

Beat Sexü’s music is what happens when the barriers between music genres are broken down in the lower part of Québec City. In this era of streaming, where more than ever, the whole world is listening, the pair is thinking globally. “It’s funny, because when you look at the Apple Music stats, you also see the Shazam stats, and the majority of searches for us come from outside Québec,” says Veilleux. “Paris, Calgary, Hamilton, sometimes in the States. It’s not a lot, about a dozen a week, but at least we know our music travels.

“We know what we do can be exported,” the guitarist adds. “We had proof with ‘Corridor’… it can be done in French! We’d like to carry on in that vibe.”

The creative engine of LaF is still going. It’s a six-capacity carousel, onto which Bnjmn.lloyd, BLVDR, and Oclaz first board. Bkay, Jah Maaz, and Mantisse then hop on, with lyrics that interlock but never invalidate each others’. Do you like fusion cuisine? LaF offers you fusion rap, a place where sounds and words converge in the spirit of community. That’s what family is about.

“When we’re in the studio, we bring to life stuff that we explored in cabins,” says BLVDR. “We’re in fine-tuning mode.” And as soon as their Citadelle album was in the can, the guys already had more work cut out for themselves. “That’s because when we’re together, we make music. Our friendships and our music are one and the same. We don’t have a clue which comes first,” Bkay adds. The chicken or the egg? Friendship or rap?

Plus the fact that taking a break is useless. Mantisse even considers it nonsensical to stop. “We don’t take a break from our music,” he says. “It’s not because we just launched an album that we’re gonna stop thinking about the next project,” he adds, staring straight ahead at whatever might be coming next.

But the community aspect of their music didn’t happen overnight. Yet, it also wasn’t pre-meditated. “Before Francouvertes, we did community rap. Our audience was our entourage. We didn’t do shows four hours outside of Montréal for a crowd of people we don’t know. Then there was Les Francouvertes, Hôtel Délices (August 2018) and the contract with 7ieme ciel. That’s when things switched. We weren’t doing this only for ourselves.”

Their lives have completely changed since then, and their place in the music industry and in rap has crystallized. Music is their occupation, their trade, their life. “Benjamin (Bnjmn.lloyd) is the only one attending school,” the boys giggle, making him the clan’s egghead.

In order to truly understand LaF, one must understand the “LaF cabins,” which is where everything happens. That’s the method, the process, developed by the band: they isolate themselves to let creativity come to the fore. One of those cabins was almost he death of them, early on, but they got over it.

“Tangerine” was born in January during a cold spell,” Bkay explains. “We were going deep in the woods in Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard, and we’d planned that the walk through the snow to get there would take about 30 minutes, but it took us three hours.” Enough food, water, and recording gear to spend four days in the middle of nowhere had been gathered on sleds in order to reach the isolated place among the trees, a wood-fire heated cabin. “We created a summer vibe for ourselves in the middle of winter, and when I’d go out to cut wood for the fire, I felt like I was doing it to save my friends’ lives. That added another level to the whole thing,” BLVDR says with amusement.

“We co-habitate, letting go of ourselves and going with the flow, so we’re always at the service of the song.”

Every time they gather outside of the city, and its rules, they follow the same ritual: “We get to the cabin, get all the gear out, and we pick a track,” Bkay explains. “We often go to different places. We want to be in touch with the outside, a good vibe and good sound. We set the gear up and then it’s a whole day of eating, chilling, listening to what we did the day before, and starting new beats.” “While the boys tinker on a melody, we work on our lyrics,” Mantisse adds. “We work on all aspects at once.”

When one of them gets tired, someone else jumps in. No reason to dampen your friend’s inspiration in mid-flight. “Bnjmn.lloyd studies digital music, so he brings the more academic side of things to the table, while I’m more intuitive and Clazo brings the house flavour,” BLVDR says, pointing out that, usually, a good day’s work together ends with a good, “keeper” of a beat. “In any case, whenever one of us is mad inspired and it brings the project forward, we go for it,” Mantisse says. “We’re not on a quest for equity. We’re at the service of the track, and if that means all I do are backing tracks, that’s fine with me. We co-habitate, letting go of ourselves and going with the flow, so we’re always at the service of the song.”

Highly technical and versatile, Jah Maaz is, according to his teammates, “the best rapper in Montréal,” while Mantisse is the extravagant poet and Bkay, the clan boss who pieces everything together. And with him, “If your work is shit, he lets you know.”

Rap has changed over the course of the last few years, and so has LaF. They’ve mastered the musical and melodic codes that now permeate indie, pop, and rock. “I don’t know what will happen to those who are fundamentally rap, but I know we are able to step outside of our codes and hybridize,” says Bkay assuredly. “Our friends in O.G.B. (the band who won Les Francouvertes the year after LaF) are like the jazzmen of rap, and it’s still beautiful.” In other words, the possibilities for re-invention are endless, and this is merely LaF’s first incarnation.

“Maybe we just opened a door for future generations, and we’ll just keep re-inventing our sound,” Bkay says. “Just like Luce Dufault, who came back in 2020 after years away from the scene?” we ask. “Luce Dufault?” they answer.

So, to make sure 1996 never fades away in history, the interview ends as we listen to “Les soirs de scotch,” which they’ve never heard, over the studio speakers. Music truly is an endless cycle.


While everyone, including creators, is self-isolating as much as possible, can we already predict an exceptional musical harvest in the wake of the COVID-19 situation? KROY is adamant: “There’s going to be a baby boom and an album-boom.”

After all, it’s often in the worst of times that artists are at their best. A prime example of this is La Bolduc’s timeless classic, written during the Great Depression: Ça va venir, découragez-vous pas (“Things Are Gonna Get Better, Don’t Give Up”). Her song was a comforting message of encouragement and an ode to resilience, sung with her signature “turlute” that’s still heartwarming to this day. Just like the intimate catastrophe of having your heart broken, social and global crises such as the COVID-19 situation are a source of inspiration for lyricists. That which contaminates our collective mind will necessarily percolate into popular music.

Isolation and solitude will undoubtedly be ubiquitous themes in the music that will come out of this event. “Hey, I’m always writing songs about that!” says KROY, bursting out in laughter. “But I do feel like it will be a hot topic in the coming months: the need to connect, to stay together, the desire to be surrounded by people, and missing human and community contact.”

“It’s the small, individual stories that are going to come out of this huge subject, that will be interesting.” – Nelson Minville

Nelson Minville, who’s written more than 350 songs – for the likes of Céline Dion, Paul Daraîche, and so many more – thinks the effects of this slump and suspension of the normal course of things will take a while to seep into radio playlists.

“It’s too early to tackle the topic head-on,” he says. “It’s the small, individual stories that are going to come out of this huge subject, that will be interesting. It’s as if someone asked me to write a song about the environment, but the environment in and of itself is not a subject. The real story is a grandfather who goes for a stroll by a river with his grandson and says, ‘You see, we used to fish, here.’ Now that’s a song! The environment is not a song, it’s too vast, it’s boring. There’s going to be beautiful songs that come out of this, no doubt, but they won’t necessarily be about the pandemic itself. There’s going to be stories that come out of the subject.” Someone losing their job, or losing a loved one, for example.

Creating on the Spot

Artists are a reflection of our society, as clichéd as that sounds. It’s even more obvious during crucial, strange times like these. They become the voice of the many.

At this juncture, where everything still feels raw, and we’re still struggling to adjust to social distancing, Michel Rivard has decided to tackle the situation head-on, and deliver one song a day. Cœur de Pirate promptly answered the call of premier Legault and, in a song, invited her fans to stay home and stop the propagation of the coronavirus. Her humorous exercise was echoed in a similar one by singer-songwriter and producer Laurence Nerbonne. On March 18, she posted her very entertaining “COVID-19 Remix” online.

“I wanted to express the overwhelming worry everybody feels this week,” she says, “while we waited for the borders to be closed, finally, and for the U.S. to react, and Trudeau to snap out of it. It’s kind of my job to take the pulse of society and turn it into art to make people smile. That’s the main reaction I got from people. It made them laugh.”

But beyond themes directly linked to the virus, the self-isolation instructions have forced authors and composers to get back to their drawing boards, if only to kill time. Stuck between four walls, as if they were on a writing retreat in a remote cabin, there’s plenty of pportunity to take advantage of this truly exceptional situation by creating new material.

Choses Sauvages’ Marc-Antoine Barbier is one of them. “We were in our van to go play in Alma and Dolbeau just before this all started,” he says. “Our last gig got cancelled… There are no more shows happening, Félix and Thierry work in bars, and I freelance in cinema, where filming has also been cancelled… We’re all somewhat off now, you know. We’re all on EI now. So we’re focusing on composing, and that’s going to be a full-time job for a while.”

Daily Solitude 

For creators who aren’t fuelled by jam sessions, introspection remains the most fertile ground for verses and choruses. Just as Nelson Minville (“I spend my life with my head between speakers trying to come up with words”), Laurence Nerbonne, or Camille Poliquin, a.k.a. KROY. Hubert Lenoir’s creativity blooms in silence and ennui. “In my case, seriously, I was already almost self-isolating for about a month,” he says. “So when it happened, I told myself, ‘OK, I guess I’m just gonna carry on what I was already doing.’…This comes at a time where I’ve stopped giving shows. My last tour was in Europe last November. I’ve been in a creative mood since then.”

Whereas others are rushing to get material out, whether it’s to change their minds, or out of fear that the public will forget them, the “son of no one” says he’s serene, even relaxed, and he’s thankful. “I’m really lucky,” says Lenoir. “If this happened two years ago when my album was coming out, it would have been rough to see all my shows cancelled… Even if the shows are just postponed, there is a question of timing… My thoughts really go out to all my colleagues impacted by all this.”