Rémi Chassé has thrown Les cris et les fleurs right in our faces, an album fueled by the same pop-punk ethos that struck during his teen years in The Beauce –  running on the self-assurance and vertigo that keep him balanced on his tightrope.

Rémi Chassé The 32-year-old singer-songwriter works without a net. “I wanted my second album to be more sonically challenging, and I was looking for the right producers for the rock sound I wanted without compromising my punk and pop twist,” says Chassé. “Mainstream rock is quite limited in Québec. Éric Lapointe isn’t my cup of tea, and bands like Galaxie are uber-cool, but it’s not what I do…”

Guillaume Beauregard – who co-produced Chassé’s first album, Debout dans l’ombre, launched in 2015 – suggested producer Gus Van Go (The Stills, Sam Roberts), and the album was recorded in Brooklyn and Montréal. It’s fraught with a rebellious attitude, where the pop side is like a slap, and the rock side flips the bird to anyone satisfied with the status quo.

The artist readily admits his first album was done well, but was somewhat rushed in order to cash in on the momentum created by him making the finals of La Voix (the Québec franchise of The Voice). The creative process this time around was more flexible. “I took more time to write and reflect on what I wanted to do,” says Chassé. “The first one was 10 tracks, ‘wham-bam, thank you ma’am.’ Thing is, I hadn’t yet fully integrated my Franco singer-songwriter signature. Now, the result is much more concise rock songs, with my emo/introspective side still present on many songs. It’s like I only write songs when I feel heavy, deep. I also turned to more political subjects, which is quite new for me, but we live in such an absurd era right now…”

Titles such as “Contre qui” (“Against Whom”), “Le monde est à plaindre” (“Pitiful World”) or “L’ombre d’un remord” (“The Shadow of a Regret”), hold a magnifying glass to the parasitic, or systemic, quirks and scourges of our era.

And although Guillaume Beauregard is no longer involved in production, he’s still a go-to accomplice for Chassé, having carefully pored over the artist’s lyrics. “I’m a huge Vulgaires Machins fan,” says Chassé. “So when Guillaume doesn’t like something, he’ll tell you right away, and when he does like something, it means a lot to me.”

He also asked Gaële to help him fine-tune everything. “Even though it’s a band effort, most of the lyrics rest on my shoulders, and it was super-helpful to talk with her.”

The word “rock” permeates the artist’s vocabulary, but what does it mean, exactly?

“I think we really have a great album in our hands,” says Chassé. “I mean this unpretentiously, but I do believe it’ll be like a breath of fresh air on Québec’s music scene. You know, over here, the notion of ‘popular rock music’ is only one of two things: tattoos, strippers and bikes, or left-field stoners. We’re coming up with a straight-up rock option that can appeal to a larger audience, while avoiding the clichés of the genre.”

He grew up with Green Day, Pennywise, Lagwagon, Millencolin, Dashboard Confessional, and the rest of the ’90s punk cohort, and it shows: commercially viable songs that are accessible to the common denominator and chock-full of hook-filled, in-your-face melodies.

No doubt the former Tailor Made Fable frontman – and professional singer for corporate events – is ready to be heard. His offering is pumped to the hilt with raw, rocker phlegm that has its undeniable charm. “I’ve been isolated in creative mode for quite a while,” says Chassé. “I can’t wait to get out and play live for an audience. I’ll have succeeded when I’m the one people think of, when they think of Québéc rock.”

“I didn’t start with any guidelines; music is in my blood.”

Harrison Brome always knew that he wanted to become a musician, but he didn’t take the easy route to success. Instead of taking piano lessons, the Vancouver artist – who suffered from severe dyslexia growing up – is entirely self-taught. “I would just play certain notes on the piano and if I thought they sounded good together, I’d keep playing them,” he says. “If you really listen to the formula of my songs, the structures are usually a basic four-chord or five-chord progression.”

But don’t let that simplistic description fool you: Brome’s music is filled with complex, layered production, and deeply personal songwriting, all led by Brome’s captivating vocals – which stretch from soulfully understated to a full-on R&B force on the more rhapsodic anthems.

While songwriting has helped him express his feelings in unique way (“Music has always been there to help me overcome the roadblocks that I’ve faced in my life”), he does enlist producers and engineers to help him bring his ideas to fruition. Of his process, Brome says, “I usually start the progression and vibe, and once a solid structure is there, I take it out of my hands and focus on the top line [lyric and lead melody].”

With one EP out – 2016’s Fill Your Brains – Brome hopes to kick it into high gear this year with his follow-up EP Body High, and another one that he says is ready for release. Brome says his past few years have been spent “in the dark, crafting my sound,” so he’s looking forward to finally stepping out and sharing more music with his fans. But that’s just the near future; Brome acknowledges that he’s in this for the long run, adding, “I want to be the type of artist that’s half dead, still touring at 60.”

Helena Deland

Photo: Alex Huard

“The songs musicians write aren’t representative of all of their feelings,” warns singer-songwriter Helena Deland. “But it’s true that mine lend themselves well to sadness.” Not today, however: we caught up with her on a beautiful blue-sky day in Austin, Texas, where she played five gigs in as many days at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival and conference. She has a smile in her voice while she tells us the story behind her excellent EP From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied” Vol. I & II, launched in early March.

It’s her first major, professional, international showcase, and the first time she’s played with her band of three musicians outside of Canada. Deland is living life to the fullest. “It’s funny, because people warn you about South by Southwest in so many different ways, but truly, it lives up to its expectations!” she says, in English.

It’s more of her mother tongue than her first language, as it were: Deland’s mom is Irish and dad is Québécois, and she grew up with both languages, which she uses equally. “Before I recorded anything, I wrote my lyrics in French,” she says with a marked Québec City accent. “I still like those songs, but I feel it’s easier for me to write in English because of my personal musical culture. There’s also something appealing to writing in English because of its inherent rhythm. It flows better.”

She left Québec City five or six years ago to pursue her literary studies at Montréal’s UQAM. At that point, Deland had a few songs in her suitcase, “but it was nothing much. It’s pure happenstance that I met Jessie.” That would be Jessie Mac Cormack, who produced her first EP, Drawing Room, launched in 2016. “I wanted to record my songs, but I wasn’t thinking about a career,” she says, “and I had zero in-studio experience. I didn’t really play any shows, either. It was just one thing leading to another. It was a lot to take in.”

Her promising first EP revealed Deland’s soft voice and pretty timbre, inside Mac Cormack’s distinctive world of ethereal folk, undulating electric guitars, and a sound engineer bent on capturing intimacy. The formula was spot-on and the EP quickly attracted a lot of attention from producers.

Launched on the New York-based label Luminelle, From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied” Vol. I & II – once more produced by Mac Cormack – sees the young musician stepping out of her producer’s shadow. Her personality shines through with more clarity, in songs that avoid the clichés of contemporary folk and embrace more minimalist grooves.

“Our relationship was completely different,” Deland explains. “I was always there in the studio, I took more time to make this EP. Our relationship became conflicted at times, because we’re both very stubborn, and we both think we know what’s best. It was a more tightly collaborative process. Jessie has the technical know-how to make anything happen in a studio, and now that I know what I want, he provides me with the means to make it happen.”

Deland’s style is all about intimacy. “Personal things, the exchange from one person to another,” she says. “I often sing about things that remain unsaid in my relationships with people to whom I’m close. I’ve often used writing music as a way to vent, and help myself understand inter-personal stuff.”

Her cellphone is full of musical ideas recorded on the go. “I record small melodic phrases, and some of them make me feel like pursuing them further,” she says. “Sometimes they become a song. Sometimes they become nothing at all. I’ll mostly start with an idea, a sentence; then the real work begins: finding chords, a melody, and then lyrics. The melody and lyrics will be inspired by the original idea, that line I recorded on my phone. When it’s good, everything falls into place and the creative process happens in an almost mystical way. It’s as if the song was born simply because it had to be.

“I’ve always been in awe of original song structures,” she says. It’s one of the most captivating aspects of her writing style, which seems to have its own rhythm, a natural and dynamic way of moving from verse to chorus. “I read a lot of fiction, it helps me to write,” says Deland. “What I’m fascinated with in writing is the element of surprise. I love reading and being surprised.”

She cites New Zealander Hollie Fullbrook, a.k.a. Tiny Ruins. “The day before yesterday, I ended up at her concert in Austin, purely by a twist of fate,” says Deland. “There were about a dozen people in the room – five of whom were staring at their phones, as any industry type would… I went to talk to her after her show and, of course, I cried. She influenced me a lot, especially when I was recording my first EP; I was really happy to meet her.”