Ariane Moffatt and Étienne Dupuis-Cloutier take us on a track-by-track journey behind the scenes of their new collaborative album.

 Don’t miss the discussion (left) that Paroles & Musique editor Eric Parazelli had with Moffat Moffatt and Étienne Dupuis-Cloutier about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve known her for quite a while now. Ariane Moffatt seems to age backwards, and she hides her secret of the fountain of youth. Étienne Dupuis-Cloutier is a behind-the-scenes hero that loves left-of-centre pop music. As a sought-after producer, he’s set the voices of Fanny Bloom, Dumas, Cœur de pirate, and Eli Rose in his backdrop of lush, fresh instrumentation.

Together as SOMMM, Moffat and Dupuis-Cloutier have created a turbo-charged electro-pop offering, with hints of rap, trap, and even jazz. Their music is perfect for springtime, right here and now, and couldn’t have come at a better time to heal broken hearts. The duo de-constructs its eight songs for the readers of Words & Music.

“Le ciel s’est renversé”

With its slightly supernatural intro and moving bassline, the opening song  bridges the gap between Ariane’s usual universe and that of the upcoming SOMMM songs. It’s a poetic and dream-like introduction. Rosie Valland naturally finds her place here, inspired by Robyn’s “Never Again.”

“When Moffat told me she was thinking of asking Rosie to feature, she had just released her single “Blue,” and I was really a fan,” says Dupuis-Cloutier. “I really like what she does, I like her voice and her artistic approach. We clicked very quickly. And by having a timbre in mind, I even got melodic ideas.”


 Thanks to its house music-inspired crescendo that leads to the chorus, “Aimant” is the first truly dance-oriented song of this project. A nu disco aesthetic has appealed to Moffat ever since the release of “Debout,” and that genre has also influenced the arrangements for the Petites mains précieuses tour. When collaborating with Dupuis-Cloutier, singer-songwriter Moffat fully embraces the genre:

“On this project, we were, like, ‘Let’s go in the studio to make current pop music!’ I’m not in an aesthetic concept, here, I’m just trying to write pop music like what’s hot now. I’ve had a taste while working on SOMMM and it’s a fun challenge, because it’s not any easier than writing a full emo, dramatic song.”


On this one, the songwriters looked towards Ruffsound, the man behind the beats and sounds of Loud’s biggest hits. They also worked with Mike of Clay and Friends to make this single even more infectious and life-affirming than it already was. It’s an ode to joy that’s made to play at full volume, with car windows rolled down, in the middle of summer, while driving to the beach.

But as Dupuis-Cloutier says, “it didn’t happen in one day!” The creative process of this fluid, light, and likeable song was indeed quite labour-intensive. “The mix contains about 100 different tracks. It’s huge, it’s very dense, but it’s the energy we were after. We wanted to give you the feeling that sound is coming from everywhere, and that each one of them is perceptible.”


“Essence” is a smorgasbord of succulent alliterations, and a door to the world of hip-hop that stays open until the second-last song on the album track. The song, recorded with LaF, ends with a jazzy segment reminiscent of “Tercel,” by Les Louanges – Moffat’s protégés, who also open for her on tour. This time around, however, it’s not Jérôme Beaulieu who sits at the piano, but Moffatt herself, displaying another one of her many talents.

“We decided to go for a little melodic freestyle,” she says, her face turning red in front of her cellphone screen.” I recorded that and sent it to Étienne saying that it would be cool that the song ends with something played on the piano. There’s piano throughout the track, but this is bluesier. The song is kind of a contemporary blues, a song for today’s youth, who are trying to figure out who they are. It’s fitting.”

“Get Well Soon”

Maky Lavender, a rising star on Montréal’s hip-hop scene, is the guest on this soulful, hopeful song. It’s minimalist and experimental, and features distorted flutes laid on top of a finely-syncopated beat.

“Instead of telling us he’d write his verse sometime next week, Maky followd-up on our request for a feature by sending us his takes,” says Dupuis-Cloutier, still clearly wowed. “Ariane was at a dinner function, she was getting the insigne of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres alongside Pierre Lapointe. I texted her saying she had to hear this. Seriously, it was just perfect. I had nothing to add or change. She had to hear this right away!”

“Finir seule”

Here, Moffat walks a fine line between singing and rapping, over her most trap-style recording ever in her career. Lyrically, she even dabbles with “Frenglish” in a very natural and convincing way. She’s daring, but without being a daredevil. She respects MCs too much to go overboard.

“I don’t pretend to be a rapper,” she says, “but my love of rhythm comes out in this kind of trip. But I can assure you, I’m super-careful to not come across as some kind of wannabe! I take immense pleasure in exploring such a playground, full of with phrasing like that.”


The single that kick-started this project – the first round, as Moffat puts it – wasn’t supposed to turn into a full-length project, yet their work with Fouki made them want another taste.

“Collaborating is in his DNA,” she says. “It was truly a great moment when he came into the studio. He was fully prepared, very impressive.” Dupuis-Cloutier adds: “He’s super-professional and collaborative.” Side note: both men play on the same garage league hockey team. “He’s really into teamwork, that Fouki. He has the same attitude when it comes to music as he does in sports.”


The last fllower in this bouquet is a romantic, lusty ballad written with Marie-Pierre Arthur, a hyper-influential singer-songwriter and one of Moffat’s old friends. They’ve known each other since their time at Cégep Saint-Laurent.

“She’s a great friend, but we have a drink more often than we collaborate on music, sadly. Or maybe it’s because we don’t drink enough? Whatever the case may be, we were looking for an opportunity to work together… There are many representatives of the new generation of rappers and singers on this album, but closing it with an artist I respect so much was important to me.”

Catapulted into streaming platforms on Feb. 28, 2020, the Blue album was scheduled to be performed on tour starting at the beginning of April. Instead, Rosie Valland is self-isolating at home, planting a garden.

Rosie Valland“The shows and the promotion stopped overnight,” she says. “It was really intense, and then my work schedule became completely empty… I never thought I’d be cleaning my yard and sowing seeds right now.”

The telltale small gusts of wind that can be heard on her cellphone indicate that she’s somewhere out in the open. All interviews, of course, are conducted remotely in the time of pandemic. Valland takes the call from her plot of land in Rigaud, Québec, not far from La Blouse and the Québec-Ontario border. It’s a 50-minute drive from Montréal’s Cabaret Lion d’Or, the Francouvertes venue where she was discovered five years ago.

That many years have passed since the release of Partir avant, her second album, and best-known so far. That collection of songs, released on the Duprince label, introduced her to the general public, the industry, and most certainly to the press. “When I listen to Partir avant again,” she says, “I feel no regrets, but I feel much empathy towards the person who did that. Those were early songs, something rough, sketchy, and I don’t sense that I’d found myself yet.”

Without actually disowning « Olympe » and that album’s other songs, the singer-songwriter reckons that Blue was where her career actually began. She says she also took part in production then. This time around, she’s sharing this side of the work with Jesse Mac Cormack, her partner since the early days. It was really a 50-50 team.

“Although Blue’s life may be cut short by the pandemic, the album brought me a lot,” says Valland. “Before getting into it, I knew nothing about computer programs, and any of that. I allowed myself so much time to do it that I was able to learn how to record myself. I was already making a living from my music, but I now have more strings in my quiver. I feel that I’ll be able to grow old in that environment, because I’ll be able to do much more than my own individual projects in my own name.”

These days, actually, the new Rigaud resident is working under contract for the Télé-Québec platform La Fabrique culturelle. She’s been writing original music for every episode of Proxémie, a podcast exclusively featuring female artists, that’s being hosted by the actress Sophie Cadieux. The constraints of commissioned music are allowing her to explore brand new territory that stands far away from the pages of her diary.

“You create a mood,” she explains, “and, at the same time, it’s not permitted to dominate anything else. It’s a top-notch team, so I’m really happy to be doing this, particularly right now. I’m grateful to have this… It’s instrumental music, I’d never done that, and I’m finding my own way around as well.”

A second chance to make a first impression

Enhanced arrangements, crisp melodies, a less sad and whiskey-stained voice… The improvement was so great that Valland could almost have started singing under a new name. With Blue, the former Montréaler is sporting a new sound and entering another cycle.

“Automatically, it was folkier than before, because I was composing with what was around in my one-bedroom apartment, which was not much,” she says. “The songs may be somewhat richer because I can start with a beat, or a synth idea, instead of always from a guitar.”

Clearly inspired by 1990s pop rock (“it’s most like me”), the one-woman-band admits having indulged in a tribute to Smashing Pumpkins on “Chaos,” and in a few nods to the Céline Dion of the D’eux album.

“I’m so fond of her voices, the reverbs, the way she sings,” says Valland. “I have to laugh when my aunts and uncles write to me online and tell me that they ‘can’t make out what I’m saying.’ I feel like telling them, ‘Listen to a Céline song, and tell me if you can understand anything!’ You can’t hear a thing, and she doesn’t articulate either, there’s really something left out. Personally, I never understood the lyrics, and I don’t want to know. I only thought that it sounded like me, and the way I see my own voice. Like an instrument.”

Zen BambooHow does Simon Larose, Zen Bamboo’s frontman, spend his self-isolation? He plays guitar on his balcony, just as he was doing when we reached him at the end of an afternoon. Or he reads his girlfriend’s favourite books while she reads his. “It’s like an illumination, even though we know each other by heart,’ he says. “Our favourite books reveal a lot about who we are, it illustrates a lot of things about our respective inner worlds. It is a very rewarding and intimate experience.”

What’s on Larose’s own list of favourite books? Les fous de Bassan, by Anne Hébert, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five or the Children’s Crusade, Graham Green’s Picture Post, Romain Gary’s Les Cerfs-volants and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

And what might we learn about him by diving into his small, ideal library? “You’d probably learn that I’m drama queen, I’m a diva,” he says with a laugh. The 25-year-old lyricist and musician has completed two-thirds of a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature at the Université de Montréal. “You might also learn that I’m a cynic who loves humans. As one of my friends says, inside every cynic, there’s a disappointed optimist.”

One can detect an underlying tension between this muted aversion for humanity and a burning desire to embrace it on GLU, Zen Bamboo’s debut full-length album, released in March 2020. The record expresses the desire to work on the continuity of our world, and the fear that said world will end soon, by our own hand.

Qu’est-ce qui restera après de nous/ Qu’est-ce qui restera après/ Si nos bébés à nous/ On les avale, on les déjoue/ Si nos bébés à nous/ On les renverse sur nos joues,” ((Translation: “What will be left of us, after / What will be left after / If our babies / We swallow them and defeat them / If our babies / Are spilled on our cheeks”), Larose asks in “Xoxoxo,” a song that is to GLU what “La Monogamie” was to Malajube’s Trompe-l’œil: a work where the euphoria of sex and the anguish of death dance together through the night.

“I often write songs as one would build a beast, to fight those monsters that haunt me.”

“‘Xoxoxo’ is about the unbridgeable gap between this generation’s anxiety about having children and how we approach sex purely as a hobby, mindlessly, and without protecting ourselves,” says Simon. “I started thinking about that one night – the amount of unprotected sex that people who don’t want children have – and it started to haunt me, it became a monster. I often write songs as one would build a beast, to fight those monsters that haunt me.”

And yet, a very jovial Larose sings “Moi j’aime vivre/ Et j’aime vivre/ Et j’aime vivre encore/ Encore plus fort, ” in “J’<3 vivre” (“I love to live / I love to live / I love to live again / Ever harder”). “Je veux tout de la vie/ Sans le moindre compromis,” he goes one singing on “Glu (coule sur moi)” (« I want everything from life / Without compromise »). A bit schizophrenic, maybe? No wonder that the first incarnations of GLU were divided in two distinct entities: “Five life songs – the life side – and five death songs – the death side.” But the definitive version is fraught with babies, food, and scenes of devouring, halfway between life impulses and deadly impulses, firmly establishing Simon Larose as an author who prefers asking questions to giving answers.

Whether it’s their lyrics or music, it’s been quite a while since a band from Québec has combined such artistic ambition with such a strong desire to reach as many people as possible. GLU is the kind of album that moight renew your faith in the future of rock. Ardent admirers of Malajube, Zen Bamboo’s members (Larose, guitarist Léo Leblanc, bassist Xavier Toukan, and drummer Cao) tapped producer Julien Mineau for this album after working with Thomas Augustin, Malajube’s other “brain,” on their previous EPs.

“Ironically,” explains Larose, “I think that if we wanted to avoid sounding like a Malajube pastiche, we needed to work with Julien – because if there’s anyone who doesn’t want to sound like Malajube, it’s Julien Mineau.”

The producer, who now lives in Saint-Ursule (about a one-hour drive northeast of Montréal), brought the band what Larose calls “kamikaze ideas.” Which means? “Julien is the type of guy who’s not afraid to try stuff without knowing what the outcome will be. He’s never afraid to question everything: putting the end of the song at the beginning, making an acoustic song heavy, changing the key of a song, or its chords. We agreed that anything was possible, that a song is not a sacred thing, and that we’re allowed to twist it – and that’s when the process began in earnest.”

Nothing is sacred in his creative process, but music itself holds something sacred for Larose, and on GLU, he appears to be constantly chasing the idea that life makes no sense. “Yes, there is a transcendent need in me that’s often disappointed,” he says. “Music becomes this vehicle through which I try to dig deep to see – and this is going to sound stupidly mystical – the Great Beyond.”