“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.”
Photo by Mayxme G. Delisle
Fanny Bloom: Living Her Age
Story by Dominic Tardif | Thursday March 29th, 2018
Mystery. A girl with an ethereal, colourful and festive image she can’t dodge, even though her first two solo albums delved fearlessly into some darkness, an inevitability that comes with age. Apprentie guerrière (2012) was about grieving for relationships once believed to be eternal, and Pan (2014) was about the difficulty of leaving behind a past of wounds that take way too long to heal.
Liqueur could very well be Fanny Bloom’s first album to bring the peace. It’s tempting to conclude as much when – in a song like “On s’aimera,” about stormy weather lingering a little too long – the singer is begging herself to believe that true love will weather even the nastiest storm.
“I guess age does kick in, at some point,” says Bloom, a little bemused by her role as a young veteran, a title she’s earned with this fourth, post-Patère rose album. Fate being what it is, Bloom is celebrating her 32nd birthday on the day we speak.
“I would’ve loved to experience this peaceful state of mind earlier, but I guess I had no choice but to go through all that to get here,” she says. “This state of mind owes a lot to the solo album and tour that I did [Fanny Bloom, released in 2016, a compilation of re-recordings some of her best songs]. I was on my own, and it gave me a big confidence boost. It was kind of a re-set.”
Back in her cabin, alongside Patère rose collaborators Thomas Hébert and Julien Harbec (nowadays known as the duo TŌKINOISE), Bloom took advantage of the life-saving blank page to leave her old, tenacious angst in the margins.
“I was inhabited by a completely different energy than usual,” she says. “We weren’t only nonchalant, but we wanted to be nonchalant. We weren’t there to re-invent pop music. Our attitude was more along the lines of, let’s have a beer, write lyrics, I’ll sing, and we’ll have fun. It might sound weird to say this, but what I learned while creating Liqueur is that music isn’t such a big deal. I had a life before people knew about me, and I’ll have one after. I used to be motivated by being famous, making sure each album grew my audience, but that’s exhausting after a while, and I just let go of it.”
Joyful paradox: Fanny Bloom has never been invited to appear on TV and radio shows more than since she released “Petit bois” a few months ago, her ode to the creative fertility of the countryside, and a teaser single for Liqueur.
Bloom has written many an apparently immodest song – to wit, the songs on Pan – where she longed for her lover to slip under the sheets. Yet, she’s never written such an intimate song as “Lily,” a letter to her boyfriend about his departed mother, the very sober arrangements of which are in stark contrast with to the rest of the album, laden with electronic rhythms and synthetic sounds.
“Singing about me yearning for my boyfriend, wearing nothing but knickers [as in that song on Pan], is no big deal for me, it’s part of life,” says Bloom. “At the most, it makes a few older women giggle when I’m onstage. Singing about Thomas’s mom, it’s very engrossing, because it’s so precious. It was such an intimate song that I actually hesitated to release it. I wasn’t sure Thomas would allow me to release it. His mom’s death was such a taboo topic between us, for a very long time. But now, it feels like I was meeting that woman, who I never met, for the first time. And the result is, I can now mention his mother in a conversation without creating any awkwardness. His memories of his mom are no longer just painful.”
“Cache-nous le pire/ Dis ce qu’il faut dire/ Tu es trop sensible/ Parce que tu es une fille” (Hide the worst / Say what you’re supposed to / You’re too sensitive / Because you’re a girl), she sings, ironically on “Au réveil,” – as if to subvert the discourse that pigeonholed her as a child-voiced singer, and therefore impossible to take seriously.
Did she hear that kind of nonsense a lot? She answers unequivocally: “My God! So much!” she says. “People say girls are too sensitive. Friends tell us that, we even tell ourselves that, sometimes. It really irritates me when I feel something and people belittle that. It really pisses me off! It’s like throwing oil on the fire! Shut the fuck up!”
As straightforward as ever, but a lot less taciturn than she used to be, Bloom has never seemed so much… in bloom! As per these lines from “Château fort”: “Les étoiles éternelles/ Se donnent beaucoup trop de mal/ Pour qu’entre nous et elles/ Leur lumière émane/ C’est à croire qu’elles sont fidèles/ Et que c’est plutôt normal/ Leur goût irrationnel de briller/ Et je me sens un peu comme elles/ Éparpillée et loyale/ Et j’ai l’envie réelle/ De vivre mon âge.” (Eternal stars / Are trying way too hard / So that between them and us / Their light will emanate / It’s almost as if they’re faithful / In their irrational taste for shining brightly / And I feel a bit like them / Scattered and loyal / To live my own age)
What does living her age mean? “Well, it means many things at once,” says Bloom. “It means continuing to seize the day as much as you can, live truly, and not grow old too fast in your head. Sometimes I’ll look at friends on Facebook and be like ‘What’s that?’ I feel like telling them: ‘Seize the day, for God’s sake!’ Of course, everyone’s entitled to find their happiness where they see fit, but seeing friends you grew up with embrace such intense clichés as getting married and having babies and buying a new house in a treeless new development – and in that order! – makes me want to stay young a little longer.”
Choosing happiness without conformity; now there’s a wise bet to make.
Photo by Jimmi Francoeur
Rémi Chassé: Digging his Rock
Story by Stéfane Campbell | Tuesday March 27th, 2018
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.
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.”