Songs that have a life of their own: LENOIRE - CFMU Artist Sketch
We learned to be totally free and to trust people and to live with little.
LENOIRE might be styled as "Montreal's Backseat Rhythm'n blues trio" but, last week at CFMU, they took over the front seat in a big way. Their EP Satisfaction reached #4 on our Top 30 charts, climbing steadily up from its intial spot at #16; they earned a place in our latest Top 5 video as a result.
And for good reason, too; the track "All Night" immediately pulled me in when I heard it, with its smooth but expressive R&B instrumentals under gracefully raw-sounding vocals. The rest of the album came as a pleasant surprise in that each song was so very different from the last, and yet the shift between genres felt both effortless and seamless. This combined with the band's unique history - having been formed during the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans - compelled me to reach out and learn what I could about the trio.
Your trio formed in New Orleans under the influence of Mardi Gras. Could you expand on that interesting history a little bit more? Is there a particular memory during those beginning days that stands out to you?
Well, we arrived in New Orleans separately, a couple days before the Mardi Gras. We realized we had no clue and very little money. Still we had a simple plan; to write songs and to hustle together an EP. We learned to be totally free and to trust people and live with little. By the time Mardi Gras arrived, we had crazy friends, a tent, and a secret spot to sleep near the zoo. All these stories led to the dreamy EP that we made while helping an ill and old guitarist cook, in exchange for his help recording.
How did you come to love R&B? What are your musical backgrounds and major influences? Do the three of you all have similar influences, and if not, how do your different backgrounds combine working together as a band?
Gabriel: Love and Happiness, the Al Green song, I remember Antoine sent me that and I was mindblown. We grew up as friend, and were sharing a lot of albums (yes, yes, physicals) and we've learned a lot while playing those artists:We're fond of old music, but also you know, of these records that sounds true, and some contemporary artist like Kendrick Lamar or Thom Yorke have that touch
Pink Floyd, Jimmy Hendrix, Ray Charles, The Beatles, The Clash, Duke Ellington, The Rolling Stones, Skip James, Ebo Taylor, Thelonious Monk, oh yeah we love those. We have a lot of similar influences, from classical all the way to electro.
...By the time Mardi Gras arrived, we had crazy friends, a tent, and a secret spot to sleep near the zoo.
LISTEN: The Satisfaction EP by Montreal-based trio LENOIRE
I’m interested in what is meant by LENOIRE’s “natural spontaneity”. Do you feel this applies to your personalities, your music, or both?
Both, we joke and mess around with each other a lot. We like to have fun.
How do your personalities mesh when it comes to working together as a band and as people? Do your strengths complement each other?
We joke a lot, humor is a big part of all our personalities. Gabriel is the sensitive one, Antoine is the star, and Carolyne is the funky monkey hanging from the roof
Gabriel is the sensitive one, Antoine is the star, and Carolyne is the funky monkey hanging from the roof.
All the songs on Satisfaction are very distinct and each shows a completely new facet of the band’s stylistic range. Is versatility and variety something that was consciously prioritized for this album, or did it happen unconsciously?
The variety of it happened unconsciously, but we do tend to try and make songs that have a life of their own, we don't try to make things inside of a set box just to get it done.
I’m curious about “Shine A Light”, as it’s very different from the rest of the album with its raw sound and ambient background noises. What inspired that track?
Shine A Light, came as a song to express the frustration with the ubiquity of phones and all these other gadget distractions, the background noises emphasize the importance of paying attention to the world that surrounds us instead of insulating ourselves in a man-made echo chamber. Just like ...All Those Things That Make Me A Man we purposefully recorded it in a semi shoddy way to emphasize its essence,
...We do tend to try and make songs that have a life of their own, we don't try to make things inside of a set box just to get it done.
How much, if at all, would you say your music is influenced by Francophone music, as a band formed around Mardi Gras and based in Montreal?
Well we are all bilingual so its probably affected us 50% but, we're fairly picky with french music our biggest influence is probably Jean Leloup. I think its safe to say that a lot of conscious influences are anglophone since Blues and RNB are deeply tied to the English language.
In the music video for Bed Rhythm, you’re all playing on a rooftop together. Do you have a favourite place to work on music or perform together?
Probably outside, in the sun; a room with big windows and a piano. Or while being on the road, we know its not really a place, but it kind of is... you know?
WATCH: Music Video - "Bed Rhythm" by LENOIRE
Do any of you have a personal favourite of all of your songs?
Carolyne: Shine A Light. Maybe it's because we rarely play it in shows, but it's one of our songs I enjoy listening to without finding it weird that I'm listening to my own music.
Gabriel: I guess What Were You Thinking, mostly because we really composed it all together.. It's rich and smooth, it's a well crafted song.
Antoine: Will Said You'd Call, its very personal to the adversity and growth we experienced in New Orleans, its also one of the songs that people tell me have affected them emotionally, or helped them through the day.
[About Will Said You'd Call] it's...one of the songs that people tell me have affected them emotionally, or helped them through the day.
LISTEN: Will Said You'd Call - LENOIRE
What would you say is the #1 message or feeling you would want people to take away from your music?
Embracing emptiness, the inevitability of passing time, and the frivolous nature of self conscious creatures.
That's a wrap on this week's Artist Sketch! If you find yourself intrigued by this free-spirited Montreal trio (and who wouldn't be?), be sure to check out their Bandcamp (for all their tracks), YouTube (for music videos), and their official website (for upcoming tour dates and more!).
Olivia Fava is the Community Outreach Coordinator at 93.3 CFMU. She is the host of Morningfile and Rainbow Radio, a celebration of LGBTQ+ music airing Monday nights. She is also a musician who particularly enjoys spontaneous guitar sessions in nature.