Culture | The good life is jazzy rhythms

Montreal-based Groenland discusses upcoming album

Jean-Vivier Levesque doesn’t want his band, Groenland, to become super famous. “I’d like [our band] to be popular, but not too big,” he explains. “Go to nice festivals in the summer […]. Just, the good life.” Listen to Groenland, and you’ll know what he means: the good life is jazzy rhythms, lilting electronic melodies, a bumping bass line, and rich, powerful vocals shining through it all like the beaming summer sun.

Jean-Vivier Levesque and Sabrina Halde lead Groenland, a Montreal indie pop ensemble, alongside members Jonathan Charette, Ariane Gruet-Pelchat, Simon Gosselin, and Mariane Bertrand. The band weaves together vocals, electronic rhythms, and stringed instruments. Their second album, “A Wider Space,” drops on September 16 via Bonsound.

The Daily sat down with Halde and Levesque to talk about their music, Tim Hortons, the Montreal pop scene, the end of rock and indie music, the explosion of Do-It-Yourself music, and dancing on stage.

The McGill Daily (MD): So you’re about to start your tour?

Sabrina Halde (SH): Yes!

Jean-Vivier Levesque (JVL): The thing is, we always eat at Tim Hortons. All the girls [in the band] are against it, then somehow on tour we’re like, there’s Tim Hortons! And all the girls are like come on […]. I still like it after all these years.

MD: What is the music scene like in Montreal?

JVL: It’s a small place where you know a lot of bands […]. There are only a few venues. I don’t know if you know le Quai des Brumes? It’s a place we go often, and there’s a lot of musicians there […]. Casa del Popolo is another place where bands go. It’s a nice scene.

SH: Our friends work there. But there’s still a French side and an anglophone side.

MD: Do you think the music scene is different here than in Toronto, for example? Because you worked there for a while.

JVL: We like to go to Toronto, but we don’t know the scene there, really. We go to some venues, but they are very far apart […]. It’s tougher to go to a venue in Toronto.

MD: Has anything [interesting] ever happened on tour?

JVL: One time, we were in a hotel in Germany […]. It was like three in the morning, and there was a guy knocking at every door […]. We were waking up, and we were like, what’s happening […]. The guy was stuck in the hotel. He couldn’t go outside because it was locked. He just wanted to get out, and he was just talking in German […]. Finally someone understood him, and got the keys, and he was like, “Thanks!” He was very sweet, finally. We were very afraid, and we didn’t know what to do.

SH: So if it’s the end of the world, I don’t want you to protect me.

JVL: I was like, “Oh no no no no!”

MD: Do you think your time at university prepared you for what you’re doing now?

JVL: I don’t think we used our knowledge that much, but I think I’m still a better musician after all that studying […]. We learned a lot of things, it’s just, we don’t remember what exactly […]. We understand music better than before.

SH: It feels better to go back to something simple. When you learn a lot, but you’re like, I’m still gonna go back to something simple, pop music […]. It feels like there’s a reason you go there.

MD: If you could go back in time to ten years ago, and give advice to yourself, what would it be?

SH: Don’t try to control things so much. Let it go. With the first album, everything happened so smoothly. The people we met, everything.

JVL: I would say, rehearse a little bit more, though.

SH: I would say, listen to yourself. Do what you need to do so you can feel better.

MD: What do you see for the future of Groenland?

JVL: I’d like it to be popular, but not too big […]. I hope that people are going to like the album […]. We’d like to tour, not too much […]. Go to nice festivals in the summer […]. Not the really big venues, but with good people. Just, the quiet life.

MD: You have a pretty big band, with a lot of people. How do you find working together to make the finished product?

SH: Well, [Jean-Vivier and I] start writing the songs together, and we make all the decisions.

JVL: It’s easier like that. We chose that, and the musicians are aware of that since the beginning, and were willing to go in our project like that. They are creative, too, and they bring their own ideas, but in the end we always decide, and everybody’s cool with that. It’s very easy with our band.

MD: How do you think the genre of pop music is changing, right now?

SH: When we started the band, we were listening to a lot of indie music. I feel like indie is getting lost somewhere […].

JVL: It’s the end of rock. It doesn’t exist anymore […]. Now [the trend is] going more to synth.

MD: Do you think everyone’s ‘indie’ now?

JVL: It doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to. When you say ‘indie,’ what does it mean? It was more clear up until a couple of years ago.

SH: That’s how the industry is changing. [Indie] became a thing because everyone could make music by themselves, on their computer. Now everybody’s doing that. At first, people were learning, but now, everybody’s doing that, so it’s all indie […]. But I guess there’s still a difference of aesthetic. From really produced pop music, and then like, indie music. It’s more creative.

MD: If you could imagine who’s listening to your songs, who would it be?

JVL: There seem to be a lot of different ages at the shows in Quebec. There are always young people, old people, every age. I was surprised about that.

SH: I hope there will be people like me, listening […]. We’re careful that we don’t make a sort of naïve, poppy music. So children can listen to it, but so can older people.

JVL: This album is less naïve than the first. Maybe the kids will like it less, I don’t know.

SH: I hope not, I hope they’ll still come [to our shows]! We love it when there’s kids dancing.

JVL: Once we said, “come dancing!” and they were like, “okay, we’re coming!” And then there were like thirty kids on the stage, for the whole show.

SH: They were having so much fun! It was like a whole other show for people to watch, just babies dancing together. I was so happy the whole time. It was in a park, outside. It was sunny.

MD: How do your songs change over time?

JVL: A lot, I think, mostly because of what we’re listening to. We’re inspired by different music […]. For us it feels different, this album. But I really don’t know what people will think. Maybe they will find it very similar.

SH: It’s completely different. We had an interview and they said the songs were more ambiguous. I feel like it’s the opposite, I think the songs are more mature.

JVL: We’ll wait for people to say what they think. Then [we] will understand the album more, [ourselves].

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Catch Groenland at Club Soda on September 22, or stream “A Wider Space” on iTunes.