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mercredi 9 mars 2011

Karkwa’s alter-nay-tive nation

While Karkwa don’t like seeing their faces in videos, they’re more than happy to play dress-up for the camera  (photo : Matthew Sherwood for National Post )

The morning after a late-night gig — and a later after-party — four of the five members of Karkwa are tucking quietly into brunch at a Toronto café. Frontman Louis-Jean Cormier, however, is being coached by his publicist.

What categories are you nominated in at the Junos?” she asks.
Cormier narrows his eyes. “Alter-nay-tive album of the year …
The publicist shakes her head. “Al-tur-nah-tive.”
Ah.

As a francophone band, Karkwa are a true alternative on the Canadian rock music circuit, and lately, they’ve been taking a crash course on how to succeed in the anglophone music world. The Montreal-based quintet were content to make their living playing in Quebec and French-speaking parts of Europe until their fourth release, Les chemins de verre, beat albums by the likes of Broken Social Scene and Tegan & Sara to win the Polaris Prize last September. Soon, booking agents were beating down their door: “We feel a bit like we’re starting a new career,” says Cormier.

They’re now touring the same kind of small, no-frills clubs they used to play when the band started in 1998, but this time in Ontario. “It keeps you grounded!” laughs keyboardist François Lafontaine. Karkwa are also learning English-language songs (Hockey Night in Canada featured their version of Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody, and they’ll be covering Leonard Cohen at Thursday’s Genie Awards), playing largely anglophone festivals (including Canadian Music Week this Friday and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, next week), and picking up enough music-business English to impress the media.

Their first test came the morning after their Polaris win, when all five crowded into a studio for an interview with CBC’s Q; they didn’t quite pass with flying colours. “We were still drunk,” admits Cormier, with a sheepish smile. But since then, he and Lafontaine — the band’s designated spokesmen — have honed their skills by chatting with the English newspapers in Quebec that all but ignored them during the first 12 years of their career, as well as the radio stations (“One of our songs is on CHUM-FM in Montreal, with Led Zeppelin!” enthuses Lafontaine), and the media outlets around the country who are just catching on to how creative this outfit is.

Les chemins de verre (or “The Glass Paths”), recorded just outside Paris in the studio where Feist worked on The Reminder, is a multi-layered album with shifting textures that only gradually reveal their intricacies. Onstage, Karkwa are more extroverted, offsetting their stately, Coldplay-esque melodies with Martin Lamontagne’s burrowing bass lines and Stéphane Bergeron and Julien Sagot’s two-drum kit attack. Opening for fellow Montrealers Plants and Animals at a sold-out show at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace last weekend, they were accorded the adulation usually reserved for a headlining act.

In person, though, they’re seemingly free of ego. “We don’t like seeing our faces in videos,” says Lafontaine. “Even photo shoots.” But instead of complaining when they’re shuffled off after brunch to a shoot in a vintage clothing store, they embrace the absurdity, trying on military coats, silly hats, multicoloured scarves — in the end, the band that’s known for their brooding, poetic lyrics look like a hippy version of The Village People.

Clearly, they’ve learned not to take themselves too seriously: they’re even happy to contribute their intense, haunting single Le pyromane (“the pyromaniac”) to the upcoming comedy film Jesus Henry Christ, produced by Julia Roberts.

They’ll play a gig in New York when the film opens, but they draw the line at a full-scale assault on America. “There will be always the language frontier,” shrugs Cormier. “We tried to sign with a big record label for the world, and they were very curious, but they freaked out because we sing in French.

He furrows his brow. “Al-ter-native album of the year. Al­­-ter-native.

Karkwa play Canadian Music Week on March 11 at Toronto’s Wrongbar.

Special to the National Post March 8, 2011 – 5:30 pm

By Mike Doherty

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Messages les plus consultés

"[Karkwa] qu'on en dise" le cap des 40 000 visiteurs a été dépassé le 21 juin 2011 alors que Karkwa performer à Paris pour le cinquantième anniversaire de la délégation générale du Québec à Paris.

Je remercie tous ceux qui ont trouvé,
depuis avril 2008, intérêt à visiter ces pages dédiées à mes amis de Karkwa et aux musicien(ne)s et musiques qui leur sont proches.

Rendez-vous est pris pour le 50000 éme visiteur ! :-)

Avertissement: Ce blog à pour but de regrouper et archiver les articles parus sur le net à propos de Karkwa. Il est fait par amitié pour les membres du groupe et leur entourage. Les liens vers les sites et articles d'origine sont faits, les auteurs sont cités lorsque possible. Si quiconque se sentait lésé dans ses droits, il n'aurait qu'a me contacter pour que je puisse remédier à la situation.