Never have I heard such a sweet, dreamy, melancholic mix of 90’s shoegaze music that feels laced with joy. Impressed that this amazing band is from our very own Montreal, I had to reach out to them. Their new album comes out in September and they play this Friday night (August 5th) at Sala Rossa with the well-established band NOTHING from Philadelphia. Their music can be heard on the radio in Thailand, France, the USA, Germany and Australia. They are gaining popularity but that isn’t their goal. They just want to mix sounds, make art for themselves and please the crowd.
History buffs and parents with day jobs, the band is saddened by the many acts of violence by far-right extremists that use their rage against the federal government and the liberals to justify hate-crimes. “We open every concert with our song The Lone Wolf and will until these acts of terrorism end. We believe in equality for every race and gender. We are progressive liberal humanists. We stand for love.”
Their new album is very different from their first. It is much more trance-like and I have had this on repeat all day. Perhaps it seems incongruous to have this band on a blog called The Cozy Sweater Café but I’ve danced to their influences Jesus and Mary Chain and Mazzy Star and I love that this band hits up that memory bank. Their sound is addictive.
I spoke to their lead singer and guitarist Maxime while he tried not to wake up his kids. I hope it doesn’t ruin their cool reputation if I say he was really nice and of course, very excited to talk about the music.
“We don’t want to be famous. We play for fun, to make art for ourselves, and please the crowd.”
Angelique: How did you meet?
Maxime: We are all from the Montreal area and we all had alternative bands in the 90’s. Actually, François and Jean-Sebastien used to play in the same band back in those days. A few decades later, we wanted to put something out together with the same kind of influences we had at that time. That means a lot of noise blended with some lush and dreamy guitar in the veins of Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and the legendary Neil Young.
A: What do you think makes your band work?
M: The chemistry is the key here!! For instance, someone in the band plays an E chord and everyone else knows exactly where to go with their instruments. We all have different tastes in music, but we all agreed that we like, what Phil Spector once called, the “Wall of Sound”. We like to create and to play loud. And, of course, we like the sweet taste of what different pedals can add to our musical sound!! Perhaps that’s why people describe our sound as shoegaze, alternative or whatever…
A: What time periods in history influence your music most?
M: Well, as humanists, each band member loves history and political science, especially contemporary history. I have a Master’s degree in American history. A lot of our songs take their influence from historical events. For instance, our new song Checkpoint Charlie talks about East and West Berlin during the Cold War era.
A: What does your band title mean?
M: The City Gates is inspired by the wall that encircled the city of London during Roman times. There were some gates to enter the city that were called The City Gates.
A: What are your band goals?
M: We don’t have particular goals, except for playing music we like and the way we like. And, of course, to play as many shows as possible.
A: Who is the lone wolf?
M: I will quote an article entitled “The Lone Wolf Disconnect” from Fred Burton and Scott Stewart here. A lone wolf is a person who performs acts of terrorism “on his or her own without orders from — or even connections to — an organization”. (Fred Burton and Scott Stewart, « The Lone Wold Disconnect », STRATFOR Global Intelligence, January 30, 2008). The Lone Wolf theory takes its origins from the far right and neo-Nazis ranks in the U.S.A. somewhere in the mid 1970’s and the 80’s. It was popularised in the 1990’s with the McVeigh’s Oklahoma City Bombing, the Ruby Ridge incident and the siege of Waco. Most people used to talk a lot about Islamic terrorism, but let’s not forgot the American racist heritage with slavery and the civil right movement, for example.
A: What do you guys love so much about making music?
M: We love to create sounds. It’s a way to exhale and to clear our mind.
A: What are your influences?
M: The 80’s & 90’s alternative, shoegaze, new wave and punk scene definitely have an influence on our sound. It’s the music that we grew up with: J&MC, Slowdive, Lush, Ramones, Sonic Youth, Chapterhouse, Catherine Wheel, Joy Division, etc.
A: What is your technique? You have a lot of different equipment – why?
M: Technique… Hum! Let’s say we let our imagination take the lead. We like to play with sound textures and melodies. To make this the way we want it, we like to use different kinds of tuning, and a large selection of guitars, bass and a lot of pedals. We just love to make weird, but melodic, noises and sounds.
A: Have you established your sound or are you still experimenting?
M: I think our sound is well established, but we will always experiment with new musical sounds. That’s the part we love. I hope that we will never get stuck in a frame. I think that it’s important for us!
A: Where and when can people see you play?
M: You can see us at Sala Rossa in Montreal on Friday, August 5th. On August 20th you can see us at Sous-sol du Cercle in Quebec City, and in Ottawa on November 12th at Robot Bar. All the details are on our Facebook page.
M: Keep listening to new bands and rediscovering the old ones. We will release an album somewhere in the summer/fall of 2016. You can already hear some of our new songs on our website.
See you there!
Merci Maxime. xx