Refreshing. Energetic. Contagious. There are many words that can be used to describe the music of Groenland. Montreal’s indie pop darlings are currently on tour this summer, playing various festivals in Québec. Luckily for us, the band will also be making a stop at this year’s Bluesfest, playing the River Stage on Sunday afternoon. Earlier this week, I spoke to Jean Viver Lévesque, a multi-talented musician (keyboard, electros & percussions) and one of the two founding members of the band to get the inside story on Groenland.
Make no mistake; Groenland is more than just indie pop. Their music also features many orchestral elements with a touch of electro. The band is comprised of six members and they play many different instruments. Their debut album “The Chase”, released last year, was very well received and the band doesn’t plan on stopping there.
So what’s the story behind the group? Eight years ago, Lévesque and Sabrina Halde met while studying musique at Collège Saint-Laurent and they bonded. Their paths crossed again while studying at Université de Montréal. The two of them decided to then join forces and start a band. At first, they wanted to make electronic music, just the two of them. Lévesque explained that they eventually got bored and also that making that type of music was not their strength. By adding more members to the group, it changed the sound that the band originally had in mind but it turned out quite well, according to Lévesque.
So why Groenland? What does Groenland represent to the group? “We liked the idea of a very visual name,” shared Lévesque. This visual element is well represented on the album cover and the disc jacket. “We don’t know this place […] So you can imagine what you want about this place.” But Groenland wasn’t the original idea for the band’s name. The group started out with the name La Pieuvre, which is now the title of a track off “The Chase”. However, Lévesque explained that the name did not last for very long because the band wasn’t very confident about it.
As you can probably imagine, writing songs with a group of six musicians could very well be a challenge. However, Lévesque shared that good communication makes it easy. “After three years, the members are more involved in the process. Sabrina and I will write the songs, and after we come to the band, and we discuss all the different parts. It’s easy.” Although creating the music is a group effort, Halde is the one who does most of the songwriting.
Although the band only formed three years ago, and “The Chase” was released only a year ago, Groenland has received lots of praise and nominations for their album, including Album of the Year - Anglophone and Album Design at L'Autre Gala de l'ADISQ, an award show that celebrates excellence in music industry in Quebec.
For many of you, this will be your first time seeing Groenland perform live. So what can you expect from their live show? I asked Lévesque. “People who know the album will find us a lot more energetic. It’s a fun show […] we like talking to people.” The band recently played their biggest show ever, as part of the FestiVoix de Trois-Rivières. “Playing outdoor shows is new for us but we’re really enjoying it […] It suits us really well. We like the feel of it, it’s outside, there are more people. The crowd is more laid-back.”
So does the band prefer the outdoor festival shows to the intimate performances in small venues? “We just realized that we prefer outdoor shows with big crowds but we didn’t know before because we had never done it.” I think we can all agree that playing a bigger show outdoor is different than playing in a club. “There’s an intimacy that’s really nice with the small crowd of an indoor show but the outdoor shows are more festive,” he added. Lévesque also likes that there is more room on the stage, although the crowd is sometimes farther physically.
Last year, the group was invited to travel to France to attend the Festival Off-Courts in Trouville. They spent two weeks in the country, playing two shows and working on music for a short film. According to Lévesque, that was definitely a highlight for the group. Another memorable moment was the band’s first show after their album was released, which took place at the Divan Orange in Montreal. The show was packed, and there were tons of people waiting outside to get into the venue. The band was quite surprised. “Some of our friends were waiting outside and couldn’t even get in,” added Lévesque.
Groenland was in Ottawa earlier this year, playing to a packed house at Zaphods. During that show, they played an amazing cover of Retrograde by James Blake. They completely transformed the song into one of their own, and the crowd loved it. “We like playing covers but our manager doesn’t like it as much [laughs].” They decided to play some covers when they were asked to do a longer set. The song [Retrograde] had only been released three months prior so they felt a bit weird doing a cover of a song so fresh. However, the band was pleased with the result. “Sabrina sings it quite differently [than the original]. I like the feel of the song the way we play it.”
The future is bright for Groenland! The band is currently working on new material. A new album is in the works but according to Lévesque, they don’t rush through the process because the band members are perfectionists. They would like to travel to Europe but it’s more challenging. “Touring in Quebec is easy for us right now because it’s in our neighbourhood. Maybe [touring internationally] will have to wait until the new album is released. But traveling with the band has been a dream for us since the very beginning.”
It's hard to deny there’s something about Groenland. Something magical and youthful. One’s thing for sure: Groenland will definitely get stuck in your head! So make your way to Bluesfest Sunday afternoon and dance to your heart's content by the river.
Sunday, July 13, 2014 @ 3pm
River Stage @ RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest