Photo by: Rachel Boese
Good things come to those who wait. Nobody knows this better than Winnipeg and Montreal-based band Chic Gamine. A five-year gap between studio albums – one filled with bold adventuring and winding detours – culminates in the release of their third album, Light A Match. They emerge renewed and transformed by a path that brought into sharp focus exactly where they wanted to go.
Intensely creative and always evolving, Chic Gamine have built much since their start in 2007 – touring across Canada, the USA and parts of Europe, bringing their sound to venues everywhere, to festivals such as the Montreal Jazz Festival, Festival International de Louisiane, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary’s respective Folk Festivals, France’s Transmusicales and SXSW amongst others. They’ve performed and toured opening for Mavis Staples, Smokey Robinson, Marc Broussard and Lake Street Dive. They’ve played before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second of England and their music has been used on ABC’s The Fosters and General Hospital. They’ve been a favourite on A Prairie Home Companion, CBC and Espace Musique (who chose them as one of their musical Revelations of 2009/10), and were selected as a must-see act by NPR’s Stephen Thompson at SXSW in 2012. Their first self-titled album was released in 2008 and garnered them a 2009 Juno for best Roots Album. Their sophomore album, City City (2010), was nominated for a 2011 Juno in the same category. Then came an American re-release, Closer in 2012 – mixed and mastered anew by three of Rick Rubin’s Grammy Award-winning engineers – and in winter 2014, the Holiday-themed EP they pushed on a six-week, cross Canada run with Stuart Maclean’s Vinyl Cafe, Christmas Vol. 1.
Enter Light A Match. More daring than their previous records, Light A Match shows an amped-up, fleshed-out side of Chic Gamine, one they say is truer to the vision they originally had for themselves, one they needed time to evolve into. And the challenges of making a record in a band split between two cities, five years of intense touring in a van with a child on the road and personnel changes – founding member Ariane Jean left in early 2014 for a life off the road, and in came multi-instrumentalist Benoit Morier to fill the void – would be enough to make most bands have an existential crisis.
And here they are, existing, and putting out a record that proves they’re better than ever and just as magnetic as in their fresh-faced beginning. To make this record, the band wanted a collaborator to assist in arranging and polishing the songs. They chose Montreal producer/engineer Sébastien Blais-Montpetit (Groenland, Champion, Secret Sun, etc.), to come in and play with texture and feel, pushing performances up a notch, helping the band find its groove and explore the instrumentation they’d added over the last couple of years. Drummer Sacha Daoud and bass/guitar player Benoit Morier make a first-rate rhythm section, and their easy understanding creates something both deep and exciting to listen to. Andrina Turenne, Alexa Dirks and Annick Bremault have one of those rare vocal chemistries, and as ever, it’s those distinct voices that carry the music. You can hear them, the three blending beautifully, and also pick them apart from each other, easily recognizing each characteristic tone and energy, every subtle shift in timbre and volume. Together, they’re unfailingly emotional and stirring.
They’ve grown and become more ambitious as songwriters too. Subjects on the record range widely, from the danceable, r’n’b oriented Maybe I Need Some Good Loving, to the abstract, atmospheric bilingual Je tombe (Where I Fall), Chic Gamine talks love and relationships, boys, daydreams and slowly going crazy. On tracks like the tongue-in cheek Girlfriend, they reference their vast experience of meeting ambiguously attached men and the women they’re presumably attached to, asking, « why’d you put my name as Andrew in your phone » and the like. Both funny and real. The raucous All Night dives into the dicey territory of those heart-wrenching 3 a.m. fights, where no one knows up from down or how it even got started in the first place. I Could Be Your Girl paints the picture of a girl whose relationship is a figment of her obsessive imagination. The title track, Light A Match, poses primordial questions: What do you do with the spark that is your life? Do you snuff it out or do you blow it into proportions undreamt of? Follow Through disarms with simplicity and emotion, and embodies the general self-reflection you sometimes get into when alone in the quietness of a disappointed or post-heartbroken slump. All told, there’s a sense of coming into one’s own here that is unmistakeable.
Off the road for the summer, Chic Gamine have been enjoying some well-deserved home time, while simultaneously gearing-up for a Fall release and tours.Time to start counting the days until their third studio album, Light A Match drops everywhere on October 23rd, 2015. So whether good things come in threes, small packages or to those who wait, with Light A Match, Chic Gamine – and the rest of us – have clearly got one very good thing on their hands.