There is little doubting the fact that Montréal boasts one of the finest Independent music scenes not only in Canada, but the rest of the world as well. However, the most recognized artists dating back to Oscar Peterson, Leonard Cohen and up to more recent acts such as Arcade Fire, Chromeo, Grimes, and Half Moon Run are all either anglophone artists or those who have chosen to express themselves in English (see Celine Dion). What also exists not only in the city, but the entire province of Québec, is a very large and vastly talented pool of artists not known to those outside of the Francophone community. This article is a small attempt to shed light on just a few of those artists as well as a little background on how I was fortunate enough to stumble upon such a scene.

Approximately five and a half years ago I made a spontaneous decision to move to Montréal amid the hopes of restarting adulthood with a fresh perspective in a completely unfamiliar environment. Without an ounce of bilingualism and very little friends it was only a matter of time before I started mingling with local Montréalers. I quickly found an apartment online with two similar aged gentlemen, one of whom was studying Meteorology and hailed from Montpellier, a beautiful oceanside city in the South of France. It was not long before I was introduced to his wide range of colleagues, many coming from both Montréal and other more rural regions of the province. This led to the discovery of a hidden gem of culture and artistry I was previously foreign to due to a lacking presence of mainstream attention. These are just a few of the many musicians I’ve come to discover over the years originating from la belle province.

 

Born just outside of Québec City in a suburb called Saint Nicolas, Jimmy Hunt has been an active part of the province’s music scene since roughly 2000 where he began turning heads with his former band, Chocolat. Hunt’s style is a mixture of Indie Rock and Pop with with influences from 60’s era musicians such as Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Les moineaux et les loups, which translates to, “The Sparrows and the Wolves,” is a soft atmospheric piece from his self-titled album released in 2010.

 

Jean LeLoup, or “Jean the Wolf” in English, is a rock musician whose name has achieved household status across the province. He is known for his provocative lyrics, sometimes veering toward the political realm and often containing creative usage of the French Language such as puns and other play on words. Leloup’s style hasn’t only carved a permanent place in Quebec’s music scene, but has made a significant impact on its artistic identity as well. The best way to describe his effect it is to think of what Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip have done for the cultural identity of the rest of Canada. À Paradis City is an upbeat track from his latest album of the same name, released in 2015.

 

Montréal based Indie rocker’s known as, Malajube, quickly became known in Québec after their 2004 release, “Le Compte Complet”. The project started with a group of musically-inclined friends from Sorel-Tracy who eventually moved to the big city to explore greater opportunities. Since their debut album, the band has gone on to tour not only other regions of Canada, but the United States as well, appearing at such major festivals as Austin’s South by Southwest and the CMJ (College Music Journal) Music Marathon in New York City. Other notable feats include the composition and production of the soundtrack to Jay Baruchel’s 2010 Indie Comedy, The Trotsky, and performing at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Etienne D’août is a personal favorite and has also been covered by fellow Montreal Indie band, Plants and Animals.

 

Coeur de Pirate is the performing name of Outremont based indie-pop singer-songwriter, Beatrice Martin. Martin has been credited with rekindling a youth appreciation of Québec musicianship throughout the province. Her early beginnings date back to 2004 when she began playing keyboards for post-hardcore band, December Strikes First. In 2007 she started writing and performing as Coeur de Pirate and stated through interviews that she chose the name to appear as less of a solo musician and more of a band. Since then she has produced four studio albums and the soundtrack for Ubisoft’s 2014 platform role playing game, Child of Light. The above video is an incredible performance shot roughly three years ago in Toronto’s famous theatre venue, Massey Hall.

 

Born Xavier Plante in Aylmer, a former town now part of the greater Gatineau region just outside of Ottawa, Xavier Cafeine has been an important contributor to Québec’s independent scene since 2006 when he recorded his first professional studio album, “Gisele”, through Indica records. However, his introduction to performing began much earlier after receiving formal jazz-pop bass training from Montréal’s pre-university college, Marie-Victorin. Between 1997 and 2005 he recorded two solo albums and mainly played smaller shows throughout the city. Since the release of “Gisele”, he has gone on to perform at much larger venues including internationally renowned festival, Osheaga in 2007, and has recorded two more studio albums, “Bushido”, and, “New Love”, released in 2009 and 2013 respectively. Electric is the first single from New Love and includes an English version that has accumulated regular airplay on Montréal’s popular rock station, Chom FM.

The above artists are just a small sample of the many notable musicians of the province of Québec. They were the performers I was introduced to initially which have led to a much greater and more in depth exploration of the province’s vast and ever expanding scene. One article is simply not enough to provide readers adequate incite into a topic that requires an entire novel to cover. I urge anyone who is interested to step outside of their musical comfort zone and research not only the Québec scene, but other parts of the non-anglophone world as well. There is an endless spectrum of talent to be discovered that reaches far beyond the small pocket of musicians and artists that many of us have become too comfortably satisfied with.

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About The Author

Adam Stewart
Collaborator - RREVERB

Born into a musical family, I’ve been heavily addicted to playing and listening since the first time I laid fingers on my grandmother’s dateless electric organ. My father was an acoustic guitarist who loved CCR and my mother was a competitive tap dancer in her youth. These surroundings lead me to the guitar where I eventually trained myself in jazz theory and began to involve myself in my hometown’s music scene. Moving to Montreal has only expanded this lifelong passion and the city’s vast diversity has provided for me an endless journey into new musical discovery.