Original interview found here.
With two shows at Club Soda on November 24th and 25th, the Pascale Picard Band returns to Montreal in support of their new album, A Letter to No One. Pascale Picard was gracious enough to speak with us about the album, the shows, an upcoming television project and other sundries.
Midnight Poutine: You’ve just finished recording a number of covers for the soundtrack of season 3 of Trauma. They include The Kinks’ Strangers, The Rolling Stones’ As Tears Go By, Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, and Paul Simon’s The Only Living Boy in NY. You started, like many artists, playing covers in bars. Do you approach another artists’ material differently than you would your own?
Pascale Picard: I don’t know, in fact, because I can only see the song from my point of view. As a band, we only have two records of original stuff, so we wouldn’t release a cover album right now. I wouldn’t feel ready to do that, because we still have our own stuff to sing. As you said, I started playing covers and didn’t have a band at that time… so I started playing alone which is what Fabienne Larouche, the writer of [Trauma], asked me [to do]. We did it as a band, but she wanted us to be minimal [with our arrangements] so she didn’t choose many rock and roll songs. We tried to do it the most minimal we could because the arrangements were already there.
MP: With something like the Paul Simon tune, it’s already pretty sparse… so you don’t have to change much.
PP: No, I’m not that pretentious! We had such a blast [on this project]. We did it in a week and the boys cooked a lot and watched a lot of rock documentaries because they didn’t have to work that much.
MP: So it was all you, mostly?
PP: Kind of, kind of… but that’s nice because there were no ego-trips. We played two songs together, but I’m not sure if I can tell you the titles just yet.
MP: Out of curiosity, can you tell me your favourite song from the recording of the soundtrack?
PP: I don’t know… I really like them all because it was teamwork when it came to choosing all the songs. Fabienne proposed a few and the ones I felt comfortable with, we did. For the others, I proposed tunes that I thought could fit.
MP: Knowing the success of Ariane Moffat’s soundtrack for Trauma, do you feel pressure for this season’s soundtrack to do well?
PP: I don’t think about it right now, in fact. First of all, we don’t know when the record is going to come out and for Ariane, [the soundtrack] was a mix of both seasons because she did season one and season two and they took the twelve greatest songs. I don’t really care about it because I’m proud of what we did. It’s not the same kind of stress as it is for our record and our songs.
MP: So this is more of a side project that you had fun with…
PP: Yes, totally.
MP: I’m curious about your writing process. Do you write first in French and then translate to English or do you start in English?
PP: I write in English. Yeah, it’s weird.
MP: What led to that decision?
PP: In fact, it was not really a choice. I’ve been listening to music since I was 3 or 4. I grew up on Beatles songs because my parents were huge fans and I learned my English first from reading the lyrics. When I started to write, I think I was 13 and I was not so comfortable in English at that time because of what you learn at school… and I did not travel a lot… but it came out naturally in English. I don’t know why… maybe because I felt like it [put] a distance between my personal thoughts and all my family who all speak French.
MP: So it was a way to express yourself without revealing yourself to the one’s your closest to…
PP: Yeah, something like that, I think. But I never thought about it until people asked me why I sing in English.
MP: Rhyme isn’t used much in your lyrics, but rhythm is very important, is it difficult to find rhythmic schemes in English that best match your words?
PP: I don’t know. It’s really something I don’t understand. I never studied music; I can’t even read music. It’s really something natural. The only thing I really have control over is my discipline. When I feel I have to write something or when I have an idea… when I know something is going to come out, I have to sit down, stop what I’m doing and write it down and try to work on the song.
MP: You seem to be experimenting more with devices like metaphor on your new album, A Letter to No One. What inspired you to approach your writing differently this time?
PP: Wow, you really listened to the album. That’s nice. Few people noticed that I used metaphor. To answer your question, I don’t know. I feel comfortable with it. I think it’s something I do naturally. I’m a person that really lives in her head, so maybe I’m trying to put images there – it’s like a reflex.
MP: While the sound of your new album relates to your first album, it seems the product of an artist who wants to stretch their sound; there is a definite evolution. You’ve added strings and pedal steel guitar. The song Nobody’s Here to Break Your Heart even has a classic country ballad feel. Was this a conscious decision you made prior to recording, or did it occur organically in the studio?
PP: Once again, it was something natural. We worked for a year on this record; at first we spent three months recording in Morin-Heights and then we decided we didn’t have what we wanted, although we didn’t know what we wanted. When you listen to the stuff you’ve been working on for three months and you don’t want your friends to listen to it because you’re not proud of it, it kind of rings a bell. So we went back to our local and wrote other songs. We had three or four months to start again and try everything. In the end we cut 8 or 10 songs. We chose the ones we preferred so maybe we’ll have a B-sides CD, I don’t know.
MP: It sounds like when it comes to the arrangement of songs, it’s very much a group decision.
PP: Yeah, it’s intuitive.
MP: You have two shows coming up in Montreal on the 24th and 25th at Club Soda. Are you looking forward to coming back and playing in Montreal?
PP: Yeah, totally. I guess the last time we played in Montreal was two or three years ago? Our show, I mean. We did M for Montreal and we played a few venues, but only for 20 minutes. Now it’s going to be our show and we get to play all the songs on the new album and we still have some from the first album. It’s a new show and we’re now five on stage, which is great. All the guys sing now; they didn’t do that on our first tour. There’s a different synergy now.
MP: Is the audience different here? Is it more of a mix of Anglo and Francophone, or do you find there’s a separation between the two communities?
PP: It’s hard for me to tell. I live in Quebec City and in Quebec there are not many Anglophones. We play in front of a French crowd. We did an iTunes session on St. Catherine a couple of months ago and many Anglophones were there so… we’ll see at Club Soda. We hope to have both!
MP: What do you love about Montreal?
PP: For me, it’s always a journey. In Quebec I don’t go out that much. I kind of live in the boonies. I love all the restaurants, the musical scene, the culture… there’s a lot to do. If you want to go out on Monday night in Quebec, it’s kind of impossible.
MP: Who is your favourite Canadian artist?
PP: Wow, I have so many. I am a big fan of The Weakerthans and they know it. I love Metric, The Be Good Tanyas, The Wooden Sky, Mother Mother… I love all of them.
MP: What do you love most about poutine?
PP: It’s something you can eat at any time. It’s always comfort food. It’s OK for breakfast and also at 4 in the morning.
MP: What do you hate most about poutine?
PP: Nothing. How can you hate something about poutine? Oh, I know! I hate when they use frozen fries. When someone spoils poutine… when it’s not a good one.
MP: How did you spend your 16th birthday?
PP: I remember I was babysitting my brothers and everyone forgot my birthday and I was really, really sad. My father sent me flowers the next day. It was a bad evening, but the day after was OK.
Photo courtesy of pascalepicardband.com